Published on: March 27, 2020
Your lymphatic system is the body’s first line of defense against disease. Lymphedema compromises the immune system by causing a blockage of your lymphatic system. While lymphedema can be brought on in a variety of ways, there is also a variety of effective ways to help treat it. One such treatment is a lymphatic drainage massage performed by a certified massage or physical therapist.
A lymphatic massage is different than a typical massage because it is a much lighter touch designed simply to move the lymphatic fluid to the different lymph nodes in your body. Lymphatic massages focus on your lymphatic system, which is directly under your skin and above the muscles.
The best method is to use slow, rhythmic strokes to stimulate lymphatic fluid. The fluid is directed to the lymph nodes in your body, and these nodes work to filter out toxins in your body to keep your immune system healthy. If the lymph fluid in your body stays stagnant, there is a potential increase in the risk of infection.
As part of your lymphedema treatment, you may be required to perform Manual Lymph Drainage or MLD. When you see a Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT), have a discussion on how best to perform MLD and the frequency of how often you should perform it.
There are many benefits to MLD:
- Reduces swelling and speeds healing by moving fluid from injured or damaged lymphatic areas to healthy/intact ones.
- Removes waste products, toxins, bacteria, protein molecules, and foreign substances from the tissues.
- Boosts the immune system by speeding up the transport of bacteria and allergens to the lymph nodes (our body’s defense system). Lymph stagnation hampers the immunological response.
- Reduces pain in 3 ways: by moving pain mediators out of the tissues, by removing excess fluid which can press on pain receptors, and by the Gate Theory of Pain, where touch receptors are stimulated by the rhythmic MLD strokes, which overtake the signals sent by pain receptors.
- It has a calming effect on the autonomic nervous system, inducing a deeply relaxed state.
While you may have an allotted number of visits with your CLT, there are also massage therapists certified in performing MLD. Ask your therapist, join a Facebook Group, or call around to spas in your community asking if they know someone who performs MLD.
Here are examples of how to perform a lymphatic massage: