Lymphatic massage, or “lymphatic drainage” is a powerful, natural, and effective way to flush lymphatic fluid out of the body. It is most often used to improve immune system functioning, or to remove excess lymph fluid – a condition also knows as lymphedema. Lymphedema, which often causes visible swelling due to lymph fluid retention, has many causes. Anyone experiencing lymphedema should be in consultation with a physician.
One of the increasingly common uses of lymphatic drainage massage is as a means of controlling post surgery lymphedema. Many cosmetic procedures from liposuction to breast augmentation or reduction, can result in excess lymph fluid accumulating in the body. Lymphatic drainage may be the most effective natural means of addressing common post-surgical lymphedema. It has been shown to significantly reduce swelling which can become one of the most uncomfortable aspects of the patient’s recovery. One recent Body Well client who underwent some moderate liposuction followed by several lymphatic drainiage massages reported that she was astonished at how much easier her recuperation had been thanks to this gentle and relaxing techniqe.
Performing an effective lymphatic drainage massage requires special knowledge, training and experience. The therapist must understand how the lymphatic system works, both anatomically and physiologically, in order to move the fluid effectively.
One of the interesting (and ironic) things about this technique is that while it is extremely powerful, when it is performed correctly it actually feels incredibly gentle and relaxing. The reason for this is because, unlike blood vessels which are cylindrical, lymph vessels are somewhat flat. Therefore, if the therapist presses too hard, it will flatten the vessels and the fluid will not move enough to “drain”. One of the ways a client/patient will know that it is working is the common side effect of getting a dry mouth or dry eyes (if you wear contact lenses they should be removed prior to the session). It is also common to have the urge to urinate before too long. You should always provide feedback about changes in your body to your therapist.
The massage consists of gentle stroking, working in sequences, towards the central lymph fluid processing areas of the body. It is also accompanied by gentle “pumping” and flushing of the actual lymph nodes, which act like tiny oil filters for the lymphatic system. You can feel easily some large lymph nodes in your neck, which often get swollen when you are sick or suffering an infection. Other bundles of nodes are found in the armpits and groin area to list a few.
If you are experiencing lymphedema now for any reason, or planning to undergo cosmetic surgery, please do not hesitate to contact a reputable provider. It should also be noted that a few sessions of pre-surgery lymphatic drainage is also recommended, as it can clear excess fluid and make cosmetic surgical procedures easier for the surgeon.
I reccomend planning this in advance when possible, as not many therapists are qualified to perform this specialty and a therapist may not always be easy to find. If you are planning a cosmetic procedure such as liposuction, do not wait until you are already suffering from the uncomfortable swelling symptoms before seeking treatments. You may also want to consider budgeting for lymphatic drainage massages ahead of time, as you may need as many as ten or more sessions. Ask if you provider has discount packages available which are perfect for this kind of bodywork.
Daniel Melmed, LMT