Lymphatic drainage is an extremely gentle massage technique that garners some incredible health benefits. When I began my practice as a massage therapist, I’d say it was by far the least requested modality. I came to realize that was simply because it was the least understood. The benefits of Lymphatic massage are many. It can boost your immune system, reduce swelling, enhance the look of your skin, reduce under eye bags and increase your energy; after you come out of your relaxing massage haze of course. 😉
The body’s lymphatic system is one of the most important systems in the body. It is responsible for waste removal. It carries a fluid called lymph through lymph nodes which filter and purify it and send it back on it’s merry way towards the heart. This system absorbs microorganisms, toxins and waste products from the interstitial tissue. When lymph is not allowed to flow freely and becomes obstructed, swelling can occur. Unlike our cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system does not have a pump to move the fluid. Physical movement is the best way to get lymph moving, go for a run, do some jumping jacks, etc… Another way to get your lymph moving is with gentle massage. Self massage and gentle guiding of your lymph to corresponding lymph nodes will help the lymphatic system to work more efficiently and will in turn ensure a healthier immune system. Take that cold virus!
In this post, I’ll highlight a few easy to perform techniques that you can do on yourself or your loved ones to promote a healthier lymphatic system. In particular, I will be talking about draining the fluid from the head. This will help to relieve pressure from allergies and sinus congestion. This can also help to slim the jawline and entire face by draining any excess fluid. The most important thing to remember when draining lymph is to apply incredibly gentle pressure to the skin. Your lymph flows just under the surface of your skin so when you apply firm pressure to the skin you are in fact obstructing the flow of lymph instead of encouraging it.
There are some contraindications for lymphatic massage, meaning, if you have any of the below conditions you should not be performing lymphatic massage on yourself or should be speaking to your doctor for clearance first.
Acute inflammation caused by bacteria, viruses, poisons or allergens is contraindicated. You can tell if this is the case because the tissues will be hot, red and painful, with congestion accompanied by fever. Lymphatic drainage massage will push these substances into the lymph channels before the body has a chance to eliminate them through phagocytosis in the interstitial spaces. If you perform lymphatic drainage you can spread the toxic substances throughout the body. Wait a few days until the condition is not acute, and the body has had a chance to clean up the area.
Malignant tumors are a contraindication for lymphatic drainage massage because of the fear of spreading the cancer. Wait until after the malignancy is treated to perform lymphatic drainage massage.
Thrombosis and phlebitis are two conditions that can lead to free floating blood clots. Usually people with these conditions will be in a hospital on blood thinners. If you are working in a hospital setting, do not work on these patients. In your practice, one indication of a possible femoral thrombosis is when the client has pain in one leg and a sudden swelling and bluish discoloration of the skin. People who are bedridden have a greater likelihood of developing thrombosis in the legs.
Major heart problems. If the heart is not fully functioning the edema can be lymphodynamic, due to lack of venous return. Putting more fluid into the heart would only stress it more, worsening the condition.
If you are in generally good health, then self lymphatic massage will be beneficial to you. Use good judgement, if you are unsure then err on the side of caution and just don’t do it.
Below is a visual representation of your lymphatic system:
The lymph nodes located in your neck, called cervical lymph nodes are what we will be focusing on today.
1. Place your middle fingers of both hands just above your clavicle bone. Press down with very light pressure towards the center point of your neck. Repeat this about 50 times.
2. After the lymph nodes have been sufficiently pumped you will be draining the lymph from your jaw/neck.
3. Place the pads of your fingers on either side of your neck at the top just below your ears at the base of your skull and using extremely light pressure, glide your fingers down your neck towards the nodes you were just pumping.
4. Repeat this process 50 + times. You should be able to feel the fluid start to move. You may feel a tingly sensation just under your skin or you may feel like you have to clear your throat; you many feel nothing at all, no worries if you don’t.
5. Place the palms of your hands on the back of your neck and using the pads of your fingers, repeat the gentle gliding of the fingers downwards.
You can repeat this process as many times as you would like. You should notice a clearing in your head and reduced puffiness in your face right away. Eureka! If you would like to see a visual representation of this technique, I would suggest this video.
If you enjoyed this and are interested in more self massage techniques, please let me know in the comments!
Have a beautiful rest of your weekend darling readers!