You’ve probably heard of lymphatic massages and think it’s just like any other massage. What you may not know is that lymphatic massage benefits weight loss and even has potential health benefits.
If you’re struggling with your weight, it’s worth figuring out if there might be issues that are holding you back and finding options where you can safely address this issue. You may not realize it, but your lymph system may be the cause of the low energy and the minor aches and pains that you’ve been feeling.
This is why a lymphatic massage could just be the best option for you. Keep reading to know more about the benefits of this massage.
Understanding Your Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is an important waste removal system in your body. One of its roles is to drain extra lymph fluid from body tissues and returns it to the blood.
How It Works
Lymph is a clear fluid that contains lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that fights germs, foreign substances, and abnormal cells1. It comes from the general circulation and is deposited around your cells to nourish them.
Lymph is derived from blood plasma. As your blood circulates through your body, blood plasma leaks into your tissues through the thin walls of the capillaries. While most of this fluid seeps immediately back into your bloodstream, a percentage of it is left behind2.
Your lymphatic system is a circulatory system made up of lymph vessels. These lymph vessels are a network of capillaries and a large network of tubes throughout your body that transport lymph away from tissues. Lymphatic vessels collect and filter lymph as it moves toward larger vessels2.
It does this through the lymph nodes, which are located along the lymph vessels. They store lymphocytes and filter waste bacteria and damaged cells (including cancer cells) from lymph1.
Returning lymph to the bloodstream helps to maintain normal blood volume and pressure. It also prevents the excess buildup of fluid around the tissues called edema3.
Lymphatic System Effects
When your lymphatic system isn’t working well, it can contribute to a host of problems, such as:
- A buildup of lymphatic fluid
- Compromised immunity
- Excessive water retention
- Swelling and bloating
Lymphatic drainage treatment is commonly used for people with lymphedema. Lymphedema is a chronic disease marked by the increased collection of lymphatic fluid in the body, causing swelling, which can lead to skin and tissue changes4.
Lymphedema can come from genetic disorders, injury, infection, cancer treatment, or surgery. Symptoms of lymphedema5 include:
- Skin discoloration
- Tissue swelling
- Heaviness in the limbs
- Hardening or thickening of the skin
- Recurring infections
What Is A Lymphatic Massage?
A lymphatic draining massage, which is also known as manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), is a type of massage therapy that may help to relieve the swelling that occurs because of poor health or from a medical treatment that causes blockages to your lymphatic system.
The technique is to stimulate lymph flow throughout your body with the help of gentle movements. Unlike a regular massage, which requires deep pressure to massage your muscles, lymphatic drainage uses light pressure because your lymphatic system is close to the surface of your skin.
Types Of Lymphatic Drainage Massages
A lymphatic drainage massage can be categorized into four types5. These are commonly used by massage therapists, physical therapists, and doctors.
- Vodder – this technique uses various sweeping motions around the area.
- Foldi – similar to the Vodder technique, this requires the massage therapist to alternate between circular hand motions and moments of relaxation.
- Casley-Smith – still using circular hand motions but mainly using the sides and palms of the hands.
- Leduc – relying on hand motions to collect lymph fluid before redirecting it for reabsorption into the larger lymphatic system.
The Benefits Of Lymphatic Drainage Massage
By removing toxins, getting rid of excess fluid, and helping your body absorb vitamins from your digestive system, lymphatic drainage massages support your immune system. These lead to several benefits6 that include:
- Reducing swelling caused by water retention
- Boosting the immune system to help prevent illness and disease
- Removing pathogens and toxins
- Improving digestion
- Helping you feel lighter and less bloated
- Aiding sleep and relaxation
- Improving body shape
- Supporting faster muscle recovery to aid with exercise
How A Lymphatic Massage Benefits Weight Loss
Weight loss might be the furthest connection to think of when it comes to a lymphatic drainage massage, but here is one more reason why getting this type of massage could benefit your weight loss journey:
In addition to its roles in moving lymph, filtering toxins, and fighting viruses, your lymphatic system also aids the gut. It does this by absorbing dietary fat and some proteins and carrying them from the gut to the bloodstream, where they are distributed throughout your body to make hormones, cell membranes, and energy7.
This potentially means that a weakened lymphatic system could lead to noticeable weight gain and extra difficulty releasing weight.
A study has been shown to support this claim where women who displayed worsened lymphatic drainage in their legs had fat stores that were less willing to break down and release energy both when at rest and in response to stimulation8.
While weight gain and weight loss difficulties can come from a number of contributing factors, it’s a plausible cause that you are experiencing poor functioning lymphatic system.
Who Can Benefit?
Lymph massage can benefit just about everyone. In particular, if you are someone experiencing these conditions:
- Chronic fluid retention in legs or arms
- Post-mastectomy or breast cancer treatment
- Swelling of a limb, pre or post surgery
- Chronic fatigue
- Hormonal and emotional imbalances
- Recurrent infections (colds, tonsillitis, sinus infections)
When To Avoid Lymphatic Drainage Massage?
Generally speaking, lymphatic massage is considered safe for most people. However, it can be dangerous if you have these certain conditions:
- You have an infection.
- You experienced blood clots or a stroke.
- You have a heart condition.
- You have cancer in the affected area.
- You have liver or kidney problems.
Tips After For Better A Lymphatic System
Now that you know the benefits, here are some other ways and tips to give more support to your lymphatic system after a massage or even other than a massage.
- Drink plenty of water.
Massages can be dehydrating, so it’s best to replenish your body with water. Water is also vital for lymph to flow properly. Drink adequate glasses of water after your massage to help regulate the balance and health of your organs and how effectively your system functions. Drinking water helps flush your kidneys which are responsible for getting rid of toxins.
- Don’t wear tight-fitting clothes after a massage.
One of the best ways for your lymph vessels to properly circulate is to wear loose clothing. This helps promote lymph flow.
- Be conscious of what you consume.
It’s best to avoid alcohol for 24 hours and avoid caffeinated drinks after a massage. As for food, include fruits and vegetables in your diet. They are beneficial in removing waste from your body.
A light diet with raw, whole foods is best to boost lymphatic function and remove waste. Low-sodium diets are best for a healthy and functioning lymphatic system.
- Do light exercises.
Lymphatic massages are sometimes done pre and post-surgery as it is one of the best ways to help your body heal.
Though for post-surgeries, this can depend on how far your recovery process is. Doing light exercises like walking encourages muscle contraction and lymph flow.
As is a massaging result, you might feel relaxed and tired after your massage. Always listen to your body and rest by lying down and relaxing your muscles. This can regulate your blood pressure and promote healing.
It is primarily important to have a healthy lymphatic system as it helps protect your body from disease and infection. But its importance could potentially lead to other benefits such as for weight loss.
If you have been keeping some weight and experiencing some bloating and swelling, then a slow lymphatic system may be a cause. Lymphatic drainage can encourage unnecessary storage of fat and one of the most common reasons for lymphatic obstruction is the removal or enlargement of the lymph nodes.
A lymphatic drainage massage aims to assist the flow of lymphatic fluid through your body, therefore, relieving the swelling and could feasibly lead to aiding in weight loss.
3 Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Lymphatic System. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/21199-lymphatic-system#:~:text=Lymphatic%20vessels%3A%20Lymphatic%20vessels%20are,larger %20vessels%20called%20collecting%20ducts.
4 Sleigh BC, Manna B. Lymphedema. [Updated 2022 Sep 18]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537239/
5 WebMD Editorial Contributors. (2021, April 12). What Is Lymph Drainage Massage?. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-lymph-drainage-massage#:~:text=Lymph%20drainage%20massage%20has%20become,fluid% 20balance%2C%20and%20immune%20functions.
7 Kracoff, G & Walczyk J. (2021, October 12). Over the Counter: The lymphatic system and how to keep it healthy. MetroWest Daily New. https://www.metrowestdailynews.com/story/lifestyle/health-fitness/2021/10/13/lymphatic-system-moves-excess-fluid-through-body/6002528001/
8 Arner P, Andersson DP, Bäckdahl J, Dahlman I, Rydén M. Weight Gain and Impaired Glucose Metabolism in Women Are Predicted by Inefficient Subcutaneous Fat Cell Lipolysis. Cell Metab. 2018 Jul 3;28(1):45-54.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2018.05.004. Epub 2018 May 31. PMID: 29861390.