Lymphatic drainage massage is a gentle massage that promotes the movement of lymph through the lymphatic system so it can drain.
The lymphatic system plays a role in immunity and the balance of fluids in the body tissues.
Lymph is the fluid that moves through the lymphatic system. It is made up of different components including white blood cells and the fluid found between cells known as interstitial fluid. As it moves through, lymph also accumulates waste that it carries away from the body tissues.
As the lymphatic system does not have its own pump, lymph can be slow moving. When it comes to certain conditions, this can lead to excess fluid build-up in an area of the body. This is where lymphatic drainage can be beneficial.
Specific conditions that lymphatic massage is used to treat, including:
- Lymphoedema – any swelling that occurs due to the accumulation of lymph in a particular body part. This can occur after removal of lymph nodes such as after breast cancer surgery or due to cysts in the lymphatic system, but sometimes the cause is unknown.
- Lipoedema – a condition affecting the legs, where excess fat deposits occur on the legs, thighs, buttocks and upper arms. This can interfere with the lymphatic system and slow lymph flow.
- Osteoarthritis – particularly when there are areas of swelling around joint.
- Oedema (fluid retention), particularly if it occurs after surgery.
- Chronic venous insufficiency – when the valves of the veins in the leg don’t function correctly, leading to a build-up of fluid
This form of massage uses gentle pressure, and is considered to be a procedure more so than a massage.