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Lymphatic massage is a gentle touch therapy that promotes health and aids recovery from certain illnesses. This powerful, yet subtle technique can reduce or prevent fluid retention, enhance the removal of toxins from body tissues, and support the immune system. Also called lymphatic drainage or manual lymph drainage, lymphatic massage is a standard treatment in European hospitals and clinics, and is used increasingly in North America.


The lymph system plays a vital role in maintaining good health. Lymph is a fluid rich in immune cells that fight viruses, cancer and bacteria. It circulates through the body, transporting these cells where they are needed. Lymph passes through lymph nodes which produce new immune cells and filter out toxins and wastes. The swollen “glands” you feel when coming down with a virus are your lymph nodes working.

Lymphatic massage uses light, rhythmic touch to enhance lymph circulation. This improves the flow of immune cells, making it easier for the body to fend off disease and infection. Increased lymph circulation also helps reduce the body’s load of wastes and toxins. This frees up resources that your body can use for tissue repair and maintenance, keeping you healthy and in balance.


Stress, illness, excess fluid from infection, and blockages or injury to lymph vessels can all impair lymphatic function. This can leave you feeling fatigued, achy or ill. Lymphatic massage is extraordinarily effective in helping to restore lymph function, which can address a number of health challenges.

Stress and pain. The gentle touch of lymphatic massage soothes the nervous system, relieving both mental and physical tension. This can improve sleep and reduce depression or anxiety. As you relax, even the grip of pain can lessen. Lymphatic massage can also reduce the persistent discomforts of painful conditions such as arthritis, backache and headaches.

Reduction of swelling. Whether swelling is due to injury, surgery, cancer treatment or an illness such as sinusitis or fibromyalgia, lymphatic massage can reduce pain and inflammation associated with fluid retention. Along with medical attention, it is also very effective for lymphedema, the severe and chronic accumulation of lymphatic fluid. Note that it is very important to inform your therapist if you have lymphedema or a damaged lymphatic system so that he or she can adjust
your treatment.

Skin care and cosmetic surgery. Lymphatic massage is used in facial treatments to reduce congestion and puffiness. It is also very effective
in decreasing swelling and bruising from cosmetic surgery such as breast reduction or implants, liposuction and laser surgery. Spas and skin care specialists use the technique to reduce the appearance of varicose and spider veins, wrinkles, rosacea and acne.

Breast care. Lymphatic massage can reduce pain and swelling following removal of lymph nodes during breast cancer treatment. It can also reduce discomfort of breasts and nipples during and after pregnancy. If received regularly, it may even enhance the function of healthy breast tissue. If your therapist doesn’t provide breast massage, she or he may be able to refer you to a health professional who does.


Because many lymph vessels are just under the skin, moving the lymph requires a very light touch, barely the weight of a teaspoon of water. Practitioners use flat hands and finger pads in painless, rhythmic movements gentle enough to be described as “feather touch.”

Lymphatic massage can be used alone or to enhance your regular massage session. Expect it to feel much lighter and slower than standard massage.

Most people experience lymphatic massage as deeply relaxing and some fall asleep. It is possible to feel lightheaded following a session so you may wish to rest for an hour or two afterward. Therapists often advise drinking extra water after a session to replenish your fluids. Many people report feeling rejuvenated, invigorated or simply lighter in the hours or days following a session.


Lymphatic massage is an advanced technique with various levels of training. It is being used by massage therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, nurses and others. Your practitioner will be happy to answer questions about his or her training and experience.

Meghan is a Master Aesthetician and certified massage therapist, and yoga instructor. She has been a part of the spa industry for over a decade working in resorts and spas across Florida, Texas and Louisiana.

As a Certified Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) therapist she utilizes the Vodder range of specialized
techniques to move the skin in the direction of the lymph flow. Dr. Vodder’s MLD is universally recognized as the gold standard of Manual Lymphatic Drainage training.

Meghan trained under nationally recognized MLD instructor, Anne Bramham founder of the Advanced Spa Therapy Education Council in West Palm Beach, Fl.


People are looking to lymphatic massage to reduce the effects of stress, aid recovery from surgery and enhance skin care. It is being used more and more to relieve the discomforts of swelling. But beyond its restorative uses for specific conditions, this gentle yet powerful technique can be key for anyone wishing to relax, rejuvenate and improve overall health and well-being.

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