What Is Lymphatic Drainage Massage and Why Is It Beneficial?


Itʼs gotten a bit of a reputation for sounding more like an uncomfortable medical procedure instead of a massage therapy modality. But lymphatic drainage deserves a closer look when youʼre mulling over your massage options.

Lymphatic drainage massage offers an enticing list of potential benefits from reducing inflammation to improved circulation, and itʼs a veteran of massage therapy that has been practiced for nearly a century.

Understanding the Lymphatic System

Before we delve into lymphatic drainage, it's essential to have a basic understanding of the lymphatic system. This intricate network of vessels and lymph nodes is a crucial part of our immune system. It helps remove waste products, toxins, and excess fluid from our tissues, keeping our bodies in balance.

The lymphatic system works by carrying lymph, a clear fluid containing white blood cells, throughout the body. However, unlike the circulatory system, there is no heart pumping the lymph. Instead, it relies on muscle contractions and movement to transport lymphatic fluid effectively. 

What is lymphatic drainage massage?

Pioneered by two married Danish doctors, Emil and Estrid Vodder, in 1932, Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) was designed to treat swollen lymph nodes throughout the body caused by lymphatic diseases such as lymphedema.

Lymph fluid is excess fluid that has drained from your cells and tissues, along with other substances such as damaged cells, bacteria, fats, viruses etc. This fluid can build up in areas if it isn't processed and reintroduced to the bloodstream by your lymphatic system, causing swelling.

How does Lymphatic drainage massage work?

Lymphatic drainage massage involves gentle pressure and rhythmical gliding movements across the lymphatic system to disperse lymph fluid from swollen areas. It starts by working on the areas unaffected by fluid build up to allow the space for fluid from affected areas to move out of. Through targeted and light pressure, therapists help to decongest lymph fluid and encourage better flow throughout the bodyʼs lymphatics to help prevent more congestion.

Types of lymphatic drainage massage

There are a few different techniques within the practice that therapists may use, but the main branches are manual and simple.

Simple lymphatic drainage is typically self-administered at home under the guidance of a trained therapist or practitioner.

Manual lymphatic drainage is practiced by a qualified therapist and involves a high level of skill and professional treatment.

Conditions that may benefit from lymphatic drainage massage

Lymphatic drainage massage when performed by a skilled therapist could help with:

 Reducing fluid retention, bloating, and ‘water weightʼ by manipulating the fluid towards your lymph nodes to be processed and dispersed properly

  • Easing tension build up in the body by relieving swelling and relaxing the muscles and soft tissue through massage
  • Improving skin appearance and feel by reducing surface inflammation and moving fluid containing toxins to avoid build up
  • Helping to improve immune system function by manipulating lymph fluid to flow more freely and carry bacteria, viruses, and other toxins through the lymphatic system to be removed
  • Reducing swelling caused by fluid retention in affected areas of the body, leading to a reduction in pain, discomfort, and other complications; and

Easing pain and discomfort from chronic conditions that involve swelling and muscle and joint pain such as rheumatoid arthritis, lipoedema, and fibromyalgia. 

Research and Evidence on the Effectiveness of Lymphatic Drainage Massage

There is growing evidence to support the effectiveness of lymphatic drainage massage in various conditions. One study published in the Journal of Athletic Training found that manual lymphatic drainage was effective in reducing exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammation, leading to faster recovery times for athletes.

Massage therapist has been used for centuries to promote overall health and well-being. So, what exactly is lymphatic drainage and why should you consider incorporating it into your wellness routine?

Don't hesitate to give lymphatic drainage a try if you are dealing with any of the conditions mentioned above. Always consult with a remedial massage therapist or practitioner who is trained in lymphatic drainage techniques to ensure safe and effective treatment.

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