While natural health and beauty rituals have been around for decades, the act of self-care has become somewhat of a fad in recent years, with the focus being on natural and relaxing ways to take care of the body. And while there are various ways to perform self-care, one method that is particularly gaining in popularity is self-massage.
Lymphatic massage specifically—something that healthcare and wellness practitioners have been using for years—is now something people are doing themselves from the comfort of their homes as a self-care ritual. This is because a lymphatic drainage massage not only helps with certain medical conditions but also has numerous other benefits for the everyday person, even beauty benefits.
This article will further discuss what lymphatic drainage is, the many health and beauty benefits of lymphatic massage, and how you can perform the massage yourself and start incorporating it into your daily wellness routine.
The Lymphatic System and Lymphatic Drainage
Several nodes and vessels are located throughout our bodies that work to filter out debris such as waste and other elements from the immune system. This network of lymph-filtering vessels is known as the lymphatic system.
The most important and primary nodes are located in the armpits, neck, and groin. Together, these vessels work to ensure the body is clear of toxins so clean lymph can be filtered back into the circulatory system, which pumps blood to the heart.
Maintaining a healthy lymphatic system is important because it helps maintain fluid levels, protects the body against toxins and other foreign invaders, removes abnormal cells, and absorbs fats from the digestive tract. And one way to keep this system healthy is with lymphatic drainage through massage.
By giving yourself a lymphatic massage, you can help flush toxins from the body, which is essential to maintaining your overall health. It can also be used as a preventative health practice to treat or prevent certain conditions, such as lymphedema. Facial lymphatic massage has also shown to have numerous beauty and wellness benefits.
What Are the Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage Massage?
As a whole, the lymphatic system is crucial to maintaining a healthy immune system as it helps to filter and destroy harmful toxins, bacteria, and other invaders. Thus, performing lymphatic drainage can help you feel better overall and fight off illness more often. However, there are various other specific benefits that a person can gain from performing a lymphatic drainage massage.
When lymphatic massage is used on the face, it can:
- Improve skin texture and appearance
- Fight acne
- Boost collagen production
- Improve blood flow
- Tighten and strengthen facial muscles
- Reduce wrinkles and dark circles
- Boost cell renewal
- Reduce anxiety, stress, and signs of fatigue
- Improve the appearance of scars
Performing lymphatic drainage massage on other parts of the body can help with some of the above in addition to treating or preventing certain health conditions and chronic pain. Those with lymphedema, for example, can especially benefit from lymphatic massage, as well as people who have had cancer and cancer surgery removing lymph nodes.
Lymphatic massage can also benefit people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This is because arthritis can affect the circulatory system and result in poor lymph flow. It can also cause tissue swelling and pain in the joints. Because massaging and draining the lymphatic system can help alleviate pain, this can make it easier to engage in other practices, such as eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, that can provide further health benefits for people with RA.
People with venous diseases, such as varicose veins, can also benefit from a lymphatic massage. Venous disease results from damaged veins or veins that don’t work efficiently. People with this condition can experience swelling, pain, cramping, itching, and a heavy, uncomfortable feeling in their legs from poor blood circulation. With lymphatic drainage, however, venous disease patients can improve their quality of life and reduce symptoms by helping to improve blood flow.
What Are the Different Types of Lymphatic Massage?
Just as there are various types of massages in general, there are also different ways to perform a lymphatic massage. There is no one right way to do it; it simply depends on your preference or the technique that you find works best for you and your specific condition or situation.
The four common types of lymphatic drainage massage include:
- Vodder. This is the most popular technique and is considered the foundation of lymphatic drainage massage. It involves sweeping hand motions massaging around a specific area or node.
- Foldi. With this technique, you or a therapist would alternate between circular motions and periods of rest.
- Leduc. Using the Leduc technique, you would use motions to try to collect lymph fluid and then redirect it into the larger lymphatic system for reabsorption.
- Casley-Smith. Similar to the Foldi technique, the Casley-Smith technique uses circular motions made with the sides and palms of the hands but does not necessarily alternate with moments of rest.
Though these are the four primary lymphatic massage techniques, there is another method of lymphatic drainage that has recently gained in popularity—gua sha. Gua sha comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine and involves the use of a special tool to scrape or stroke the body.
Despite the word “scrape” making it sound painful, gua sha tools have various types of rounded edges that are used to stroke along the skin. The tool is also typically used along with oils, which make it easier and more comfortable to stroke along the skin.
While gua sha can be used for many reasons, it is especially beneficial as a form of lymphatic drainage massage. Today, many people have started to incorporate gua sha into their daily skincare routine to help with lymph drainage and improve their skin.
How to Give Yourself a Lymphatic Drainage Massage
For people with serious conditions or sensitive lymph nodes, a lymphatic drainage massage can be performed by a healthcare professional or massage therapist. However, lymphatic massage is also safe and beneficial to perform at home on your own as well.
The key is using a good oil, so you don’t irritate or drag the skin while performing the various techniques and motions. You can use special underarm oils so as not to irritate that delicate area, or you can use other natural oils such as almond, vitamin E, argan, or jojoba.
If you are using a gua sha tool, it can also help to first place it in the fridge or freezer to let it cool down. A cold gua sha tool can feel especially good on the face and can provide additional benefits for the skin. If you find your tool is not getting cold enough, you can temporarily lower the fridge temp. If that doesn’t work and your fridge is too warm, it might require some maintenance.
Once you’ve got your oil, use the tips below as you perform your massage:
- Keep your hands relaxed and use gentle sweeping or stroking motions. Do not press so hard as to bruise the skin or hard enough that you feel the muscles.
- Avoid swollen or infected areas.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Avoid areas affected by cancer treatments.
- If your skin is turning red or you feel any pain, stop and rest. When you start again, you may need to use less pressure.
Numerous resources and videos on the internet can show you in more detail how to give yourself a lymphatic massage. And if you are still in doubt or have questions, you can always reach out to a doctor or massage therapist. Lymphatic massage can easily be performed at home, but it can always be more beneficial when performed by an expert. How you choose to go about it is up to you.
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