With so many alternative wellness treatments available it’s sometimes hard to keep up. One such treatment, the lymphatic drainage massage, is a technique known for its ability to detoxify the body. But what is it, exactly? Where does the "drainage" go? And is it really effective at detoxifying the body as so many enthusiasts claim? Let’s take a closer look at lymphatic drainage massage.
What’s the Lymphatic System?
The lymphatic system is made up of vessels, nodes, and lymph glands. It also contains “sacs” with pores that gather metabolic waste. The tonsils, spleen, and thymus, for example, are all parts of the lymphatic system. However, unlike the heart, the center of the body’s other circulatory system, the lymphatic system doesn’t have its own pump. As a result, it relies on the breath and other movement to drain lymph. For most of us, the body is perfectly capable of draining itself. But sickness, poor diet, lack of physical activity, and other issues can compromise the system, resulting in a need for assisted lymphatic drainage.
What is Lymphatic Drainage Massage?
Enthusiasts says that lymphatic drainage massage is super relaxing and that during a session you're likely to be so at ease that you may fall asleep. But there's much more to it than just relaxation. The main role of the lymph nodes is the detoxification of the body. It’s where cell and metabolic waste are stored. And by accelerating the drainage of the lymph nodes, the body is faster at releasing any build up of cellular waste. The lymph nodes hold onto pollution found in our water, air, and food. The purpose of lymphatic drainage massage is to accelerate the drainage of lymph via the liver.
The Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage Massage
Both enthusiasts and practitioners site a host of benefits when it comes to the practice. The treatment is particularly effective for people dealing with the following:
- Water retention caused by too much toxicity in the body.
- Feeling foggy
- Sinus build-up
- Digestive problems
- Swelling in the body, particularly if you have swollen ankles or other joints.
- Post-operative work
- Tension in the gut
- Colds, flus, coughing, lung congestion
Does Lymphatic Drainage Really Work?
Very little research has been done on the effectiveness of lymphatic drainage massage. It's unclear whether some of the beneficial claims are valid. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, while the treatment is helpful for those who have had the lymph nodes removed from the body for whatever reason, it’s unnecessary to get the treatment for basic detoxification or weight loss (loss of water retention). Additionally, if patients have an infection of the lymph nodes then they should avoid the treatment. The treatment should also be halted in patients with congestive heart failure or in cases when pain is present. Other wise, it's considered safe for most patients.
One study that was done in the Journal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy, found that the treatment may be effective for those suffering from drainage problems as a result of sports injuries, but overall the research still isn’t there to prove the technique's effectiveness. That said, enthusiasts swear by the treatment and many practitioners that I spoke with for this article say that they not only use the technique in their own practice, but they also get the treatment done on their own bodies. While the treatment may not be necessary for those in optimal health, if you do suffer from any of the conditions listed above, it may be worth trying the therapy to see if it works for you.
What to Expect from a Lymphatic Drainage Session?
It’s best to have a trained massage therapist performing the technique. Lymphatic drainage is its own method, so your practitioner should be properly trained. The technique can be done about three or four times per year. Here’s what you should expect:
1. Opening the nodes located at the clavicle.
This is where your practitioner is likely to start. Working along what’s called the neck chain to release nodes that may be overloaded with metabolic waste. Your practitioner will work to move the fluids of the body into the lymphatic system to accelerate drainage.
2. Open up the axillary lymph nodes.
These areas, located just under the armpits, are often the next place your practitioner will work to move lymph in the body. From here, the lymph will dump in the heart and then liver. The liver will process the lymph and use what it needs, getting rid of the rest.
3. Moving outward.
Your practitioner will usually start closer into the body and then move outward to the arms and legs.
4. Move to the abdomen.
By working on the lymph nodes along the sides of the body, your practitioner will start to eliminate waste from the trunk of the body. Maybe applying light pressure around the belly.
5. Drain the liver.
Metabolic waste drains via the liver. It’s best to aid this drainage by first applying light pressure around the trunk of the body to increase the flow and elimination of toxins. The practitioner will then move to drain the liver so that it’s better able to remove toxins from the entire body.
6. Move to the legs.
Next, your practitioner will aid the flow of drainage along the legs, starting at the inside of the thighs. Using light, long strokes, your practitioner will accelerate the flow of lymph. The movements are slow and deliberate. Working downward to drain the nodes under the knee cap. Fluid build up is often common after a client has had surgery because the anesthesia can be left in the cells of the body.
Do you get massages regularly? Are massage treatments like lymphatic drainage massage an important addition to your mind body wellness routine? We want to know! Drop us a line via Twitter @OrganicAuthorit.
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