Most people have heard of lymph nodes, but say a term like Manual Lymphatic Drainage Technique or Lymphatic Drainage Massage and most don’t have a clue what that even means.. sometimes their eyes even sort of glaze over. So… what is Lymphatic Drainage Massage, anyway? Basically, this specialized massage technique works to activate and cleanse the fluids and lymphatic system of the body.
The lymphatic system has 3 main functions in the body. Simply put, the lymphatic system 1) delivers nutrients and picks up waste, 2) moves fat around, and 3) is a powerful part of the immune system. The lymph system has a HUGE impact on health. Specific organs associated with the lymphatic system include tonsils and adenoids, lymphatic vessels and nodes, thymus, spleen, appendix, small intestine, and bone marrow.
Not only is the lymphatic system directly related to the circulation system of the body, it also has an indirect influence on the blood system and the parasympathetic nervous system, too. The lymphatic fluid is a clear, transparent fluid, and it’s flow depends solely on the human body’s muscular movement. Wait… Read that again, people… The lymphatic fluid is a clear, transparent fluid, and it’s flow depends solely on the human body’s muscular movement.
The less our bodies move around, the more congested we become. Without proper lymphatic flow, our bodies can become inflamed, or swell, and eventually flood our cells with a swamp-like mixture of stagnant bodily fluid, ultimately creating a biochemical toxic condition. Did you know that when you’re feeling low energy, minor aches and pains, a general feeling of “yuck”, or experiencing frequent or chronic colds, flu, or sinus issues, it could be related to a sluggish lymphatic system?
The proper functioning of the lymphatic system is crucial to our body’s ability to detoxify and regenerate tissue. What can make the body and lymph system slow down or become congested or bodily fluids to become stagnant? Things like stress, lack of movement/exercise, emotional trauma, fatigue, infections, injury, poor nutrition, and chemicals can all be an influence on the function of the lymphatic system.
What’s the answer to a sluggish lymphatic system?? Circulation and movement! For a generally healthy person, this means getting in some regular exercise, and getting regular bodywork such as massage or chiropractic care. Even using a dry brush on the skin helps move the lymphatic fluid. Move your body, and you activate your lymphatic system to function at it’s finest. Proper nutrition, release of stress, release of negative emotions, fresh air, exercise, and proper rest all have a role in the healthy function of the lymphatic system.
What about someone with a medical issue? For a client facing surgery, lymphatic drainage can certainly help. It’s recommended that lymphatic drainage be applied for one to two sessions prior to the surgery, as this process drains the toxins and preps the immune system. Surgeons have found it easier to work with the well-drained tissue during surgery when lymphatic drainage has been performed. Lymphatic drainage can be applied post surgical procedure as well, as long as there is no infection, and there is approval from the physician. Post surgical lymphatic drainage helps the client heal at a quicker pace by keeping the circulation up, which ultimately helps the tissues regenerate and heal. Lymphatic drainage performed after surgery also helps prevent infection, helps to prevent edema, and has even been shown to improve the scarring process as well. Post surgical lymphatic drainage technique can generally require between two to eight sessions. Lymphatic drainage can ease recovery from surgery and enhance overall health.
Athletes with injuries can also benefit from lymphatic techniques. This technique can help reduce swelling and inflammation, which ultimately reduces pain, clears the tissues, and helps the cells regenerate which can mean a quicker recovery. My own daughter had a broken ankle last year. Once I got her in the house after her fall, we applied ice on her swollen ankle, and I performed a bit of lymphatic drainage technique, which reduced the swelling and helped ease the pain she was feeling. By the time we saw the orthopedic specialist, her ankle was hardly swollen at all. The doctor came in with the x-ray showing the fracture and was in disbelief that she wasn’t swollen around the area. We had a great talk about the benefits of lymphatic drainage that day!
Sometimes people develop chronic conditions, or degenerative issues, or even cancer. Lymphatic drainage technique can help! I must make a disclaimer here, that I do not diagnose any condition. By law, any disease must be diagnosed by a medical doctor, which I am not. And there are certain conditions where general massage is contraindicated. Lymphatic drainage technique can be applied with good results in many cases where general massage may not be indicated. Each case has to be considered individually and a doctor’s approval may be required. Generally speaking, lymphatic drainage technique can safely and effectively improve symptoms related to chronic inflammation, and can assist in the treatment of edema and lymphedema that may be a result from dental procedures and orthodontics, dermatology, esthetics, gastroenterology, general and metabolic conditions, gerontology, gynecology, infectious disease, neurology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, osteopathic and chiropractic, ear nose and throat, rheumatology, sports, surgical procedures, urology, nephrology, and even veterinary cases.
Lymphatic drainage massage can even help someone experiencing emotional distress or imbalance, and can significantly help decrease stress levels. This technique is deeply calming and relaxing to the body, and brings us back into a parasympathetic balance.
And let’s touch on weight loss. If one of the three functions of the lymphatic system is that it works to move fat around, can lymphatic drainage technique help someone lose weight? Yes it can! Think about those areas of the body where fat accumulates. Do you think maybe there could possibly be congestion in those areas? For weight loss purposes, lymph massage should be applied in a series of treatments, and must be accompanied by proper nutrition and exercise. Lymph drainage massage is not a miracle cure for losing weight, but can certainly be an effective and powerful addition to any weight loss program.
What can you expect when you receive lymphatic drainage massage? The techniques used in manual lymphatic drainage massage are deeply relaxing for the client. This technique is gentle, using only a half ounce of pressure or about the equivalent weight of a nickel. The therapist uses flat hands and fingertips to simulate a wave-like movement. This wave-like movement is a gentle, steady, focused, harmonious motion. Using this specialized technique, the therapist is able to assess the specific rhythm, direction, and quality of the lymph flow. From here, the therapist can assess overall lymphatic flow and best pathways for draining any bodily fluid congestion or stagnation.
If you are one of my clients, chances are I’ve already performed a couple of minutes of lymphatic drainage on you at the end of your massage session. Especially if we did any deep tissue work. I typically like to end my massage sessions with just a bit of some lymphatic drainage technique at the head and neck. This seems to help the client deeply relax and it also stimulates the lymph system to release any lactic acid or biochemical waste that was stirred up in the massage that much quicker. I’ve also used this technique on clients with lightly swollen ankles, and even bruises, with distinct visible improvement by the time the treatment session is completed, much to the shock and awe of my clients. Yep, that’s right… shock and awe… from a massage. These examples are just a very basic sampling of this powerful healing technique.
Love, Cam xoxo