What is a Lymphatic Drainage Massage?

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Manual lymph drainage- or MLD- is a massage technique that originated in Paris in the 1930s. MLD is not to be confused with a regular massage. A lymphatic drainage massage is used to treat lymphatic diseases and is considered a medical procedure.

Lymphatic diseases, particularly lymphedema, affect the components of your lymphatic system- a network of delicate tubes throughout your body. Your lymphatic system manages the level of fluid in your body. Your lymphatic system can become clogged- a pretty significant issue, considering your lymphatic system is part of your immune system and works alongside your circulatory system.

You may have a clogged lymphatic system if you experience recurring infections, swelling, hardened skin, restricted range of movement, congestion, acne, feeling run down or a feeling of heaviness or tightness. Lymphedema can be painful and uncomfortable, causing a lack of mobility and depression. Severe lymphedema can be devastating. The cure? A lymph drainage massage! 

How does a lymphatic drainage massage work?

Lymphatic Drainage Face Massage. spa treatment concept

In simple terms, a lymphatic drainage massage involves your lymph nodes being stroked and stimulated for 90 minutes. But there’s a little more to it than that.

Your lymph nodes have an important job: managing the fluid in your body, moving it around and removing waste and toxins. Certain health conditions and procedures can cause lymph fluid to build up. Surgery, for example, may affect or remove your lymph nodes in a certain area, causing swelling and buildup.

Shorter lymphatic drainage massages are available, focusing on a single area that is affected- but a full-body MLD will produce the best results. When you book an appointment for lymphatic drainage, a professional will work the surface of your skin, expertly stroking, stretching, and waking up your lymph nodes. This incredibly relaxing experience will improve the flow of lymphatic fluid and gently move waste fluids away from the damaged area. 

Think of your lymphatic system as a pool and your lymph nodes as filters. Generally, the filter maintains itself, filtering nasties out of the water. Sometimes it breaks down and your pool turns a sickly green. Your lymphatic fluid probably doesn’t turn green and have dead leaves floating in it, but in many ways it resembles a run-down pool of stagnant water. Restoring the circulation rhythms, increasing blood flow and rerouting stagnant toxic fluid have endless benefits for you and your health.

Lymphatic drainage massage benefits

Lymphatic Drainage Face Massage. spa treatment concept

Every person is different, and your lymphatic system will respond differently to MLD. But benefits of lymphatic draining may include:

  • Reduced swelling or puffiness in the skin
  • Stronger immune system
  • More energy
  • Improved circulation
  • Pain relief (if you experienced pain caused by lymphedema)
  • Better skin
  • Less congestion
  • Better range of motion

What to expect

By this point you’re probably considering booking an appointment with your nearest professional who can perform lymphatic drainage. But you may have a ton of questions about the reality of MLD: what does it cost? How long does it go for? Does it hurt? Are there side effects?

While lymphatic drainage is a medical massage, it doesn’t have the cold sterile feel of a lot of medical procedures. The vibe is similar to a normal massage- a dimly lit room, soothing sounds, an overall relaxing experience. The massage itself, too, is soothing. If you’re looking for a massage where someone stretches and elbows your spine, you’re in the wrong place.

MLD is like being massaged by a gentle, timid marshmallow. It is not painful- but you may experience some side effects after your appointment.

Everyone will feel differently after lymphatic drainage. For one thing, you may experience dehydration and fatigue. Because the point of the massage is to kick your lymphatic system into gear, it may bring a lingering illness to the surface. You may also need to pee really bad and more often- this is part of the draining process.

Your skin may get worse before it gets better, but if you experience any redness or swelling you may want to see a doctor. 

Generally MLD is a non-invasive and pain-free process. It is recommended by doctors as a cure or treatment for lymphedema, but if you’re experiencing other symptoms of a clogged lymphatic system, there is no guarantee that MLD will fix everything.

A full body lymphatic drainage massage lasts around an hour and a half and generally costs over $100.

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