What Is Lymphatic Massage (and what the heck is the Lymphatic System??)

Updated: Apr 20

You can live three weeks without food.


You can live three days without water.


Without a lymphatic system?


Just a single day.


Lymphatic massage relieves inflammation and pain
Got inflammation & pain? Lymphatic drainage massage can help.

This system is essential for our health, wellbeing, and survival as humans, yet very few of us even know it exists, much less understand how to take care of it.


If you have an inflammatory condition like Fibromyalgia, IBS, or arthritis…


If your body has experienced acute trauma like a car accident, surgery/liposuction, or pregnancy…


If you always feel tired and have chronic pain that medication can’t seem to fix...


Most likely, you have a lymphatic problem.


What does the Lymphatic System do?


If you’re like 99% of people, you never learned about this one in school. At its core, the lymphatic system is a circulatory system that provides immunity, removes toxic waste, and regulates fluid levels. Here’s a simple way to understand it:


Your cells live in lymph, like fish live in water.
Is this what YOUR cells are living in?

Imagine an aquarium. It has a working filter, clear water, and healthy happy fish. But the owner is a little neglectful, and doesn’t clean the tank regularly (or at all). They don’t change the filter either. Over weeks and months, the water gets cloudy, grime builds up, and the fish start to get sick and die.


Much like fish in an aquarium, your cells live in a fluid called “lymph.” Except for your nails and hair, your entire body is bathed in lymph. (In fact, at any given moment, you have TWICE as much lymph in your body as blood.)


Lymph is rich with white blood cells, and it flows through the body cleaning out yucky stuff like bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungus, inflammation, and cellular waste. It starts in your tissues throughout your body, and gets filtered through lymph nodes (mega-cleaning centers) on its way back to central distribution (e.g. your bloodstream).


Lymphatic system filters 3 liters of fluid daily
Your lymphatic system filters the equivalent of a big bottle of Coke every single day!

This is a big job: your lymphatic system filters 2-3 liters of fluid EVERY DAY!


And yet, unlike your blood supply system, your lymphatic system doesn’t have a heart pump to keep fluid in motion.


If it gets congested or stagnant… Your cells are no longer bathing in magical self-repair water. Instead, they’re bathing in toxic waste.


No wonder you start to feel heavy, tired, sick, inflamed, and in pain. Your limbs may visibly swell as fluid collects. Even your brain is soaking in toxic waste. Then the body starts ringing its favorite alarm bell - pain.


How lymphatic drainage massage helps:


Remember that your lymph needs to stay in motion to do its job - otherwise it’s just sitting there gathering waste. If the body can't rid of cellular waste during the healing process, the inflammation simply stays in the tissues causing pain.


Fortunately, we can manually move lymph with our hands!


Lymphatic drainage massage moves fluid through watersheds
Lymph flows in a specific path, like rivers in a watershed.

Lymphatic massage follows a specific protocol to move lymph through the “watersheds” of your body and towards unburdened lymph nodes with gentle, sweeping strokes.


This process also activates your parasympathetic nervous system, switching your body to its rest-and-digest mode which supports quick healing and lets you feel relaxed and safe.


This reduces swelling, relieves pain, speeds up cellular regeneration, detoxifies the body, and boosts your immunity.


It’s incredibly healing for a whole host of issues, because we’re not addressing the issue directly (e.g. ankle sprain). Instead, we’re empowering your self-healing system. And when your lymphatic system is working better, wellness becomes abundant.


But don’t take my word for it...


The Research - Does lymphatic massage really work?


The primary reason for seeking lymphatic massage is to reduce swelling. A 2011 study by American College of Rheumatology gave lymphatic massage to 35 patients with swelling in their hands once a week for 5 weeks. They saw significant reduction in hand size and swelling that was maintained at a follow-up evaluation 9 weeks later. (Source)


The Karolinska Institute in Sweden performed a study with 17 women who have fibromyalgia to see if lymphatic massage would be an effective pain management tool. Participants received an hour of massage over the course of the month, and the results were very exciting: “Pain, stiffness, sleep, sleepiness, and well-being all improved during the treatment period. Two months after treatment cessation, significant improvement remained in pain.” (Source)


What about client reports that lymphatic massage is good for mental health? Kangwon National University did a study with 111 participants to test the effect of lymphatic massage on the nervous system. They did a brief 15 minute session around the neck and found significant benefits for stress, pain, and anxiety. The researchers said “It is recommended that lymphatic massage be considered as one of the manual therapies for subjects with psychological stress.” (Source)


One study tested the benefits of lymphatic massage for breast cancer related lymphoedema in 31 women. Not only did lymphatic massage significantly reduce swelling and limb size, participants also reported more restful sleep, less pain, a sense of body lightness, and overall better quality of life. (Source)


Ready to feel better?


I'm a Seattle massage therapist who offers lymphatic massage therapy. Click here to schedule your relief online.


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