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Lymphatic Massage and Drainage: Complete Guide

Lymphatic Massage and Drainage: Complete Guide

In this post, we discuss how our lymphatic system works, explain the nature of lymphatic massage and why it is needed and canvass the health benefits of lymphatic massage and the things to consider when performing this massage. We will also explain, step-by-step, the right technique to be used for this kind of massage and the goal of lymphatic system drainage. We will then conclude by discussing safety precautions needed for lymph drainage massage.


silhouette of a woman doing a yoga pose

Your lymphatic system is an important part of your immune function. In particular, it protects you from infections and diseases. A healthy and active lymphatic system maintains the fluid balance of your body and drains excess fluid from body tissues. It prevents fluid build-up in your body by eliminating toxins and other unwanted material.

Generally, people believe that lymph massage is only for individuals suffering from certain health conditions. However, this is not true: lymph massage has an important role to play in all of our health regimes. At its core, lymph massage is a type of relaxing massage that helps you to achieve optimal health. When your lymph system functions well, you generally feel healthy and are equipped with a strong defense against illness. In addition, in situations which give rise to a lymphatic system disease referred as lymphedema, which is a fluid build-up in the lymphatic system sometimes caused by certain health conditions or surgeries, lymphatic massage is advised as a treatment measure.

Functions of the Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system is a collection of lymphatic nodes and lymphatic vessels. In essence, it works like a circulatory system that drains excess fluid from your blood vessels. With the help of smooth and skeletal muscles, lymph, which is a colorless fluid containing white blood cells that bathes the tissues, is pumped through lymph vessels and ultimately drains through the lymphatic system into the bloodstream.

The Lymphatic System:

  • Removes interstitial fluid from tissues.
  • Absorbs and transports fatty acids and fats.
  • Transports white blood cells and dendritic cells to lymph nodes which in turn triggers the immune system.

Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Lymphatic drainage massage, also known as lymphatic massage, is a treatment procedure performed by a certified massage therapist in order to stimulate the circulation of lymph fluid in your body. This has the effect of aiding in draining lymph nodes. This improves the removal of toxins from the lymphatic system, reduces any swelling caused due to lymphedema, and helps prevent lymphatic system diseases. This massage also boosts your immune system.

Lymphatic Massage is Beneficial For:

  • Lymphedema
  • Fibromyalgia or muscle pain
  • Swelling of limbs or edema
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Sleeplessness due to stress
  • Digestive disorders
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Recurring infections like cold and flu

Lymphatic Massage is Not Recommended for Conditions Like:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • History of blood clots or thrombosis
  • Kidney and liver problems
  • During infections
  • Malignant tumor

If you have any existing medical condition, it is always advised to consult with your doctor before proceeding with lymphatic massage.

How Lymphatic Massage Works

Lymph drainage massage helps to increase the efficiency of the lymphatic and circulatory system. By removing retained fluids and toxins, lymph drainage makes you feel active and healthy. It also improves metabolic rate and immunity by improving lymphatic system function.

In particular, lymphatic massage is beneficial in post-operative conditions. Lymphatic massage can help reduce swelling as well as speed up healing. In fact, a recent study has shown that manual lymphatic drainage helps in supporting a speedy recovery in the post-operative period.

Benefits of Lymphatic Massage

Lymphatic massage is a body detox therapy that offers many health benefits. Lymphatic massage is also an essential part of an optimal skincare routine because of its detoxification and esthetic benefits. In fact, a study conducted by researchers has revealed that lymphatic massage decreases pain and brings clinically significant reduction in edema.

Lymphatic massage:

woman getting a back massage looking relaxed
  • Is a therapeutic massage that helps to treat conditions like lymphedema and fibromyalgia.
  • Enhances your mood by reducing anxiety and depression.
  • Boosts the body’s cleansing system by stimulating the lymphatic system to naturally cleanse your body.
  • Increases vitality and your body’s circulation by removing toxins, making you feel active and energetic.
  • Brings hormonal balance.
  • Mitigates skin conditions and allergies like acne and rosacea.
  • Helps in healing after surgery by facilitating the regeneration of cells and tissues which also reduces the scarring of surgical sites.
  • Improves your immune system.

Lymphatic massage is beneficial for everyone. If you are suffering from fatigue, low energy or reduced immunity, then this massage can help you bounce back. In fact, a study conducted to evaluate the effects of manual lymphatic massage has revealed that it improves the quality of life in patients with chronic venous diseases. Any surgical procedure involving lymph node removal can cause swelling. In such cases, lymphatic massage can help to treat the swelling. This gentle massage technique also removes waste from the body and restores vitality, which can help those with fibromyalgia.

Lymphatic massage plays an important role in esthetics as well. When a trained beautician performs a facial, they use gentle pressure to improve your lymph flow. This clears toxin and help result in clear, healthy skin.

How To Perform Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Lymphatic drainage massage can be performed by a massage therapist. Alternatively, it can be performed at home by yourself by using the proper technique and ensuring that correct areas are the focus of the massage. The duration of this massage ranges from 30 to 90 minutes. It can be performed in any comfortable position, be it sitting, standing or lying down. Lymphatic massage, also known as lymphedema massage, can be performed at any time of the day, including while watching TV or as a part of your relaxation routine.

Some Tips to Remember During Lymphatic Massage:

  • It is a gentle massage technique where pressure should be felt only on the skin. Stimulate the lymphatic vessels by stretching the skin a little.
  • Massage in the direction of the natural flow of lymph (towards the heart).
  • With relaxed hands, maintain a gentle massage rhythm to help your lymph to drain.
  • Drink plenty of water after the massage.


Get into a relaxed position in a quiet room, standing, sitting or lying down, as you prefer. If you are a music lover, then try putting on some soothing music.

Begin with Lymphatic Breathing

Before you begin to massage, spend some time in deep breathing and relaxation. Take 5 to 6 deep breaths. Inhale slowly and exhale steadily. Focus on relaxing your mind. This will make the massage more effective.

Massage the Front of the Neck

Starting from the top of your body, massage both sides of the front of your neck.

  • Place two fingers at the edge of the neck above your collarbones.
  • With light pressure, massage in a manner that stretches your skin towards the sternum or towards the center of your neck.
  • Repeat this neck massage 8 to 10 times in a sitting.

Massage the Side of the Neck

You can massage one side of the neck or both sides together.

woman sitting on bed hand on her neck side view
  • Place your palms against the side of your neck below your ears.
  • Gently massage towards the back of your body in a downward motion.

Massage the Back of the Neck

  • Lightly place your palm on the backside of your neck just below the hairline.
  • With gentle pressure massage downwards toward the spine.

Underarm Massage

  • Hold your arm comfortably, exposing the underarm.
  • Place your palm against your underarm.
  • Gently pull upward towards your body.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Massage Behind the Knee

  • Place your fingers behind the knee.
  • Gently massage with fingers behind your knee in an upward motion towards the thighs.
  • Release and repeat on the other knee.

Upper Body Lymphatic Massage

This upper body massage helps to drain the lymphatic fluid from your upper body parts, like the chest, shoulder and upper limbs.

Massage Your Chest

  • Place your palm against the chest, on the opposite side.
  • Gently pull up towards your collar bone, and release when the skin feels tight.
  • Repeat this motion 10 to 12 times in one sitting.

Massage Your Shoulder

  • Get comfortable by resting your arm on a table.
  • Place the other hand on the back of your shoulder.
  • Gently massage from your shoulder moving towards your neck.

Massage Your Upper Arm

  • Comfortably lay your hand on a table.
  • Take the fingers of your opposite hand and place them on the inside of your upper arm.
  • Gently stretch the skin moving outside of the upper arm and release.

Massage Full Arm

  • Start with your shoulder.
  • Place your palm and stretch your skin moving the lymph fluid upward.
  • Shift the hand down and again stretch the skin upwards (elbow to wrist).
  • Continue similarly always moving the skin upward.

Massage Your Fingers

  • Start from the base of your fingers.
  • Use your index finger and thumb to gently stretch and release the skin towards your hand.
  • Continue doing this to the entire finger.
  • Remember that this massage should direct the fluid towards your hand.

Lower Body Lymphatic Massage

The goal of lower body lymphatic massage is to move the excess fluid through lymph vessels to the lymph nodes located in the groin. Begin this massage from the top of the leg working downward. Make yourself comfortable during this massage and do not strain your back.

Massage Your Upper Leg

  • Place one hand to one side of the leg and another hand to the back of the leg.
  • Gently stretch and release the skin from the inside of the leg towards outside and upwards.
  • Shift your hand down and repeat the massage.
  • Once you reach the knee switch your hands and stretch the skin towards your armpit.

Massage Your Lower Leg

  • Just below the knee, place one hand on the shin and another at the back of your leg.
  • Stretch the skin upwards with gentle pressure.
  • Shift your hand down and repeat till you reach the ankle.
  • Stretch and release your skin with an upward stroke.

Massage Your Toes

  • Place your index finger and thumb at the base of the toes.
  • Gently guide the fluid towards the foot.
  • Continue for all the toes.

After performing the above steps, the full body lymphatic drainage massage will be complete. Make sure to drink plenty of fluid after the massage to aid in the removal of toxins from your body.

Lymphatic massage can also be performed with the benefit of a tool, such as a gua sha tool. These tools can be pressed against the skin of the body to help facilitate the flow of lymph fluid and the detoxification of the body. 

After Effects Of Lymphatic Massage

Lymphatic massage helps you detox and supports your overall health. It should also help relieve your aches, pains and swellings.

  1. If you have lymphedema, continue using compression socks and sleeves to prevent fluid build up.
  2. If you have fibromyalgia, this massage helps reduce stiffness and pain, improving overall wellness.
  3. It also boosts your lymphatic system, helping you stay healthy and active.

Safety and Precautions

It is important to understand that during this massage light pressure should be applied with a relaxed hand. Most of your lymph vessels are located just beneath the skin. Light pressure and rhythmic massage can effectively move the lymphatic fluid. The pressure should be just enough to stretch the skin naturally, so, try not to press too hard. Make sure you are comfortable and relaxed during this massage.

  • Do not strain your neck, shoulders or hands while performing this massage.
  • Lymphatic massage should not cause any pain.
  • Lymphatic massage is not advised if you are suffering from any infection.
  • If you have any pain, infection, tenderness or fever, make sure to consult your doctor.


Accumulated toxins can compromise your immunity. Proper functioning of the lymphatic system is essential for overall health and well-being. The main purpose of lymphatic massage is to drain the lymph fluid by applying light pressure.

If you are feeling tired, facing any health conditions which result in swelling, are recovering from an injury or want to have strong immunity, try lymphatic drainage massage. It will help improve your body’s overall health and has a powerful ability to heal.

If you are looking for a way to incorporate gentle lymphatic massage into your daily routine without committing to a 30 to 90 minute massage, give dry brushing a try. Dry brushing stimulates the body’s lymphatic system through light brushing of the skin towards the heart. You can dry brush your entire body in 3 to 5 minutes and you can dry brush every day. The health benefits of dry brushing are greatly enhanced through the use of an ionic body brush, which has its origin in ancient Ayurvedic practices. Prana Brush ionic body brushes are made with extra-fine ion-charged copper bristles, which naturally create negative ions that protect your body from free radicals and have numerous other health benefits.

Did You Enjoy This Article?

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article, you might also like the following articles: Sisal Brushes: Complete Guide and Dry Brushing Skin: Everything You Need to Know

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May 30, 2022 • Posted by Activebalance

Thanks for such a nice post about Lymphatic Massage and Drainage! This post is really very informative. I really appreciate your efforts. Thank you so much for helping !!

Feb 21, 2022 • Posted by Yalonda Barney

very easy read.. well explained

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