WHAT IS LYMPHATIC MASSAGE?
Also known as Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD), or Lymph Drainage Therapy (LDT), lymphatic massage is a gentle form of massage that is meant to improve the function of your lymphatic system.
Your lymphatic system is similar to your circulatory system. But instead of blood, lymphatic vessels carry a colorless fluid called lymph throughout your body. Lymph bathes all your tissues, and one of its main functions is to move excess fluids into your bloodstream to be delivered to the bladder and other organs for elimination.
When your lymphatic system isn’t flowing properly, it can lead to fluids building up in your tissues. The problem can be compounded by the fact that lymph doesn’t circulate like blood, which is continuously kept moving by your heart. Instead, lymph relies on the movements of your body to flow.
Muscle movement and the natural action of breathing will move lymph, so keeping active will always help your lymphatic system. But if your mobility is impaired, lymphatic massage is another great way to keep your lymph flowing.
Research has shown that gentle massage of your lymph vessels and nodes can significantly improve the flow and distribution rate of lymph. This helps move excess fluids out of areas like your feet and ankles and back into circulation for elimination.
It’s helpful to know a bit more about lymph nodes as you continue your massage. Lymph nodes, or lymph glands, are small organs located along the lymph vessels. They’re about the size of a pea or a bean, and they filter lymph as it passes through them, removing harmful substances like pathogens and toxins.
Lymph nodes also help to keep lymph moving as it flows in and out of the nodes. It’s important to massage your lymph nodes as part of your routine to promote better lymph flow.
There are large groups of lymph nodes in your armpits, groin area and the backs of your knees. The video below gives a good overview of how to move lymph into these areas to assist with drainage. You start at the armpits to clear the way, then move downwards towards the feet.
By now, most of the work is done to assist fluid moving up and out of your feet and ankles. If you’ve been working while lying down, it may be helpful to sit up at this point to make it easier to reach and massage your feet. Sitting on a bed or the floor with one leg bent and your foot flat on the surface is often a comfortable position.
Make gentle, half-circle motions with the palm of your hand from your toes up to your ankle. Do this on the top and bottom of your feet. Repeat these at least 10 times each. You can also make small, kneading movements around the malleoli (the bony parts on each side of the ankle).
Do at least 10 circles around each malleolus clockwise, then another 10 counterclockwise.
Another helpful technique is to gently rub three of the main lymphatic draining areas on each foot.
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