What is Lymphatic Drainage? Lymphatic drainage is a therapeutic massage treatment. The massage uses very light pressure and long, gentle, rhythmic strokes to increase the flow of lymph and reduce toxins in your body.
The lymph system is part of your body's immune system and helps fight infection. Lymph itself is a clear, slightly yellow fluid. It transports nutrients and oxygen to cells, collecting toxins on the way and flushing them out through the lymph nodes. You have around twice as many lymph vessels as blood vessels in your body. However, unlike blood, which is pumped around by your heart, the lymph system has no pump. The pressure from your blood vessels and movement from your muscles push the lymphatic fluid around. Your lymphatic system helps eliminate your body’s waste. A healthy, active lymphatic system uses the natural movements of smooth muscle tissue to do this.
Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage
- reduce the chance of you suffering from minor colds and viruses; it helps your body fight off infection, and speeds up healing and recovery from illness
- help reduce water retention; for instance, because the lymph system has no pump, if you sit for a long time without moving, the lymph can't flow easily, therefore you may experience swollen feet or fingers
- boost weight loss, as improving the lymphatic system will improve your metabolic rate, which helps you burn calories more efficiently.
Manual lymphatic drainage is also used in the treatment of lymphoedema.
Lymphatic drainage massage can improve your skin texture by:
- reducing swelling, puffiness and blotches
- giving you clean, healthy pores
- speeding up healing in scar tissue, so it may, for example, improve the appearance of stretch marks
- Helping to reduce cellulite; the massage increases blood flow and circulation to the affected areas, which helps the body break down the toxins that cause the dimply skin
However, lymphatic massage is not recommended for people with the following conditions:
- congestive heart failure
- history of blood clots or stroke
- current infection
- liver problems
- kidney problems
Clearing and re-absorption
There are two stages of lymphatic massage: clearing and re-absorption. The purpose of clearing is to create a vacuum with gentle pressure so that the area is prepared to bring in more fluid, creating a flushing effect.
- supraclavicular lymph area: located directly under the collarbone
- axillary lymph area: located under the arms
- inside of the elbows
Clearing motions can be repeated as many as 10 times a day. It is advised to always massage both sides of your body, not just the side with the lymphedema.
A guide to Clearing
There are three stages to clearing. Be sure to clear the supraclavicular area, axillary area, and inner-elbow area, in that order.
To clear the supraclavicular area:
- Begin by lying on a comfortable, flat surface.
- Cross your arms on your chest, with your hands resting just below the collarbones.
- Then lift your elbows slowly. The muscle action is as much pressure required to prepare the area to flush lymphatic fluid.
Next, clear the axillary area:
- Lay one hand above your head.
- Use your other hand to gently scoop the underarm area from top to bottom. The only pressure required is gentle enough to move the surface of the skin.
Finally, clear the area inside the elbows:
- Lay your arm straight at your side.
- Use the fingers of your opposite hand to gently pull the skin inside the elbow an inch at a time.
Only very gentle pressure is required, because in lymphatic massage, you are only working the superficial skin structure, which is where the fluid is trapped.
When performing a lymphatic massage, it’s important that the massage include more than just the affected area. The entire lymphatic system of the body, except the head, right side of the chest, and right arm, drains near the left shoulder. So, a massage should include all areas to drain properly.