If you listen to all the so-called health claims, lymphatic massage sounds like the second best choice for the fountain of youth. It makes your skin glow! It can relieve chronic pain! It reduces anxiety and stress! Are these statements valid? Or is it just a bunch of hype?
First, a quick biology lesson. The lymphatic system is a network in your body. It is part of your immune system and has its own blood vessels and lymph nodes. Many lymphatic vessels are located just under your skin. They contain lymph fluid that circulates throughout your body. You have lymph nodes in many parts of your body-there are lymph nodes in your armpits, groin, neck, and abdomen. The lymphatic system helps balance the fluid levels in your body and protect your body from bacteria and viruses.
When your lymphatic system is not working properly due to cancer treatment or other diseases, you may develop a type of swelling called lymphedema. Lymphatic massage, also called manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), can guide more fluid through the lymphatic vessels and reduce swelling.
Lymphatic massage does not have the pressure of deep tissue massage. “Lymphatic massage is a lightweight, hands-on technique that gently stretches the skin to help lymphatic flow,” Hilary Hinrichs, a physical therapist and ReVital project director at SSM Health Physiotherapy in St. Louis, Missouri, told Today.
“The patient said,’Oh, you can push hard’ (during the lymphatic massage). But these lymphatic vessels are very small and they are in our skin. Therefore, the focus is on stretching the skin to help promote lymph pumping,” Hinrichs Say.
If you have been treated for cancer, your doctor will usually recommend a lymphatic drainage massage. That’s because as part of cancer treatment, you may need surgery to remove some lymph nodes. In addition, radiation can damage your lymph nodes.
“As a breast surgeon, I have many patients undergoing physical therapy for lymphatic assessment and lymphatic massage,” said Aislynn Vaughan, MD, chair of the American Society of Breast Surgeons and breast surgeon SSM Medical Group in St. Louis. Louis Missouri told today. “We eventually remove the lymph nodes from the armpit or armpit area. When you disrupt these lymph channels, you accumulate lymph in your arms or breasts.”
Other types of cancer surgery may cause you to develop lymphedema in other parts of your body. For example, after head and neck cancer surgery, you may need a facial lymphatic massage to help with facial lymphatic drainage. Lymphedema massage can support the lymphatic drainage of the legs after gynecological surgery.
“People with lymphedema will undoubtedly benefit from manual lymphatic drainage,” said Nicole Stout, a physiotherapist and spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association. “It clears congested areas and enables other parts of the body to absorb fluids.”
Your doctor may recommend that you consult a therapist who specializes in manual lymphatic drainage before surgery or radiation therapy. This is because early detection of problems in the lymphatic drainage system can make the disease easier to control.
Although lymph node massage has no evidence-based research to support its use in healthy people, stimulating the lymphatic system may help boost your immune function. “When I start to catch a bit of a cold or feel a bit sore in my throat, I will do some lymphatic massage on my neck, hoping to stimulate more immune responses in that area of the body,” Stott said.
People claim that lymphatic massage can cleanse, enrich your skin and eliminate toxins. Stout said these effects are reasonable, but not supported by scientific research.
“Lymphatic massage can relax and soothe, so there is evidence that manual lymphatic drainage can help reduce anxiety and improve sleep,” she said. “Whether this is a direct effect of lymphatic movement, or a reaction of someone putting their hand on you in a comfortable way, we are not sure.”
The therapist can discuss with you the benefits you can see from lymphatic drainage. “We are here to guide you based on the information we have learned from anatomy and physiology and the available evidence,” Hinrichs said. “But in the final analysis, you know what feels best for you and your body. I really try to encourage self-reflection to understand what your body responds to.”
Don’t expect lymphatic massage to help treat daily swelling or edema. For example, if your legs or ankles are swollen because you have been standing all day, then lymphatic massage is not the answer.
If you have certain health conditions, you will want to avoid lymphatic massage. If you have an acute infection such as cellulitis, uncontrolled congestive heart failure, or recent deep vein thrombosis, stop draining the lymph nodes.
If your lymphatic system is damaged, you need to find a therapist who is certified in manual lymphatic drainage. Managing your lymphedema is something you need to do throughout your life, but you can learn lymphatic massage techniques, which you can do at home or with the help of your partner or family member.
Lymphatic massage has a sequence-it is not as simple as massaging the swollen area. In fact, you may want to start a massage on another part of your body to draw fluid from the crowded part. If your lymphatic system is damaged, be sure to learn self-massage from a well-trained professional so that you can understand the sequence that best helps you drain excess fluid.
Remember that manual lymphatic drainage is only part of the lymphedema treatment plan. Compression of the legs or arms, exercise, elevation, skin care, and control of diet and fluid intake are also essential.
Lymphatic massage or manual lymphatic drainage have been shown to be beneficial for people who suffer from or are at risk for lymphedema. It may help improve the overall health of others, but these benefits have not been supported by research.
Stephanie Thurrott (Stephanie Thurrott) is a writer covering mental health, personal growth, health, family, food and personal finance, and dabbles in any other topic that catches her attention. When she is not writing, ask her to walk her dog or bike in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.
Post time: Nov-03-2021