People are familiar with the vessel system of the body that carries blood and from the tissues. But few understand that there is another equally vital system of vessels that removes cell wastes, proteins, excess fluid, viruses, and bacteria. The lymph system collects fluids and wastes products from the spaces between the cells. After that, they filter and cleans them.
The lymph system starts as tiny vessels like the roots of a tree. Only a single-cell wide eventually branches into larger and larger tubes that carry these fluids back to the bloodstream—this network of delicate vessels and lymph nodes in the immune system’s primary structure. The lymph nodes react as checkpoints along the pathways of the vessels. They filter the lymph and serve as the home for lymphocytes.
When the lymph system performs well, we feel healthy. We can have a strong defense against illness because of a healthy lymph system. When it’s sluggish or blocked—for example, after surgery or an injury, we can have swelling, feel tired, and be more susceptible to colds and infections. A lymphatic drainage massage is a gentle type of massage that motivates the lymph fluid’s movement all over the body.
The lymphatic system’s fluid helps remove waste and toxins from the bodily tissues. Some health problems can cause lymph fluid to develop. Lymphatic drainage massages can satisfy people with lymphedema, fibromyalgia, and other conditions.
Here we explain how massage impacts the lymphatic system, the people who may benefit from using it, and how they can prepare for and perform this type of massage at home.
When the heart continuously pumps blood through the blood vessels, the lymphatic system relies on smooth muscles’ movement to transport the fluid through the lymph vessels. Health problems can interrupt the normal lymph’s flow, causing lymph fluid to build up in a particular body area, often in the arms or legs, causing swelling. This condition is known as lymphedema.
People can develop lymphedema due to infections, cancer treatments that involve removing lymph nodes, and other conditions that damage the lymphatic system. Throughout the lymphatic system, lymphatic massage can reduce swelling and improve circulation. A lymphatic massage is part of a treatment program known as decongestive lymphatic therapy (DLT).
DLT for lymphedema includes lymphatic drainage massage, skin care, compression garments, and exercise.
Who can get benefits?
People who have lymphedema, fibromyalgia, swelling, skin disorders, fatigue, insomnia, stress, arthritis, migraine, etc. can benefit from lymphatic drainage massage. The authors of a 2015 systematic review said that lymphatic massage might be more effective than connective tissue massage in reducing symptoms of stiffness and depression in people living with fibromyalgia.
Also, people who are into light therapy should get lymphatic massage too, as these two complement each other very well.
People should not take a lymphatic massage if they have congestive heart conditions, blood clots, kidney problems, infections, or circulation problems. If a person has any medical issues, he/she should consult a doctor before applying a lymphatic massage.
How to perform a lymphatic massage
People can take lymphatic massages from trained professionals, therapists or learn basic drainage techniques at home. However, it is best to consult with a doctor before taking this at home or going to a professional. People can perform most of these exercises, either standing, sitting, or lying down, as long as they feel comfortable and safe.
Maintain the following tips in mind when taking lymphatic massage:
- These massage movements should affect only the skin, so use low pressure and not press hard enough to feel the muscles.
- Remain the hands relaxed.
- If you have swollen or infections, do not massage those areas.
- If you take cancer treatment, do not massage areas of the body that have undergone the treatment.
- After each massage, drink extra fluids, ideally 2 to 4 glasses of water. It helps flush the body.
How to prepare yourself
Here we suggest some methods that will stimulate the lymphatic system and prepare the lymph nodes to bring more fluid before a lymphatic massage. These are:
Deep breathing works like a pump that helps move fluid through the vessels and lymph nodes. By following the below steps, we can take a deep breath:
- Place your both hands on the stomach.
- Inhale through the nose. Then expand the stomach and keep the shoulders still.
- After that, slowly exhale through the mouth.
- Take rest between breaths.
Prepare the front of the neck
Set the index and middle fingers of each hand on either side of the neck, slightly above the collarbone. Then Stretch the skin by softly sliding the fingers inward toward the middle of the collarbone.
Prepare the side of the neck
Put down the palm of each hand on either side of the neck below the ears. Then gently move both hands down and back.
Prepare the back of the neck
Place the hand’s palms on the back of the neck near the hairline. After that, gently slide the hands together down the neck toward the spine.
Prepare under the arms
Prepare the lymph nodes under the arms to help them acquire lymph fluid from other parts of the body. Never perform this movement on areas that doctors have treated for cancer. However, the preparation process is:
- Under the armpit, cup the palm
- Softly push the palm upward and toward the body.
- Do the same with the other arm.
Prepare behind the knees:
- keep both hands behind the knee, so the fingers point toward each other.
- Pump the knee back by gently pressing the hands into the back of the knee and rolling them upward.
- Same process for the other knees as well.
Taking Lymph Drainage Massage, also known as Lymph Drainage Therapy (LDT), is an excellent method to take care of your lymphatic system. LMTs who specialize in this modality suggested one or two LDT massages at the beginning of the flu/cold season.
Lymph Drainage Massage also provides some benefits, such as
the increased flow of lymph fluid improved the ability to detoxify tissue and ward off infection, decreased swelling and inflammation, increased count and performance of white blood cells, accelerated healing for injuries, such as sprained joints, and decreased congestion, especially in sinus cavities, etc.
To enjoy the benefits of lymphatic flow massage for yourself, schedule a session at any massage clinic, and request this specialized massage modality when making your appointment.