The lymphatic system is a crucial player in the body’s ability to ward off disease and heal from injury.
It is critical that it continue to work without blockage or buildup. According to some estimates, up to
70 percent of chronic illnesses, including cancer, result in part from lymphatic congestion . However,
unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system has no central pump. Its movement is dependent on
muscular contraction, breathing, movement, and manual manipulation, such as massage.
Lymphatic massage, also called manual lymphatic drainage or lymph drainage massage, can increase lymph
flow by as much as 20%. Lymphatic massage increases both blood and lymph circulation.
Modern manual lymphatic drainage was developed in the 1930s by a Danish doctor, Dr. Emil Vodder. The
techniques were originally used to treat sinus infection, enlarged lymph nodes, and acne. One of the
noted results was improvement in appearance of healthy people, and lymphatic drainage was initially
promoted by the cosmetology industry. Lymphatic drainage has since been recognized primarily for its
healing ability. Today in Europe for example, lymph drainage is regularly provided to patients before
undergoing surgery. It is also a primary tool used to manage lymphedema. Now this massage technique is
used in both the beauty and medical fields. As a modality employed by massage therapists, it also has
the benefits of reducing stress and soft tissue pain, such as for sports massage.
The Vodder method continues to be popular, but there are variations on techniques to promote lymph flow.
Lymphatic massage helps to:
- Increase the body’s immunological responses
- Increase lymphatic and blood circulation
- Remove excess fluid from tissues
- Remove toxins
Lymphatic massage aids:
- Non-infectious inflammation
- Venous insufficiency
- Dermatological conditions, such as cellulite, scarring, and acne
- Sports injuries/soft tissue injuries
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD)
- Pre- and post-cosmetic surgery
- Breast concerns
This list is not all inclusive. Lymphatic massage helps other conditions. Vodder listed over 60 conditions
for which lymphatic drainage is indicated. For example, lymph massage on the face has rejuvenating,
anti-aging results with better skin tone and lift. These techniques are also effective on other fluid
systems, such as cerebrospinal or synovial fluid in the joints.
The few contraindications are:
- Acute infectious and inflammatory disease
- Serious circulatory problems
- Major cardiac problems
- Malignant ailments, including an undiagnosed lump
- Autoimmune suppressants (such as for organ transplants, joint replacements, and autoimmune diseases)
Follow these recommendations to reduce the body’s toxic burden and to support and maintain the results of lymphatic drainage:
- Improve diet
- Take a daily multivitamin
- Drink plenty of water
- Exercise regularly
- Perform self-massage
- Practice deep breathing
- Sweat regularly
- Use hydrotherapy
- Take appropriate herbs, for example, cleavers (Galium aparine), also called goosegrass, is considered a lymphatic toner. It may help swollen glands, puffy tissue, and skin conditions. Interested clients should do their homework and consult with a natural healthcare practitioner before taking any herbs. While “natural,” herbs still affect the body’s physiology and may have undesirable side effects.
Lymphatic massage sessions generally last an hour, and a series may be recommended to
address specific health issues, such as lymphedema. Lymphatic drainage can also be
incorporated into any massage session to reduce localized inflammation and soreness.
The effects of manual lymphatic drainage can be dramatically enhanced when combined
with Whole Body Vibration and/or Kinesiology Taping!