Lymphatic Drainage: What is it? History, Benefits, Preparation, Precautions, Contraindications and Procedure

It is a gentle approach in the upper layers of the tissues to improve lymphatic circulation.

In its most essential aspect, lymphatic drainage can help clients improve metabolism, regenerate body tissue, normalize organ function and stimulate the immune system.

It is a very gentle massage that stimulates the lymphatic flow in the body. It is suitable for detoxification, edema, pre and post-plastic surgery, and posterior liposuction. It can also help with treatments for cellulite, scar tissue, spider veins, redness, and acne.

The lymphatic system is a slow system of vessels and lymph nodes that complement the body’s blood circulation system.

The lymphatic system supplies nutrients to the cells and removes excess water, cell debris, bacteria, viruses, and toxins. It can be done as part of a traditional massage or complete treatment.

Used in conjunction with massage therapy, lymphatic drainage is likely to benefit clients in good health.

A complete lymphatic drainage treatment can be especially effective for clients who experience lymphatic and immune system conditions, such as lymphedema, lymphoma, lupus, and HIV / AIDS.



The lymphatic drainage massage was developed in the 1930s by Emil Vodder, a Copenhagen native who lived on the French Riviera. While studying medicine, he did not get a medical degree due to illness.

He obtained a Ph.D. in philosophy due to his work in art history. In 1985, the German Association of Massage and Physical Therapy awarded him the Röhrbach Medal thanks to his life-long career.

He confirmed that Emil Vodder created the method and gave it the name Drainage Lymph Drainage of Dr. Vodder.

The Dr. Vodder School in Austria has authorized The North American Dr. Vodder School to teach its method based in Victoria, British Columbia. He conducts classes in North America and other countries.

What are lymphatics?

The primary role of your lymphatic system is to collect excess fluid from the tissues, purify it and return it to the bloodstream. This role is essential because many substances continuously escape from the blood capillaries to the surrounding tissues.

To understand how lymphatic drainage works, it is helpful to know the function of lymphatic fluids in the body. The lymphatic system is formed by lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, and lymph, the fluid that travels through both.

Lymph is a clear, yellowish fluid that flows around your body, carrying white blood cells and antibodies to your tissues and organs. Lymphs are essential for your immune system and help you fight infections.

It is a fact that we release toxins into our bodies every day, most commonly:

  • Eating fatty foods
  • Overeat sugar
  • Live in polluted cities.
  • Drinking alcohol in excess.

The work of your lymphatic system is to eliminate all the toxins and keep it healthy.

Lymphatic drainage massage increases lymph flow around your body, refreshing your immune system and eliminating toxins.

In a healthy individual, the lymph interacts with the tissue by providing protein and nutritive enzymes and, at the same time eliminating toxins and viruses.

Unlike blood circulation in the body, which occurs in a cycle, the lymph vessels transport the lymph in one direction.

The lymph moves to the nearest lymph nodes responsible for breaking down the harmful substances deposited by the lymph.

Once decomposed, the harmful materials are administered through the blood system to be eliminated by the lungs, kidneys, digestive system, or liver.

The good news is that lymphatic massage quickly accelerates your lymphatic system and your ability to fight diseases and viruses, eliminate toxins and waste products, reduce swelling, and filter lymph fluids and blood, improving your health.

Lymphatic massage is a specialized treatment that requires additional qualifications. If you are interested in lymphatic drainage, make sure your masseuse is appropriately qualified.

Without treatment, lymphedema can cause:

  • Partial or total swelling of your arm or leg, including your fingers and toes.
  • A feeling of heaviness or stiffness.
  • Range of restricted movement.
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Recurrent infections
  • Hardening and thickening of the skin (fibrosis).

The current practice of Lymphatic Drainage

Therapists can now receive certification through special classes led by various organizations specializing in MLD or through an entire lymphedema treatment certification course.

Scientific studies show mixed results regarding the method’s efficacy in treating lymphedema, and more studies are needed.

A 2009 meta-analysis of studies in sports medicine and rehabilitation showed the best evidence of effectiveness for treating manual lymphatic drainage for “enzyme serum levels associated with acute skeletal muscle cell damage and edema reduction [swelling] ] around the broken bones. “

A 2013 systematic review of manual lymphatic drainage concerning breast cancer-related lymphedema found no explicit support for the effectiveness of the intervention, either to prevent limb edema in women at risk or to treat women for the condition.

What happens in a Lymphatic Drainage treatment?

In general, a massage therapist trained in Swedish massage, or any branch of this modality, will honor the lymphatic flow by caressing the heart while avoiding the areas where the lymph nodes are grouped.

This facilitates natural lymphatic drainage but is not considered a lymphatic drainage treatment. Even in focused lymphatic massage or lymphatic drainage, the treatment is intended only to stimulate the flow of lymph through the lymphatic system, not to force it.

The lymph nodes and lymph ducts are found in areas of the body that are often sensitive to touch: the neck, groin, armpit, inner knee, and inner elbow are areas of concentrated lymph nodes.

These areas and the lymphatic system itself are fragile. A gentle touch is a key to adequate lymphatic drainage since firmer pressure can collapse lymph vessels and inhibit lymph flow.

The client undresses and lies down on the massage table during the lymphatic massage treatment when receiving traditional massage therapy. Using slow and slow movements in the direction of the lymphatic flow, the doctor pays close attention to the client’s natural rhythm of lymphatic circulation and improves this movement.

This action is repeated five to seven times in each body section. Lymphatic massage can be performed on any part of the body but often focuses on the neck, the area of ​​the clavicle, the arms, or any localized trauma site.

Another type of lymphatic drainage, although used infrequently, is abdominal massage. It is said that this experience promotes deep lymphatic circulation, improves the function of the organ, and promotes respiratory health.

During an abdominal massage, the therapist performs the same lymphatic drainage techniques in the stomach, the sides of the torso, and the upper pelvic area, again using extremely gentle pressure and working within the client’s comfort.

Manual lymphatic drainage supports detoxification.

A therapist trained in lymphatic drainage massage stimulates the lymphatic system with high light circular pumping movements.

By stimulating the lymphatic system, the therapist helps drain swollen and swollen tissues, supports the body’s immune system, helps the body heal from surgery, and aids in the elimination of natural waste or detoxification of the body.

The lymphatic system is directly under the skin, so the circular pumping movements are light. Manual lymphatic drainage should have a calming and relaxing effect. It can be used as part of facial or complete body treatment.

Drink plenty of water after a lymphatic drainage massage to help eliminate toxins. Please stay away from salt and alcohol after a massage, as they inhibit the body’s ability to eliminate toxins.

Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage

Like any massage, lymphatic drainage treatment can reduce stress, stimulate relaxation, and improve overall health and well-being.

Because the lymphatic system finds and destroys elements in tissues that threaten general health and function, it is essential to maintain a healthy immune system.

Even simple movements in the extremities to the heart can help reduce swelling after an injury, prevent infection, or fight against the common cold or flu.

Lymphatic drainage techniques are simple enough so that most people can perform self-massage at home by gently stretching the skin.

If you feel you may have a cold, you can try to stimulate the lymph flow with gentle blows to the neck from the chin to the clavicle.

To improve general well-being and relaxation, you can repeat the same types of blows to the extremities, ensuring that your movements are always directed towards the heart.

It has also been proven that lymphatic drainage reduces edema or fluid accumulation in the body after mastectomy, supports the immune system of people with HIV / AIDS or lupus, and improves sleep for people with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Lymphatic massage can also be highly beneficial for athletes and anyone in the rehabilitation process after a sports injury.

Lymphatic massage aims to increase the efficiency of your lymphatic and circulatory systems. By reducing the volume of fluid retained and the associated pressure, you can reduce the risk of impaired circulation.

This increases the ability of your circulatory system to move retained fluids and any buildup of toxic waste quickly. In some cases, we have found that a patient feels quite “energized” after drainage.

Lymphatic massage improves circulation and increases your metabolic rate. It has the potential to enhance your immunity.

It has also been shown to be very beneficial in the postoperative conditions that affect your lymphatic systems, such as post-mastectomy. 25-33% of all breast cancer patients develop lymphedema.

Because the lymphatic system is essential in keeping your immune system functioning correctly, improving its flow and drainage around the body can benefit you. The lymphatic drainage massage can have a profound effect on your general health:

  • Increase weight loss
  • Reduces water retention
  • Help your body fight infections and accelerate the healing and recovery of the disease.
  • It is a popular and effective treatment for cellulite.
  • Manual lymphatic drainage can be used in the treatment of lymphedema.

It can also improve your complexion:

  • It can reduce swelling, swelling and spots.
  • It can give you clean and healthy pores.
  • It can accelerate scarring in scar tissue, so it can, for example, improve the appearance of stretch marks.

Preparation for a Lymphatic Drainage massage

As with any treatment, treatment is more beneficial if you prepare and allow yourself much time before and after treatment.

It is good to give yourself enough time on each massage side so you do not feel rushed.


You should always inform your therapist in advance about any of the following, as this may affect the type of treatment you receive:

  • Has any broken skin or sores on your scalp.
  • If you think you can be pregnant.
  • Have any medical conditions, or are you receiving any treatment or medication?
  • I recently had an injury or operation.
  • They are allergic to anything, especially skin allergies.

Avoid copious meals or alcohol before any massage treatment. It is also good to drink lots of water, which will help eliminate toxins from your body.

For what people is it recommended?

Anyone who has a low mood or has experienced an increase in anxiety. This treatment can help increase your overall energy and energy levels.

Manual lymphatic drainage can also be used after surgery, but a health professional must approve this before booking a massage therapist. The people who can choose to select this treatment:

  • He wants to detoxify his body and enjoy good general health.
  • They are in a weight loss or exercise program.

People who should not choose a lymphatic drainage massage:

  • Looking for a classic massage experience. This treatment involves highly light pressure and does not work your deeper muscles. Try an Urban Classic instead.
  • Having swelling in progress? If you are under the care of a medical professional, you should consult with them before reserving a treatment.
  • They are apprehensive about cellulite.
  • Those with general contraindications to massage, including active cancer, acute infection, cellulitis, thrombosis, and acute allergies.

What is the duration of a session of Lymphatic Massage?

Lymphatic massage sessions vary from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the treated condition. We recommend that your initial lymphatic massage session be a 60-minute session to stimulate your lymph flow.

This will stimulate drainage in a limb. If you are dealing with more than two or more limbs, we recommend a 90-minute consultation initially. Your lymphatic drainage massage therapists will guide you in your follow-up care based on how you respond to massage and your experience.

What to expect in your first treatment of Lymphatic Massage

In your first session, your lymphatic massage therapist will gain a complete history and understanding of your condition to determine how to treat your specific situation effectively. The lymphatic massage is done on a massage table.

The towels are used to protect your modesty. The massage strokes used in the massage are light and rhythmic, and the lymphatic massage should not be painful. Massage oil may or may not be used.

At the end of your message, your masseuse can recommend compression garments. This is explained to you thoroughly.

You can also be advised on exercises, self-massage, skin brushing, and compressive bandages that will continue to help in lymphatic drainage.

Your therapist will encourage you to ask questions to be fully informed of the process.

After your lymphatic drainage massage

Lymphatic drainage can leave you drained, so be sure to take some time to rest before returning to activity. The best way to maintain a healthy lymphatic system is to drink plenty of water and perform gentle exercise, which will eliminate toxins.

Does a lymphatic drainage massage hurt?

This type of treatment uses very light pressure, so you should not experience any pain. If it is postoperative, you will want to analyze any area of ​​particular concern before the massage begins. If it ever becomes too much, talk to your therapist.

They will do everything they can to make sure you feel comfortable.

What type of therapist specializes in Lymphatic Drainage massage?

This is a specialized massage that physiotherapists and medical professionals usually perform. Any error in the technique will reduce the effectiveness of the treatment, so only reputable therapists must perform lymphatic drainage.

Contraindications of a lymphatic drainage treatment

Although lymphatic massage is a supportive treatment to help control the progression of a health problem, disease, or infection, once the infection has spread, this modality is contraindicated.

Lymphatic drainage is not recommended for people with acute inflammation, fever, heart problems, kidney dysfunction, and any other health problem that may be aggravated by increasing fluid circulation.

As with anybody treatment, those interested in lymphatic massage are advised to consult a doctor if there are doubts about how a session can affect health and general well-being.

When looking for a masseur to perform a lymphatic massage or drainage, make sure that the professional has a thorough knowledge of the lymphatic system and is fully accredited with a fund in this modality.

Three leading causes of lymphatic congestion

The lymphatic system is not commonly mentioned, but it is a critical part of the body: you have twice as much lymphatic fluid as blood!

It is a network of tissues and organs that frees the body of toxins, waste, and other unwanted materials; It is part of your natural wastewater treatment system. Here, you will learn to drain your lymph fluids safely.

A primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport the lymphatic fluid. The lymphatic fluid contains white blood cells essential to fight infections throughout the body. Therefore, a healthy lymphatic system is a key to a healthy body.

Although there are many reasons why the lymphatic system and the lymph nodes can become congested, these can be reduced to three leading causes.

Stress has been identified as the cause of approximately 80% of all chronic health problems. The chemistry of stress is degenerative and lymphatic congestion.

Digestive imbalances can irritate the intestinal villi, a classic reason for lymphatic congestion.

Since most of the lymph in the body surrounds the intestine (lymphatic tissue associated with the intestine – GALT), the quality of the villi is essential for adequate lymphatic flow, detoxification, assimilation, and immunity.

Iodine deficiency is also a common cause of lymphatic congestion. Iodine helps mitigate the effects of a toxic environment and is compatible with the lymphatic system at the cellular level.

Tight, restrictive clothing, such as underwire bras, can prevent normal lymph flow. One of the largest groups of lymph nodes is found in the underarm and upper chest area, and these nodules act as a source of drainage for the breast, arm, and upper chest.

When a fastener is too tight, or if the wire is too restrictive (for most of us, this is the case), the lymph is contracted, preventing normal drainage.

Some researchers believe that over some time, this can cause long-term deterioration of lymphatic function and may contribute to a variety of conditions, including fibrocystic breast tissue, swollen lymph nodes, and breast cancer.

The role of Lymphatic Drainage for breast cancer

A gentle, non-invasive therapy, such as a lymphatic drainage massage, is appropriate for the typical profile of a patient with breast cancer and its only long-term symptoms.

Lymphatic drainage is designed to treat swelling and helps reduce pain. (Having osteoporosis, either because of cancer treatment or before the incidence of cancer, excludes deep pressure mass types).

Lymphedema is often the most feared complication of breast cancer treatment, pain, and loss of range of motion. In addition, physiotherapists and nurses are not trained in lymphatic drainage.

A masseuse trained in lymphatic drainage is a valuable part of the medical care team of a cancer patient.

A lymphatic drainage therapist’s light touch and support will help breast cancer survivors cope with anxiety, pain, and difficulty adapting to life after treatment.

Treatment of Lymphatic Massage for breast cancer

Lymphatic drainage for breast cancer patients focuses on reducing lymphatic congestion by increasing the velocity of the lymphatic flow. The techniques are applied to the upper part of the body.

Mild, gentle movements of skin tightening are used to stimulate the lymph nodes under the clavicle and the contralateral side (non-swollen arm) of the onset of lymphedema.

Some modalities, such as lymphatic drainage therapy, involve lymphatic mapping, which redirects one limb’s swelling to other body nodes that could absorb the extra fluid.

When to perform Lymphatic Drainage of breast cancer

You should only perform a lymphatic drainage massage on breast cancer patients and survivors after a doctor authorizes you for therapy.

Unfortunately, the complications of breast cancer treatments are ongoing and require supportive care to manage the conditions that appear. Like most bodywork forms, the best lymphatic drainage massage results are continuously seen in multiple sessions.