I’ve known about lymphatic drainage massage for many years now but I didn’t really know the benefits or even how it worked. I had never experienced one either. However, knowing lymphatic drainage massage existed turned out to be a big help not once, but twice, for our family in the last five months….
REASON for Lymphatic Drainage Massage #1
One morning out of the clear blue sky my husband woke up with no other symptoms than extremely puffy and almost “toxic” looking eyes. His eyes weren’t red or in anyway discolored, but he was retaining an unusually large amount of fluid in his upper eyelids. And for no known reason. Being married to a surgeon can be a great thing for family health needs, but it’s not great when the surgeon becomes the patient. Like most doctors, my husband won’t go to the doctor. And that morning was no exception. He said he felt fine otherwise, he was certain it wasn’t an infection and so he headed off to work (looking terrible).
I’ll get to how lymphatic drainage came into play in just a bit—but if you can believe it—the exact same thing happened to me a few months later.
REASON for Lymphatic Drainage Massage #2
About five months after my husband’s puffy eye incident the exact same thing happened to me! The only difference was that instead of it happening to both eyes it only happened to one (thank goodness.) The up-close photo below gives you a good idea of how bad it was. But just like my husband, I felt totally fine otherwise.
To this day we don’t know what could have possibly caused the puffy eye problem, we have speculated that maybe it’s a reaction to a tea, herb, supplement or something that we have in the house but don’t use frequently (we certainly wouldn’t use it at all if we knew we would wake up looking so awful!) But we really just don’t know what caused it. We also don’t know how long it would have lasted. What we do know though is that if we went to a doctor they probably wouldn’t be able to do too much. Maybe they would prescribe steroids or suggest an antihistamine, but they wouldn’t be able to do anything manually.
I’m just so glad I knew about something–lymphatic drainage massage– that worked incredibly fast and had zero side effects.
RESULTS from Lymphatic Drainage Massage #1 & #2
While my husband was at work, I made an appointment for him to have a lymphatic drainage massage session when he got home. By the time he came home the swelling was somewhat reduced, but it wasn’t even close to being back to normal. I had NO idea what to expect from a lymphatic drainage massage session but I just crossed my fingers it would work. And boy did it ever! Several hours after we left the therapist my husband’s eyes were almost back to normal. And by the next morning he looked totally fine.
The day it happened to me was Passover and we were supposed to be going to our friends house for my very first Seder dinner (a Jewish Passover tradition.) There was no way I could go looking the way I looked with my eyes so puffy but the therapist couldn’t see me until 5 pm and the dinner was at 7 pm. By the time I got off the massage table at the end of the session, the swelling had gone down by about 50% and by the time we got to the Seder dinner I was 90% better. I also noticed feeling unusually relaxed while having the lymphatic drainage massage therapy and that feeling, along with also feeling incredibly rejuvenated, lasted throughout the evening.
Because of the highly effective and fast results my husband and I had from both of our lymphatic drainage massages, I was so curious to learn more about the science of this therapy as well as who could potentially benefit from it. I decided to interview our very own therapist, Nicole Dyk….
Lymphatic Drainage Massage Q & A
***This is a Q & A with my personal lymphatic massage therapist, Nicole Dyk***
QUESTION: How did you first become interested in lymphatic drainage?
ANSWER BY NICOLE: I had my own personal health crisis back in the mid 80’s and as I found my way to wellness, I began seeking a new career path that would compliment my natural healing health experiences. I found my way to massage therapy with the idea that helping others reduce stress would be a meaningful contribution toward wellness.
As a new massage therapist, I began working at a local resort spa and was soon attending a spa training class for the massage staff. That class turned out to be pivotal because it included some key points on understanding the lymphatic system. What I learned about the lymphatic system so inspired me, I decided my new my career would be influenced in the direction of lymphatic drainage massage.
QUESTION: Can you summarize what you learned about lymphatic drainage that captured your interest so intently?
ANSWER BY NICOLE: Yes! I learned the lymphatic system is foundational to good health. It’s main function is to cleanse both internal and external toxins and protect our body from harmful invaders. Thus, the lymphatic system plays a key role in both our immune function and cellular health. I can’t say it more simply than that. But there is also plenty to say about the broad range of health needs for which lymph drainage is an excellent tool to support.
It is important to understand that the lymphatic system is foundational to the immune system. It is essential for protecting us from illness and damaging, disease-provoking inflammation. Basically, the lymphatic system is the body’s cellular “waste removal system.” It is a network of lymph nodes and capillaries that carry away fluids from all tissues of the body, gathering the waste so it can ultimately be excreted out by our organs of elimination. With the assistance of the network of lymph capillaries and nodes, immune cells can travel around neutralizing pathogens, such as bacteria and mold, averting disease and infection. Keeping your lymphatic system functioning properly, directly contributes to overall health; a stronger lymphatic system means a more resilient and responsive immunity.
QUESTION: What happens when the lymphatic system becomes overwhelmed with toxins?
ANSWER BY NICOLE: It can become stagnant or impeded by loss of mobility, scar tissue, and especially when burdened with toxic debris. A stagnant or “clogged” lymph system can contribute to impaired immunity (and disease), fluid retention (edema), chronic pain (from the swelling and inflammation) and, from an aesthetic standpoint, even cellulite. A sluggish lymph system can impact or be an underlying factor in chronic sinusitis, puffy eyes, swollen ankles, arthritis, ear infections, colds and tonsil infections.
QUESTION: Can you explain what a lymphatic drainage massage feels like, the mechanics of how it works and why.
ANSWER BY NICOLE: A lymphatic drainage massage is not at all like a standard Swedish or deep tissue massage. It is specifically designed to activate the movement of the valves in the superficial lymph capillaries which accelerates the flow of lymph (waste fluids) to cleanse the tissues. It feels very gentle, it does not press into muscles at all but rather moves skin laterally. A lymphatic drainage massage is also repetitive, which can be quite soothing and hypnotic almost. Lymph drainage treatments can be used to reduce pain, and can be used when other forms of massage are too forceful for the recipient.y
QUESTION Wow. All those benefits from what is such a delicate massage. I have to be honest, when I first saw you doing the massage on my husband I thought it seemed far too gentle to be effective (but clearly I was wrong!) Still, do people ever think you’re not “doing anything” when they come for a session with you?
ANSWER BY NICOLE: Yes, I do my best to explain so that they can relax into the session without a concern that they are wasting time or money- because it truly is gentle, repetitive, and can feel like “nothing” to someone who is accustomed to deep tissue massage for example. But there is very specific science behind the lymphatic drainage massage method, and the results speak for themselves.
QUESTION: Can you give us specifics as to who would benefit most from lymphatic drainage most?
ANSWER BY NICOLE: Pretty much anyone in a situation in which cleansing/ detoxification is called for – this is because the lymphatic system is the means for clearing waste from cells. That waste still has to be evacuated by the bladder or bowels, so for example if you are doing a juice fast, you can use lymph drainage to assist the bowel in emptying. But you don’t have to wait for a dietary fast! You can use lymphatic drainage massage at any time to help your body cleanse.
And, just as important, it’s worth noting lymph drainage can be used for inflammatory conditions of all kinds—such as a sprained ankle, a knee recovering from joint replacement therapy, sinus congestion, or a swollen arm following radiation for cancer treatment.
Lymphatic drainage massage is also used to help reduce pain and soreness after a rigorous workout. The gentle, rythmic treatment produces a whole-body relaxation effect, while it interrupts nociceptor (pain) signals which further helps reduce pain.
QUESTION: Can a lymphatic drainage massage help with the common cold?
ANSWER BY NICOLE: Yes, a good lymphatic drainage massage can definitely help if you are coming down with a cold. The technique will rally the body’s defenses to flush out the offending microbes and drain the inflamed mucous membranes, thus opening airways and giving relief from congestion.
QUESTION Is it possible to do a self-lymphatic drainage massage?
ANSWER BY NICOLE: Yes there are videos on YouTube you can readily find which will instruct you on how to do self lymphatic drainage massage. It’s great to be proactive with self care. Another method of self care is dry skin brushing, for which there are also many online tutorials available.
QUESTION: Is there anything that can be done to naturally enhance the body’s lymphatic drainage system other than have a lympthatic drainage massage? For example, I have heard that rebounding (on a trampoline) supports lymphatic drainage to flush toxins. Is this true?
ANSWER BY NICOLE: Yes! rebounding is a great home care tool. The trick with rebounding and other exercise in relation to the lymphatics is to understand that high impact, cardio activity does not directly help the lymphatics. Increasing blood flow is good, but that increases the work the lymph system must do. Here’s an easy way to explain it: you need to fix a leak before mopping up the flood it has caused. So using the rebounder is to be done by generating a gentle rhythmic bounce without letting the feet leave the mat. Otherwise you are increasing blood flow and adding to the load of fluid that lymph capillaries must subsequently carry away. But gentle movement is essential to support the lymphatics, as the system relies on joint movement and skin tone to maintain its proper pumping function.
Of course eating a healing, anti-inflammatory clean diet rich in plenty of plant foods (especially fiber!) will also help detox the body via the bowels. For what it is worth, it is important to have a bowel movement at least once a day, preferably twice. It’s also worth mentioning regular use of an infrared sauna is also a great way to enhance the body’s natural detoxification pathways.
QUESTION: After someone has had a lymphatic drainage massage, is there anything else they can do at home to optimize their results and enhance detoxification further?
ANSWER BY NICOLE: I am not a nutritionist let alone a doctor, but I encourage all my patients to become knowledgeable about their own health needs and common sense wellness practices – including clean food and water of course!
Herbal teas that help the body’s natural immune and elimination processes can be utilized. Although not a complete list by any means, a few herbs that help enhance the body’s natural detoxification process include burdock, licorice root, fennel and aloe vera. Gaia makes a great “Cleanse & Detox” tea that includes these and other detox-enhancing herbs, by the way. (Note: you can buy Gaia Cleanse & Detox Tea on Amazon.)
As mentioned above, infrared sauna, rebounding and a clean eating diet can all be helpful in supporting the body’s natural detoxification process.