Lymphatic drainage: The benefits of lymphatic drainage massage, how it works, and how to do it yourself.
It might seem like there’s always a must-try wellness trend or procedure making rounds on social media. And while some are new concepts, many are time-honored techniques that have been practiced for decades, if not centuries. One of those is known as lymphatic drainage, a popular message method that’s now being touted by everyone from celebs, including Meghan Markle and Chrissy Teigen, to wellness influencers like Hannah Bronfman. So, what exactly is it, and why all the hype? Here, experts explain the benefits of lymphatic drainage.
What is Lymphatic Drainage?
To understand what lymphatic drainage is, it’s important to first understand your lymphatic system, which plays a major role in your body’s immune system. Your lymphatic system, a network of vessels and nodes under the skin, helps eliminate waste from throughout your entire body and keeps your bodily fluid levels in balance, explains Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, a dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery in Manhattan. Without it, the body would swell with fluid and excess waste.
“Your lymphatic system naturally gets rid of waste by transporting ‘lymph,’ a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells (lymphocytes), throughout the body’s arteries and organs before draining them through the lymphatic system,” adds Daryl Gioffre, D.C., a functional nutritionist, board-certified chiropractor, and anti-inflammation expert. This process is essential to detoxifying the body and fighting infection.
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How Does Lymphatic Drainage Massage Work?
The lymphatic drainage technique was discovered in the 1930s by a Danish husband and wife team who developed the strokes and sequence of what they called “Lymphology.” The lymphatics rely on muscle contractions to push the lymph fluid toward certain areas of the body, where it empties, and lymphatic drainage massage essentially speeds up that process, helping the body rid itself of waste.
This type of massage utilizes accelerated movements on the face and body to remove waste and fluids away from areas with trauma or accumulation, thereby decreasing swelling and boosting the overall health, explains Angelina Lucheux, esthetician and owner of Tailormade for You Skincare in Long Island City, NY. Think of it like unclogging the pipes so that the body can function optimally.
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The Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage Massage
The benefits of lymphatic drainage are seemingly endless, according to those who have tried it out, but here are some of the key improvements you can expect, according to experts.
For those who have a damaged or impaired lymphatic system, lymphatic drainage can help to reduce discomfort and swelling by mobilizing fluid away from the affected area(s), notes Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery (MDCS) in NY. It’s particularly beneficial following a surgery or trauma, or for anyone undergoing treatment for diseases such as cancer or autoimmune disorders.
Boosts your immunity
These days, we could all use an immune system boost and that’s what lymphatic drainage can offer—by targeting lymph nodes in your body and cleansing the blood, notes Dr. Gioffre. “The blood and fluid circulation detoxifies the body and fights off toxins that can cause a weakened immune system, making you more vulnerable to infections, and the accumulation of inflammation which can lead to many health issues in the body,” he says.
Provides temporary contouring
“Lymphatic drainage can help provide a temporary contouring effect, as it temporarily shifts areas of fluid buildup or swelling, with some people noticing a more defined jawline or cheekbone immediately after a treatment of the face,” says Dr. Garshick. “Similarly, lymphatic drainage can help to depuff, especially in the undereye area, reducing the appearance of undereye puffiness.”
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Aids in weight loss
Did your ears perk up at that one? It’s true that by helping your body rid itself from toxins, you may notice that you’re less bloated and potentially even lighter after lymphatic drainage. “By stimulating blood circulation, tissue regeneration, and increasing lymphatic flow through lymphatic drainage, the body can promote faster removal of toxic fluids and inflammation that can cause puffiness in skin, poor gut health, body fatigue, and weight gain,” says Dr. Gioffre.
If nothing else, lymphatic drainage massage can relieve tension and soreness throughout the body. And like other massage techniques, it’s incredibly relaxing. Some people say the technique even increases energy, eases stress, and rids brain fog.
How to Do Lymphatic Drainage Yourself
Licensed massage therapists study the lymphatic map of the body and can provide the best results. But a particular perk of lymphatic drainage message is that you don’t need an appointment at a fancy spa to try it out. Start by pulling up a lymphatic map of the body, and massaging the regional lymph nodes, which can be found in the neck, armpits, groin, hands, and feet, to prepare them to take on new fluid. Then, following the plane of lymph fluid, massage the areas that drain towards those lymph nodes.
Using slow, rhythmic upwards strokes and light pressure, work in a unidirectional path to help stimulate the normal flow of lymphatic drainage, says Dr. Garshick. She also recommends gently stretching and releasing the skin as you work through the body. “Starting at the head, continue all the way down through the ankles and feet, always using slow, upwards strokes,” she explains. “End the massage by gently pushing fluid in the toes upward with your fingers.”
So, How Often Should You Do It?
There’s no standard protocol, and it’s important to note that your lymphatic system is most likely working just fine on its own. Still, Dr. Gioffre suggests doing lymphatic drainage massage every day for 10 minutes. “Detoxification is something we need to promote daily, and lymphatic system drainage is a powerful and cost-effective way to go about that,” he says. “Regularly helping your lymphatic system filter out waste can relieve tension, restore energy levels, and boost your overall health.”
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