It’s one of your body’s least understood (and most underappreciated) systems. Made up of nearly 800 nodes, it’s double the length of your circulatory system. And in Ayurvedic medicine, it’s appropriately called “the water of life.”
What are we talking about? If you guessed the lymphatic system, you’re correct!
As massage therapists, we get a lot of questions about this all-important part of your body. For example:
- Do all types of massage benefit the lymphatic system?
- How is lymphatic massage different from therapeutic massage?
- What are the main benefits of lymphatic massage?
We’ll answer these questions and much more, so keep reading below!
Introducing Your Lymphatic System
In simplest terms, your lymphatic system acts as the body’s “sewer.” It removes any fluids that leak out of your blood vessels and maintains normal fluid levels throughout your body’s tissues.
The lymphatic system plays a vital role in optimizing your immune system. It monitors and produces antibodies and other cells that protect you from infection and disease. It also absorbs fats from your digestive tract and removes cellular waste products.
Fun fact: Unlike your circulatory system, the lymphatic system is a “one-way street” without a specific organ (like the heart) to pump it. Instead, it relies on gravity, movement, and even your breathing to keep flowing!
What Is Lymphatic Massage?
When your lymphatic system is working properly, it clears excess fluid from your body automatically. However, certain types of illness or medical treatments can “block” the lymphatic system, causing an excess buildup of fluid in the arms or legs.
For example, women who have been treated for breast cancer often have lymph nodes removed from their chest and armpits. This inhibits the body’s ability to drain fluids effectively, which can cause swelling (lymphedema) in the arms.
Lymphatic massage is a specialized treatment designed to move stagnant or excess fluid out of the extremities and towards the body’s central lymph nodes, where it can then be filtered and flushed out.
Unlike other massage modalities that focus mainly on stress relief or relieving muscular pain, lymphatic massage has two specific objectives:
- Clearing trapped lymphatic fluids from body tissues
- Moving lymphatic fluids towards lymph nodes for reabsorption
Lymphatic massage involves a specific sequence to stimulate the lymph nodes and blood vessels. With very light pressure, the therapist uses rhythmic, gentle movements that mimic your body’s natural lymphatic pulsations. They’ll make several passes across the affected areas (generally the arms or legs) as well as parts of the neck and throat.
What Are the Benefits of Lymphatic Massage?
Lymphatic massage offers many potential health benefits including:
- Reducing lymphedema after a mastectomy
- Reducing swelling in the arms and legs
- Improving circulation in the hands and feet
- Boosting immune system function
- Alleviating chronic pain and fatigue
- Easing discomfort associated with breastfeeding
- Relieving symptoms of fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis
Lymphatic massage is a gentle, relaxing modality that’s beneficial for most people. However, it may not be suitable for those with certain heart conditions, blood clots, or anyone actively undergoing cancer treatments.
If you have any concerns or questions about whether a lymphatic massage is right for you, consult your doctor before booking a session.
How to Find the Best Massage for You
As we’ve discussed, lymphatic massage can play a key role in reducing edema and improving circulation. If you’re eager to give it a try, be sure to ask for a massage therapist who has received specialized training in lymphatic drainage.
Of course, many other types of massage are beneficial too, from relaxing Swedish massage to deep tissue, trigger point therapy, and sports massage.
At Simply Massage, our therapists are trained in a variety of modalities to help you feel your very best. Call us at 970-748-1600 to learn more or to schedule your next massage in Avon or Vail.