You may not know much about how your body's lymph system works. However, it's similar to your body's blood circulation system in that lymph moves throughout your body to support your immune system. The lymph passes through lymph nodes that filter the fluid so it is clean when sent back toward your heart.
If a lymph node is removed or blocked, lymph backs up in the nearest extremity. This can cause your arm or leg to swell and become painful. Your doctor might treat this condition with a compression bandage, and they might recommend a lymphatic drainage massage. Here's how this massage works.
The Massage Should Be Given By A Professional
Your doctor may send you to a massage therapist that has been trained in lymphatic drainage massage. This type of massage has its own technique and is done to help move the lymph fluid back into circulation. You'll need someone trained and experienced in lymphatic drainage massage to get good results.
Gentle Sweeping Motions Are Used
The therapist can use a variety of sweeping massage motions and cupping to move the lymph fluid toward the nearest lymph node. They may stretch the skin and move their hands up your arm or leg and toward the direction of your heart. The largest nodes in your body are usually in your armpits, groin, and neck. The massage therapist may drain toward one of these main nodes so the lymph will then be back in circulation in your body.
The therapist doesn't have to press hard to do a lymphatic drainage massage, so the massage isn't painful. However, the massage might last several minutes and be long to endure. You might have a massage several times a week for a period of a few weeks or as your doctor prescribes.
The Massage Therapist May Teach You Self-Massage
If your doctor advises you to, you might do lymphatic self-massage movements at home too. The massage therapist can help you learn the easy techniques for moving the lymph from your fingers and toes up to a lymph node. If your doctor wants you to do home massages, be sure to do them at the recommended frequency so you get results that reduce swelling and pain.
Lymphatic Drainage Massage Should Help Swelling
A single lymphatic drainage massage probably won't cause your swelling to completely disappear, but swelling should go down some. What's more, the swelling may not get worse if you keep up with the massages and continue to wear your compression bandage or garment.
When the swelling goes down, you should notice less pain in your arm or leg, and you may have better range of motion. A lymphatic massage alone may not be enough to manage your lymphedema. Your doctor might try other treatments, such as exercises, medications, or even surgery to manage your condition.
Contact a massage therapist or your health care provider to learn more about lymphatic drainage massages.