Lymphatic drainage massage, also known as manual lymphatic drainage, is a gentle form of advanced clinical massage technique used to relieve painful swelling in your arms and legs caused by lymphedema in which lymphatic fluid collects in certain areas of the body because it cannot drain away effectively. Lymphedema often affects people recovering from breast cancer surgery.
Normally, your lymphatic system collects your lymph and returns it to your heart via a network of lymph vessels and lymph nodes. When something disrupts your lymphatic system's process, lymph collects in your arms and legs, making them swell.
A massage therapist uses lymphatic drainage massage techniques to move lymph from your tissues to your lymph nodes, which eases the swelling in your tissues. Massaging an area without swelling will make space for fluid to flow to those parts from more congested areas.
The lymphatic system plays a key role in the body’s immune defenses.
Lymphatic fluid flows through lymph vessels, which connect lymph nodes. As it passes through the lymph nodes, white blood cells trap and destroy harmful particles, such as bacteria. Like blood in the circulatory system, lymphatic fluid is always moving. If it stops, swelling can occur, as lymph fluid builds up, often in the arms or legs.
Lymphatic drainage massage is safe and can benefit people who have a buildup of lymphatic fluid due to:
cancer and cancer treatments that involve the removal of lymph nodes
filariasis, which is infestation of the lymph nodes by a parasite carried by mosquitoes
some types of vascular surgery, such as vein stripping
burn scar excision
lipectomy, or any type of plastic surgery to remove fat from the body
infection or trauma in the lymphatic system
a buildup of fluid due to deep vein thrombosis
health conditions that affect blood flow to the extremities, such as the hands and feet