Today, we’re talking lymph! The benefits of lymphatic drainage is kinda the talk of the town in the self-care world these days–and for a good reason. Draining and moving lymph is crucial for detoxification. If you don’t know what lymph is or how lymph massage works, then this mini guide is for you! Let’s jump in.
What is The Lymphatic System?
Let’s get science-y for a sec. The lymphatic system is a system of lymph nodes and lymph vessels that run throughout the body. If you feel under your armpits, around your neck, and by your pelvic area, you can feel your lymph glands.
The lymphatic system carries a colorless (sometimes yellowish) liquid called lymph that bathes the tissue to form tissue fluid that collects bacteria, waste products, damaged cells, and cancer cells (if you have any).
Then, the fluid will drain back into the lymph vessels and travel to the glands where the glands filter the lymph taking out any harmful substances. The lymph then eventually reaches the thoracic duct (a large vessel at the base of the neck), which then passes the filtered lymph back into blood circulation.
Science lesson over.
What is Lymphatic Drainage and Lymphatic Massage?
Now, let’s get into exactly what lymphatic drainage is. Using lymphatic massage to boost lymphatic drainage has a ton of benefits. For starters, lymph contains lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that help fight infections making lymphatic drainage crucial for a strong immune system.
Lymphatic massage requires very gentle pressure that only works the superficial skin structure where the fluid gets trapped. Light pressure moves stagnant fluid and directs toxins into the organs that can adequately remove harmful toxins.
Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage
- Strengthens the immune system and fights off infections
- Reduces swelling, water retention, and bloating
- Improves digestion
- Reduces cellulite, scar tissue, stretch marks, and acne
- Minimizes stress and fatigue while boosting energy
- Helps post-exercise recovery
- Can help with more serious problems like insomnia and fibromyalgia
How to: Lymphatic Drainage and Self-Massage
I know that it might sound a little fancy and challenging, but working in lymph self-massage into your daily self-care routine is super easy and will have a positive impact on your health and body.
You’re probably most familiar with lymphatic drainage of the face to boost circulation, lift, tighten, and reduce swelling. It does work wonders for beauty (think wrinkles, saggy skin, and color), but if you do the same for your body, it will work wonders for health.
First things first: there are three things that you need to pay attention to when doing self-massage for lymphatic drainage: direction, pressure, and pace.
- Direction: always move toward the lymph node detox center (more on this in the how-to)
- Pressure: Light pressure, a dime’s worth, like you’re touching a baby! All you’re doing is stretching the skin.
- Pace: SLOW!
Starting at your neck is crucial because at the base of your neck on both sides, near your collarbone, is where the lymph is filtered and goes back into the bloodstream. Clearing this space is necessary for the rest of the body’s lymph to flow.
Start with your fingertips at the side of the neck behind your ear. Apply light pressure, slightly stretch the skin, and move down to your collar bone where the detox center is. Do 5 or 10 times on each side.
Then move to the armpit. Get your whole hand into your armpit to the point where your thumb is up against the front of the armpit or breast area, and your four fingers and palm are cupped under and in between the pit. Begin to gently pull and go into a rhythmic pulse in the direction towards the armpit to move lymph here like a wave. Remember: slow pace and always do both sides. Bonus: This is also wonderful to do during premenstrual and menstruating!
The abdomen is next. Place hands on your belly and inhale, pushing your belly into your hands and exhale and bring your hands back. This will pump all the vital organs in your belly to help reduce bloating and improve digestion. Focusing on the abdomen after the armpits is how you create space so all the fluid from your legs will be able to move and detox.
Upper thighs are up next! Place the tops of your hands at the crease of your thighs with your fingers pointing towards each other. This stationary stroke, or rather wave-like motion toward the naval, will push everything up and out to clear space for the rest of the legs!
After, move a little farther down and place your right hand on your left thigh with your fingers pointing outwardly. Place your left hand on top and gently guide your right hand to the left and up toward your hips. Repeat ten times and then move down another hand size until you finish above your knee cap. Repeat on the opposite side.
When you get to the knee cap, move both hands ten strokes forward and up. For your lower leg, repeat the same thing you did for your thigh but move up towards the knee. Do this on your entire lower leg for proper drainage!
And it’s as simple as that! You’ll stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and feel like you’re floating on a cloud. Try this when you’re relaxing before bed or watching T.V. –it’s a mindless (but at the same time mindful!!) experience with some serious benefits. Let us know in the comments below if you’re going to incorporate lymphatic drainage into your self care routine!