Lymphatic drainage massage is the commonest and widely used massage technique practiced worldwide. It was introduced and developed at the beginning of the 20th century by two Danish physiotherapists, Estrid and Emil Vodder.
Lymphatic massage therapy is used to soothe medical ailments occurred as a result of damage to the lymphatic system. It is used to clear accumulated fluids and wastes away from our interstitial tissues.
Do want to know more about this? Keep reading….
What is lymphatic drainage massage?
Lymphatic drainage massage was developed in 1930 in Europe by Danish physiotherapists, called Estrid and Emil Vodder as a technique to control post-mastectomy lymphedema.
When it comes to fluid movement, humans have two networks of vessels where fluids move to and from the different parts of the body. These are the circulatory system and the lymphatic system.
The circulatory system transports blood to and away from the heart in a closed system. While the lymphatic system transports lymph from the extremities or tissues towards the heart in one direction and an open system.
The circulatory system transports nutrients, immune factors, and oxygen to tissues found in the interstitial space. These substances are delivered by the pumping action of the heart via capillaries found in the beds of the interstitial spaces. If you want to read more about massage, click here.
In addition to these organ systems, our body also has other organs which help to filter, store and remove blood and wastes, these include, kidney, liver, and spleen. Especially, the liver and spleen help us to remove damaged and defective red blood cells. The spleen also serves as a reservoir for immune cells.
Lymphatic fluids move more slowly than the circulatory blood, because, it is not pressurized by the pumping action of the heart. In the interstitial tissues, lymph capillaries and blood capillaries interact together.
In the interstitial spaces, Fluids enter the lymph capillaries and are drained away to the lymphatic system upwards to reach the heart. These fluids are called lymph, which contains a large number of white blood cells and other nutrients.
As the lymphatic system is open and has no pumping organs like the heart, to transport its fluids, it relies on the actions and movements of the smooth muscles of our body. Within the lymphatic system, we have the lymph, which contains nutrients, immune factors, water, and wastes.
The lymphatic system helps us to eliminate wastes. In this system, we have the lymph nodes/bean-shaped nodes/ which serve as a filter for debris and wastes.
When the lymphatic system is damaged, this could be due to surgery, medical conditions, accident,s and/or infections, the lymph can’t move freely or get blocked. This creates a swelling called, lymphedema.
If left untreated, this lymphedema could pose multiple problems. It may cause pain, huge swelling, heaviness, or difficulty with movements. So, this problem should be addressed, it should be drained to release all these problems.
Here comes, the advantage of lymphatic drainage massage. It is massaging of the lymphatic system to clear and remove these accumulated fluids and wastes away from the lymphatic system.
Causes of lymphedema
In the above, we have pinpointed that, lymphedema is the number one reason why individuals seek to have lymphatic drainage massage.
But, before we dive to the next topic, let us clarify how lymphedema is created. There are two causes for lymphedema. These are designated as primary causes and secondary causes.
The primary causes of lymphedema are hereditary in nature, in which individuals inherit or gain it from their prior families or ancestors.
It comes as a result of complex genetic disorders. These are labeled as chronic lymphedema. Its prevalence or occurrence is less common.
Meige disease and Milroy disease are the most common hereditary ailments. Most of the time, they are manifested in the face, arms, and legs. Hereditary diseases can be manifested at any age, in childhood, or at puberty, or beyond that age.
The primary causes of lymphedema give little or no response to lymphatic manual massage.
The secondary causes of lymphedema are any sort of damage that affects the lymphatic system. These include surgery, medical conditions, infections. These conditions may manifest acutely after the accident or may manifest in later times, after months or years.
These secondary causes are the main target of manual lymph drainage massage and give substantial responses. Most of the time, secondary causes come as a result of cancer treatment side effects.
Manifestations of lymphedema
Lymphedema can be manifested in different parts of the body. The leg, the neck, arms, and fingers, in the groin, and other areas. As result, it can cause the following side effects.
- Discomfort in breathing
- Pain while talking or swallowing or at rest
- Heaviness due to the lymphedema
- Swelling of tissues in legs, arms, groin, armpit, and other places.
- Puffiness in the face or other body parts
- Redness of the skin
- Immobility due to huge swelling
- Tenderness, fatigue
- Depression and anxiety
Cellulitis and lymphangitis can also be manifested as a result of lymphedema complications.
How does lymphatic drainage massage work?
the lymphatic system contains lymph vessels, lymph nodes, and the fluid lymph circulating within this system. The lymph or fluid contains toxins, immune factors, and waste products.
The lymph vessels help us to maintain fluid balance by returning filtered fluids back to the bloodstream and wastes to the lymph node to be filtered and away to excretion.
We have clarified that, when there is any damage to the lymphatic system, fluids in the interstitial tissue couldn’t move freely, instead, they became blocked/ accumulated and creates a swelling called lymphedema.
So, lymphatic drainage massage works by clearing these accumulated lymphedemas. When we begin clearing these fluids, we start from the lymph node areas. After that, we proceed to the distal extremities.
Here, while massaging, the accumulated fluids drain to the lymph nodes to be filtered and after filtration, they go to the bloodstream and the wastes go to excretion.
While doing our procedure, we apply gentle and light pressure, because the tissues are found in the outer layer of the skin. when we massage them gently, the fluids and wastes start to clear, wastes and debris are excreted.
This is the way how lymphatic drainage massage actually works. To learn more click here…
Anything that makes you a better or worse candidate/contraindications for lymphatic drainage massage
To be on the safe way, there are conditions where lymphatic drainage massages are not recommended. Even though we have visible lymphedema, it is not recommended to drain them if individuals have the following conditions
- Tendency or any history of blood clots
- Any signs and symptoms of acute inflammation/infection
- Congestive heart failure
- Kidney problems
- Liver diseases
N: B, if any one of you has these problems or contraindications, you should opt-out from a lymphatic drainage massage. On the other hand, these problems by themselves could cause lymphedema as a secondary cause.
How to determine, if it is something you should try?
Earlier in this topic, we have clarified that there are some preconditions to be considered before doing lymphatic drainage massage. These conditions may worsen or can pose a threatening risk if left neglected or unnoticed.
These risks are listed in the contraindication section above. Note them and if you have no other related ailments with these conditions, you can do it even at your home, by following the steps listed below.
How to perform lymphatic drainage massage?
When we perform lymphatic drainage massage, it should not be limited only to the swelled areas, rather, it should also encompass the entire lymphatic system. So, let us dive into how to do the lymphatic drainage massage step by step.
Step one: position
To effectively drain lymphatic fluids from our body, we should fix our body in the correct position. Though the procedure could be done either in the standing, lying, or sitting position, our muscles and extremities should be stretched and relaxed along the lines of the flow of the lymphatic vessels.
This positioning helps to facilitate the flow of lymph fluids to flow easily.
Step two: the pressure
naturally, as the lymphatic vessels are situated beneath the superficial layer of our skin, the pressure we apply should not be deep and hard. So, we have to apply light pressure to drain the fluid effectively.
Step three: massage and rhythm
You should massage your body following the normal flow of the lymphatic system. As the lymph flows upwards to the heart, you should follow this way to help and stimulate the normal flow of the system.
As the lymphatic fluid flows slowly and in one direction, you too should apply a slow rhythm in the direction of the flow upwards.
while massaging with your finger, your fingers should not move back and forth. Otherwise, you are disturbing the normal flow.
Step four: start with deep breathing
Our lymphatic system works with the action of the movement of the smooth muscles. Before you start massaging, take a deep breath, this will boost and facilitate the flow of lymphatic fluids.
When you take a deep breath, your muscles get relaxed, which in turn facilitates the natural flow of the lymphatic system. Repeat it by inhaling and exhaling with a deep breath.
Step five: begin with the neck
All the front, back, and sides of the neck should be massaged. Start with the collar bone situated beneath the supraclavicular bone of your front neck.
The collar bone: massage both sides of your collar bone. You can do it one side at a time and the other side next to that, or you can do both sides at the same time by crossing your arms on the chest.
After crossing your arms on the chest, just put the pads of your 2,3, and the fourth finger above the collar bone. Massage these areas by applying light pressure.
You should stretch your muscles towards the sternum. While massaging, for better fluid movement, move your shoulders up and down. Repeat this pressure at least 10 times.
The side of the neck: put your palms under your ears. You can do it once at a time or alternatively. Stretch the skin downwards to the back of your body and to the sides by applying gentle pressure. Repeat it for at least 10 minutes.
The back of the neck: just put your fingers or palms on the side of the back, below the hairline. By applying gentle pressure, stretch it towards the back of your body. Repeat it at least 10 times.
Step six: massage your body
The arm: both armpits should be targeted. You can do it one by one. First, position your arms away from your body for full exposure, then massage it in the direction of upwards and inwards with your finger. Repeat this at least 5 times.
The hip: target both your hips one by one. For full exposure, rise your one arm away from your hip, and massage and stretch it towards the direction of your armpits with the other finger. Repeat it at least 10 times.
The abdomen puts and holds the tip of your fingers in between the ribcage around the belly. Massaging towards the middle of the ribcage and upwards to the heart. Repeat it at least 10 times.
The knee: put your finger behind your knee. Massage and stretch it upwards to the thigh, Use massaging and releasing technique. Repeat it at least 10 times.
The leg: begin from the bottom by applying both hands to the inner and outer skin. Massage and stretch it upwards to the direction of the system, Use massaging and releasing techniques. Repeat it at least 10 times. To learn more click here.
Benefits of lymphatic drainage massage
Draining the lymphatic system has multiple advantages. These advantages are not only limited to the lymphatic system but, also have several benefits to the overall body.
The benefits include
- It reduces body swelling and water retention
- By removing excess interstitial fluids, it improves lymphatic flow
- It eliminates toxins which in return boosts body immunity
- It stimulates active blood circulation
- By reducing the puffy, it gives overall lightness
- Relieves body pain
- It gives mental relaxation
- Improves overall health and wellness
- Improves overall quality of life
Additional benefits of lymphatic drainage massage include
- Improves rheumatoid arthritis
- Improves chronic venous thrombosis
- Weight loss advantages? Bloating? Not supported by evidence.
How to find the right provider, the cost?
Lymphatic drainage massage is better if it is done by trained, licensed, and experienced professionals. This professional could be a massage therapist or physical therapist who is experienced. As we do for other illnesses, we should select and consult the right therapist.
The cost of lymphatic drainage massage differs from place to place and from physician to physician. If the therapist is experienced with the right profession, it may be somewhat higher than the others.
For further information, you can google with reference to your location and you can contact them via their address. But, to give you some highlight, on the cost for lymphatic drainage massage,
In the united states, the cost of a lymphatic drainage massage ranges from $70-$100 per session. But, it really depends on the session or hours of therapy it takes.
Any guidelines for length/frequency of treatment?
It is individualized. The procedure may last somewhere from 45 to 90 minutes. But, It can be also below or above this time limit. This is recommended to be repeated every three months.
But, if individuals have enough time, they can do it at their home. it is recommended to do a lymphatic drainage massage for 20 minutes every day 4-5days per week.
Side effects of lymphatic drainage massage
Lymphatic drainage massage is safe if it is performed by well trained, licensed, and experienced massage therapist or physiotherapist.
However, any wrong procedures performed on the lymphatic system or in adjacent areas could cause lymphatic obstruction by damaging the lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, and other parts, which may result in lymphedema.
How can you tell if it is working?
Here, it should be clear that to say lymphatic drainage massage is working, it should be improving from day today. Or at least, it shouldn’t get worsened.
There are no specific parameters to measure its effectiveness, but individuals should follow up on their conditions to check how it is going on.
But, if it is not improving, you will observe that it will get exacerbated from time to time.
Can you recommend any at-home options?
Yes. Lymphatic drainage massage could be done at home. If you want to practice it by yourself at home, follow the procedures listed above, on how to do lymphatic drainage massage, and do it based on that procedure 4 -5 days per week.
In general, lymphatic drainage massage therapy is one of the massage techniques used to clear accumulated and unwanted bodily fluids from the lymphatic system.
By clearing these fluids, improves our bodily functions and movements and results in enhanced overall bodily health and well-being.
If you have any questions and suggestions, you can leave a comment.