What is manual lymphatic drainage massage?
Contrary to its name, a manual lymphatic drainage massage is very different from a traditional relaxing or sports massage you may have had in the past. A lymphatic drainage massage is a hands-on treatment modality applied by qualified professionals to assist the flow of the lymphatic system and reduce swelling. It was developed in the 1930s by the Vodders and has since been adapted into multiple different techniques.
What is the lymphatic system and what does it do?
The lymphatic system is a collection of vessels and nodes that runs all over the body. Those vessels work similarly to your blood vessels and carry liquid through each part of the body including your limbs, organs and head. The lymph is the liquid being transported through those vessels and contains white blood cells in charge of destroying abnormal cells and fighting infections. The lymphatic system is therefore essential for your immune system and general wellbeing.
Why should I need a lymphatic drainage massage?
There are many reasons why someone should get lymphatic drainage. This ranges from issues after surgery such as lymphoedema, to bloating and constipation. Lymphoedema is a swelling of the lymph nodes and congestion of the lymphatic drainage. Lymphoedema is common in people recovering from breast cancer. Lymphoedema can present with swelling in the limbs or trunk and abdomen and over time can increase the chances of skin infections, aching and heavy limb. If left untreated, lymphoedema can cause cellulitis which requires antibiotics for treatment.
Lymphatic drainage has also been shown to help with other conditions such as chronic venous insufficiency or lipoedema.
What should I expect and are there any side effects?
A lymphatic drainage is very gentle and does not involve any pressure. This is why it is so different from a traditional massage. During a lymphatic drainage massage, the practitioner will likely start by draining your lymph near your collar bones where it is being collected. They might also get you to perform deep breathing called diaphragmatic breathing at the start and the end of the treatment. Then, using gentle motions of the hands, the practitioner will work on different areas of the body and limbs to drain the excess lymphatic fluid and help the fluid circulation in the body.
Following lymphatic drainage, you can expect some mild side effects such as increase in urination, headaches, fatigue, or get short-lived flu or cold-like symptoms. Those side effects are normal as the toxins in the lymph and body are being expelled from your system.
Good side effects from lymphatic drainage include a reduction in swelling and pain, feeling relaxed, improved sleep and better function of the immune system.
How frequently should I get it?
The frequency of treatment will depend on the condition being treated. After a surgery the consultant will likely recommend frequent lymphatic drainage on a daily basis for a period of time. For other symptoms such as general swelling and fatigue, it is recommended to have a few sessions in a period of a few weeks to months to get better results.
If you are not sure if you should get a lymphatic drainage, call your local clinic with certified lymphatic drainage providers and ask for advice.