All about Lymph Drainage Massage, it’s not as scary as it sounds

Recently there’s been a local explosion in curiosity about Lymph Drainage Massage – we’ve had lots of questions, inquiries  and new clients asking all about it.  So I thought I’d dispel a couple of myths and give a bit more information to those who are curious about this very different style of massage, and let you know that it’s not only medical clients who like Lymph Drainage Massage.  There is a little physiology at the beginning, so if you’re not keen on knowing the details of how your body works, just skip those bits and read further on.

 The Lymphatic System:

Your body’s lymphatic system is your primary immune system.  It fights every bug that enters your body (no matter how it gets in), and does it’s best to drain and expel the fluid in which these external invaders and local cell wastes collect.  It is very closely linked to your circulatory system – in fact, for every blood vessel, capillary, and vein there is a lymph vessel or capillary running alongside.

It is very superficial (sitting just below the skin in many places), and can easily be damaged if not looked after properly.  The fluid in your lymphatic system (called lymph) is moved through your body when your muscles contract and release and this contractile pressure forces the fluid forward.

 

Wikipedia has a great article on the lymphatic system: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lymphatic_system

 

Cancer Research UK website has some great diagrams in their explanation: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/about-cancer/what-is-cancer/body/the-lymphatic-system

Both are well worth a look if you’d like more information on the system as a whole.

 The Problems that can occur in your lymph system:

There are many things that can go wrong in the lymphatic system.  Two main conditions that we see are lymphoedema and endometritis, both of which can involve swelling and bloating caused by fluid being unable to drain properly through the lymphatic system.  Lymph Drainage Massage is a common form of treatment for either of these conditions.  This non-invasive technique moves the unwanted fluid easily and painlessly from the body, and avoids many of the complications that medications to treat fluid retention can add to a medical schedule.

See: http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Livingwithandaftercancer/Symptomssideeffects/Lymphoedema/Manuallymphaticdrainage.aspx

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3093183/

Some kidney problems can involve the same kind of fluid retention, and (depending on the details of the condition) Lymph Drainage Massage is often recommended by medical professionals for the above reasons.

Other common problems for the lymphatic system are conditions that involve autoimmune responses from the body – where the body’s immune system tries to attack itself.  In situations such as this (e.g. Chrohn’s disease, glandular fever, and rheumatoid arthritis), Lymph Drainage Massage may be contraindicated, and would not be done without medical consent.  If you are interested in a Lymph Drainage Massage to complement treatment you are having for a medical condition, we recommend that you contact us to discuss what style of massage would be most appropriate to your specific case.

Finally, Lymph Drainage Massage can often be helpful to people with cancer.  I will talk more about this later in this article.

 The Style:

Lymph Drainage Massage is very different from most styles of massage practiced in western cultures (and, indeed, from most massage styles around the world).  It involves gentle “shunting” of excess fluid toward lymph nodes and ducts in order to drain the fluid manually – mimicking the movements your body would go through to drain the fluid itself.  This is a very light style of massage – given how near to the skin many of the parts of your lymphatic system are, only light pressure is needed.

People used to muscular massage styles are often shocked by the gentle, light pressure of Lymph Drainage Massage.  Remember – this is not for muscles, this is to move the fluid sitting just under the skin.  Increased pressure to an area can actually prevent lymph from draining, so the pressure here is super light.

Have a look at the photographs on these three websites – this is close to the pressure that a Lymph Drainage Massage is likely to be:

http://stirlingclublv.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/two-new-lymphatic-massages-in-las-vegas.html

 

http://www.examiner.com/article/lymphatic-drainage-massage-for-health-and-beauty

 

http://www.margaretstmassage.com/?page_id=179

This is one of those times when deeper pressure is NOT a good thing!

Myth #1 “Lymph Drainage Massage can help me lose weight”

There are elements of truth in this statement – Lymph Drainage Massage can indeed technically help you to lose weight.  It just won’t be fat!

Lymph Drainage Massage drains lymph – that’s fluid.  So, if the weight you want to lose is retained fluid, then Lymph Drainage Massage is your perfect weight-loss companion.  It’s something like the diuretic tablets that people take (just without many of the potentially harmful side effects, and with better chance of draining fluid from where it’s caught!).

If, however, your weight-loss mission is related to fat storage, don’t despair just yet… Although Lymph Drainage Massage won’t relieve you of those excess pounds, it could still be useful to you.  Cellulite and other fat deposits can be influenced by the right combination of massage styles.  We’re not saying that we’ll make you skinny (we wish!), what we’ll do is to break some of the bonds in your fat deposits, increase drainage and circulation to fatty areas, and then use Lymph Drainage Massage to drain any excess fluid that has been trapped amongst these deposits and unable to escape.  In conjunction with a weight-loss program, Lymph Drainage Massage can add an increase to the drainage of fluids carrying waste materials and increase circulation to an area.

 

Myth #2 “Lymph Drainage Massage spreads cancers throughout the body”

This is simply not true.  Although in cases of lymphoma no massage would be done without medical consent (lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system, so it is a special case), much testing has been done on the idea that cancer can be spread by lymphatic system stimulation, and results are conclusive that this isn’t the case.

If you have cancer, or know someone who does, massage may well be beneficial.  Massage stimulates the parasympathetic system, allowing the body’s natural relaxation and rejuvenation to occur.  It’s the time-out that actually works in your favour – heart rate slows, digestion improves, breathing is easier, tension calms, nervous habits abate, and relaxation abounds – almost invariably massage is hugely beneficial for people trying to survive cancers.  We will typically only treat cancer patients with the approval of their medical specialist, after all, many of the medications and treatments involved in cancer care are easily influenced by Lymph Drainage Massage.  If you are concerned, please talk to your medical specialist.

 

However, if you’re simply curious, please have a look at these two sites:

http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Cancertreatment/Complementarytherapies/Typesoftherapies/Massagetherapy.aspx

 

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/about-cancer/treatment/complementary-alternative/therapies/massage-therapy

 

So, Why Have A Lymph Drainage Massage?

The main therapeutic reason that people consider a Lymph Drainage Massage is to drain excess fluid.  Whether related to weight-loss, general oedema, or localised fluid retention, the removal of excess fluid is definitely the main reason we see people for Lymph Drainage Massage.

This said, the other primary reason that people come in for Lymph Drainage Massage is to relax.  Lymph Drainage Massage stimulates the parasympathetic system more thoroughly than most other forms of massage, slowing your heart rate, improving digestion, easing breathing, releasing tension, soothing nervous habits, and helping everything to relax.  There are very few styles of massage that are as truly relaxing and hypnotic as the motions of Lymph Drainage Massage.  The light pressure is not at all tickly or irritating, and the gentle repetitive shunting motion is soothing and hypnotic.  Coming for a Lymph Drainage Massage to simply unwind, relax, and stimulate your parasympathetic system is definitely time well spent.

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