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Lymphatic Drainage Massage : What are its Benefits & How is it Performed?

What is Lymphatic Drainage Massage?

Lymphatic drainage massage is a gentle massage that is done to encourage the movement of lymph fluids around the body.

The lymphatic system plays the role of removing waste and toxins from the body tissues.(1) There are certain health conditions that may lead to a build-up of lymph fluid. These conditions include lymphedema and fibromyalgia. Lymphatic drainage massage help in mobilizing the lymph fluid build-up and reduce swelling occurring because of it.

Lymphatic drainage is of two types:

  • Manual lymphatic drainage, which is performed by a qualified therapist.
  • Simple lymphatic drainage, can be performed by using a technique at home.

Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage

Lymphatic drainage plays a crucial role in improving the body’s immune defenses.

Lymphatic fluid flows through the lymph vessels which connect the lymph nodes. When the fluid passes through the lymph nodes white blood cells trap and destroy the bacteria.

Just like blood flows through the body, lymphatic fluid keeps on moving. A build-up of lymphatic fluid in arms and legs may lead to swelling and is known as lymphedema.

Lymphatic massage is part of a program that is known as decongestive lymphatic therapy (DLT). Along with lymphatic massage, decongestive lymphatic drainage therapy includes:(2)

  • Compression garments
  • Exercise
  • Skincare

All of these together can improve circulation through the lymphatic system and help in managing the symptoms of lymphedema.(3) These symptoms include:

  • Swelling in extremities
  • Swelling in other parts of the body
  • Feeling of heaviness
  • Pain and changes in sensation
  • Difficulty in fitting into clothes

Lymphatic drainage massage can benefit people with lymph fluid build-up. The lymph fluid may build-up, due to the following conditions:(3)

  • Cancer and cancer treatment that involves the removal of lymph nodes
  • Filariasis, a parasitic infestation of lymph nodes
  • Some types of vascular surgery such as vein stripping
  • Infection or trauma in the lymphatic system
  • Removal of fat from the body or lipectomy
  • Health conditions that affect the flow of blood to the extremities
  • Fluid build-up due to deep vein thrombosis

It is observed that lymphatic build-up affects around 20% of females who have had treatment for breast cancer.

In a 2015 review, it was concluded that lymphatic massage was more effective than connective tissue massage in alleviating symptoms of stiffness and depression in people with fibromyalgia.(4)

Lymphatic massage can be recommended to a person with lymphedema as a part of the treatment plan.

How is Lymphatic Massage Performed?

Lymphatic massage is performed by a trained professional. They can teach an individual basic drainage techniques to do at home.

The following tips should be considered while performing lymphatic massage:

  • The massage movement should affect only the skin, which means there is no need to press the muscles hard.
  • Hand should be kept relaxed
  • Swollen area should not be massaged
  • Areas that have undergone treatment should not be massaged
  • 2-4 glasses of water should be consumed after each massage
  • There should be no redness or pain during the massage
  • No lotion or other products should be used during the massage only hands.

The technician can adopt various techniques and also some of which the individual can do on their own, are taught to them. There are different techniques for upper and lower body massage.

Gradually after the lymphatic massage, a person may notice a reduction in swelling. A person with lymphedema should continue using compression stockings.

People can bring a boost to their lymphatic system with the following methods:

  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Eating vegetables and fruits
  • Limiting the intake of processed foods
  • Engaging in physical activity

Lymphatic drainage massage techniques are used to help in reducing swelling and improve circulation. It is effective for overall health. Those who think this technique can be beneficial for them should speak with a physical therapist, especially one who specializes in the treatment.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 22, 2023

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