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.
What is lymphatic drainage massage good for?
Lymphatic drainage massage can have a beneficial effect on your general health. Because lymph is key to keeping your immune system working properly, improving the flow and drainage of lymph around the body is good for you in lots of ways.
Lymphatic drainage can:
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 — this is why 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 which cause dimply skin.
Always tell your therapist in advance if you are, or think you might be, pregnant, have any medical conditions or are receiving any treatment or medication, have recently had an operation, or are allergic to anything.
What to expect from lymphatic drainage massage
As with any spa treatment, you will get most benefit if you give yourself enough time to relax and enjoy your massage. Arrive soon enough to get ready and settle; try to avoid rushing off straight afterwards.
Lymphatic drainage massage usually takes place in a heated room; warmth is an important factor in increasing lymphatic flow. You are also likely to be more relaxed if you're not cold. Your therapist will usually carry out lymphatic drainage massage with you on a massage table, while you're draped in discreetly placed towels.
Your massage therapist will use a variety of massage techniques, probably working her way up from your feet. Lymphatic drainage massage uses very light pressure, as well as long, gentle, rhythmic strokes and soft pumping movements in the direction of the lymph nodes. The main lymph nodes are in the neck, armpits, and groin.
Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) can go where Deep Tissue massage and Swedish cannot - into swollen areas.
Lymphatic drainage can leave you feeling exhausted. You may want to have a lie down, or at the very least, a very undemanding schedule for the rest of the day. Give your body time to ease back into activity.
Lymphatic drainage massage may also leave you really thirsty. We've seen people who are not usually water-drinkers reaching for bottles of San Pellegrino like it's free champagne!
Lymphatic drainage is about flushing out your system; you can do this every day by drinking plenty of water.
One of the best things you can do for your lymphatic system is to be more active. Even the most gentle activity will help encourage a healthy lymph flow, as movement of the muscles exerts pressure on the lymphatic vessels and keeps them moving.