Lymphatic massage has been receiving a lot of attention lately. Initially introduced in 1936 by Emil Vodder and his wife, this targeted, gentle massage technique has been credited with flushing toxins, reducing water weight, improving circulation, and boosting the immune system for nearly 100 years. Photographs showing dramatic changes due to the release of retained fluid have triggered an upsurge in lymphatic massage methods used at home to naturally reduce puffiness and enhance the appearance.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, lymph fluid is an interstitial fluid similar to plasma but with a higher concentration of white blood cells. It removes toxins and waste, absorbs fats from the GI tract, and maintains proper fluid levels in the body. The lymphatic system is made up of several lymph nodes and organs, all connected by small vessels. These vessels interlace throughout the body to transport lymph fluids between the circulatory system and other body tissues.
Lymphatic massage can benefit people in several ways. For individuals who have damaged or removed lymph nodes, this procedure helps to prevent lymphedema. Lymphedema is an uncomfortable condition in which lymph fluid builds up in one area, causing tightness and swelling. Lymphatic massage is also beneficial for individuals with chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia, migraines, and arthritis. For otherwise healthy individuals, it can be a relaxing procedure that helps reduce bloating, detoxifies the body, and adds a little more pep to our step.
One of the great things about lymphatic massage is that it doesn’t require any special tools and can be easily performed by laypeople. It is important to contact a medical professional before starting lymphatic massage, however, as it can make certain conditions worse.
Lymphatic drainage is often contraindicated for individuals with the following conditions:
Those who intend to treat a specific condition with lymphatic massage should contact a medical professional as well. They may be able to demonstrate the proper technique for your condition or guide you to a certified massage therapist in your area.
This type of massage should always be performed with gentle, even strokes, and heavy pressure should be avoided. A light touch is plenty to stimulate the flow of fluid through the lymphatic system. Massaging too vigorously can actually break the filaments that hold small portions of the lymphatic system in place, reducing the amount of lymph flowing through the system. Fortunately, while these filaments are fragile, they also re-grow rather quickly, usually reforming within 24 hours or less.
Avoid massaging areas of the body that may be harboring infections, often indicated by swollen skin, redness, and a sensation of heat from the area. Massaging infected areas can sometimes spread the illness throughout the body rather than eliminating it.
You can choose to sit, stand, or lie down when using these techniques.
Place your index and middle fingers from each hand on either side of the neck, just above the collarbone. Gently slide your fingers towards the center of your collarbone to activate the supraclavicular node.
Place the palm of each hand on either side of the neck below the ears. This is where your tonsillar and cervical lymph nodes are located. Move both hands down and then back up to activate them.
Place your hands near the hairline along the back of your neck, then gently slide them down the neck towards the spine to prepare the occipital nodes.
Cup the palm of your hand under your armpit and pump it gently upward towards the body. Do this for both armpits.
This important step helps to ensure that the lymph nodes located under the arms are ready to accept lymph fluid from other parts of the body. However, this step should not be performed on any areas that doctors have previously treated for cancer.
Place both hands behind one knee with your fingers pointing towards each other. Gently press your hands into the back of the knee and roll them upwards, then repeat with the other knee.
Some individuals may choose to do an overall lymphatic massage, but others may do an abbreviated massage to adjust the flow of fluids in a specific area. For best results, massage both sides of the body, whether you are addressing the entire body or just a problem area.
Place the palms of your hands on your forehead with gentle pressure, and pull downwards, gently stretching the skin towards the lymph nodes in your neck. Continue this motion, moving all the way down your face and neck.
Be especially gentle massaging under the eyes. It may be safer to gently roll a single finger under your eye when draining this area.
Place the palms of your hands slightly above the breast, then move your hands up and over the collarbone, until the skin feels slightly tight. Release.
Rest one arm on a table or armrest if you are not lying down. Place the opposing hand on the resting shoulder and move it back, gently stretching the skin toward the back of the neck. Release. Repeat with the other shoulder.
Begin at the shoulder and use the palm of your hand to stretch the skin upward until it feels slightly tight. Release. Move your hand to the upper arm, and stretch the skin upwards towards the shoulder. Continue this process down to the wrist. Repeat with the other arm.
Start at the base of each finger and, using your alternate index finger and thumb, stretch the skin towards your hand. Continue this motion over the entire finger, always pulling towards the hands.
Place your palm on the inside of your thigh near the top of your leg and gently stretch the skin up and towards the outside of your thigh. Continue this motion until just before you reach the knee. Repeat on the other side.
Start just under your knee. Place one hand on your calf and the other on your shin and gently pull upwards towards the knee. Continue doing this all the way down to the ankles and the tops of the feet. Repeat on the other leg.
While lymphatic massage can be beneficial when done at home, there are times when an expert touch is needed to completely clear the system or to address a specific concern. A professional lymphatic massage is performed by a licensed massage therapist. A session typically lasts around an hour or two and can range from $50 to $150 per session.
While this is a therapeutic massage, it is also generally quite pleasant. Spas and wellness boutiques sometimes include lymphatic massage by a certified technician or by machine as part of their menu.
Overall, lymphatic massage is a beneficial technique both for general health and to help ease the symptoms of several different conditions. It is important to note that it is not for everyone, however, and in rare situations can even be unhealthy. You should always speak to a medical professional before starting any new health regimens.