What is a Lymphatic Drainage Massage?

Lymphatic Drainage massage in Vancouver


When your body struggles to eliminate toxins and waste, it may be due to injury or illness of your lymphatic system (lymph nodes). When fluids build up around your lymph nodes, a gentle lymphatic drainage massage can give you relief.


Lymphatic drainage massage is a gentle massage to encourage the movement of fluids around your lymph nodes around your body. It’s often also recommended as a preventative treatment if you’ve recently had surgery on your lymph nodes. 


In this article, we’ll talk more about this helpful form of gentle massage and how it works to help your body function optimally.

How your lymphatic system works

Lymph Nodes

Think of your lymphatic system as your body’s sewer and waste management system. When fluids leak out of our blood vessels, it helps remove them from the body. It’s also related to:

  • Proper immune functioning
  • Antibody production (to protect against infection and disease)
  • Blood monitoring for fast response to pathogens and malignant cells
  • Absorbing fats from your intestine. 

Improper functioning of this critical body system can result in fluid retention and swelling and can lead to obesity, Crohn’s disease, and other disorders.


What is Lymphedema?

Like other body systems, your lymphatic system is always on-the-go, working to eliminate fluid and toxins from your body. If something prevents the flow of fluids, that’s when you get excess fluid retention around your lymph nodes. 

Lymphedema is swelling around your lymphatic system that lasts longer than three months. It usually occurs around a surgical or injury site. It can also occur after lymph nodes have been removed in cancer patients, from a more general injury, or result from congestive heart failure or blood clots.


To remedy the pain and discomfort caused by this excess fluid retention or to prevent the fluid build-up from reaching dangerous levels, your doctor may recommend seeing a certified lymphatic drainage massage therapist.


About (and examples of) lymphatic drainage massage

Lymphatic Drainage Oceana Massage

There are many reasons to get a lymphatic drainage massage:

  • As part of cancer treatments
  • Those with filariasis (a parasite carried by mosquitoes)
  • Post-vascular surgery patients
  • Lipectomy patients (fat removal surgery)
  • Deep vein thrombosis sufferers
  • Anyone with a condition that affects blood flow to their extremities.


As part of a holistic approach to lymphatic drainage massage, your massage therapist will massage the immediate area of the fluid build-up and the other regions of your lymphatic system. These areas include the right side of your chest, your right arm, and the drains near your left shoulder. Proper drainage requires massage in all of these areas.


Performing a lymphatic drainage massage will vary depending on the location of the primary fluid build-up and the patient’s tolerance to be touched in that area (as it can be moderately painful). Remember, these massages are meant to clear the blockage and guide the fluid to flow freely. This means always working in upwards motions and never back and forth, up and down, or only downwards.


Lymphatic breathing exercise

Lymphatic breathing

Proper breathing can help pump blood through your body. To prepare for your massage, practice proper lymphatic breathing:

  1. Lay on your back (if possible) and place both hands on your ribs.
  2. Take several slow, deep breaths and feel your abdomen fill up and empty.
  3. Do a large sigh to breathe out your mouth.
  4. Rest and repeat five times or as much as you feel comfortable. 


Then your practitioner will begin massages to release the fluid from your tissues and massage other parts of your lymphatic system to aid in the movement of fluids throughout your body.


Shoulder drainage technique

To relieve swelling and pain caused by fluid build-up in your shoulder area, follow these instructions:

  1. Rest your arm on a table or armrest. Relax it as much as possible. 
  2. Using the opposite hand, bring it across your chest and rest it on the shoulder of your resting arm
  3. Move your hand and gently massage from the back of your shoulder towards the neck. 
  4. Repeat for the other side if necessary. 


Full arm drainage technique


When swelling is located in your arm, here is a full arm massage to try:

  1. Use your palm and, starting at your shoulder on your opposite side, stretch the skin upward, then release. 
  2. Move your hand down to the upper arm and push your skin upwards toward the shoulder, the release.
  3. Move your hand further down your arm and work the skin upwards again, then release
  4. Stop when you reach your wrist.
  5. Repeat as necessary.


Lower leg drainage technique

For lymphatic drainage massage in your lower leg area, here are the six steps to follow: 

  1. Start below your knee
  2. Place one hand on your shin and the other on the back of the calf on the same leg
  3. Gently stretch the skin upward towards your knee
  4. Move your hands further down and push the skin upwards again
  5. Stop when you reach your ankle
  6. Repeat for your other leg as needed.


How to minimize lymphatic system fluid build-up

Lymphatic Drainage in Vancouver BC

In addition to seeing a lymphatic drainage massage therapist as recommended (this might be weekly or monthly), you can also support proper absorption and elimination of fluid waste in your body by drinking water. When your tissues are well hydrated, your body is better able to flush out toxins. 


Other ways to support optimal healing when you’re receiving regular lymphatic drainage massages include:

  • Engaging in regular physical activity (as recommended or approved by your doctor)
  • Eating healthy (fill up on organic fruits and vegetables)
  • Limiting processed or unhealthy foods.
  • Performing basic massages in your own body between sessions (your massage therapist will show you the best ones to do) 


Your medical practitioner may also recommend a compression wrap or sleeve around the affected area to control the fluid build-up.


Where to get a Lymphatic Drainage massage in Vancouver

Look for a certified lymphedema therapist. Other general massage techniques may be too deep and can cause someone with fluid retention around the lymph nodes to experience some pain. If the pain of your lymphatic drainage massage is too much, let your massage therapist know, and they can adjust their technique or pressure, so you’re more comfortable.  


At Oceana Massage, we have massage therapists specializing in lymphatic drainage massage. Whether you want it as preventative support or to treat more severe fluid build-up, we’re here to help you find relief. 

Book an appointment in our Vancouver clinic today, and we’ll help you find relief.