Lymphatic massage, also called lymphatic drainage or manual lymph drainage, is a technique developed in Germany for treatment of lymphedema, an accumulation of fluid that can occur after lymph nodes are removed during surgery, most often a mastectomy for breast cancer.

This is a gentle, non-invasive manual technique that has a powerful effect on the body. Research in Australia, Europe and North America has proven its efficacy .

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Lymphatic drainage is a massage technique where you help move extra fluid that may have built up in your body through your lymph vessels. This type of massage may help you if you suffer from swelling, tenderness, infections, hormone imbalances, fatigue, lupus, and depression and anxiety.

Lymphatic drainage massage will push these substances into the lymph channels before the body has a chance to eliminate them through phagocytosis in the interstitial spaces. If you perform lymphatic drainage you can spread the toxic substances throughout.

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  1. Lymphology. 2011 Mar;44(1):13-20. Impact of manual lymphatic drainage on hemodynamic parameters in patients with heart failure and lower limb edema.

  2. Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a type of massage based on preliminary evidence which is hypothesized to encourage the natural drainage of the lymph, which carries waste products away from the tissues back toward the heart.

  3. Manual Lymphatic Drainage is a safe, non-invasive approach to treat lymphedema. Breast cancer and it’s associated treatments are challenging enough without having to worry about painful and sometimes debilitating complications.

Lymphatic drainage is the natural function of the lymphatic system, which is an essential part of immunity. If this function isn't working properly, it can cause a build-up of fluid in tissues as well as more serious medical problems like lymphagitis and lymphoma.

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Manual lymphatic drainage is a pleasant, gentle, and non-invasive massage designed to improve the appearance of the skin by facilitating proper lymphatic flow and drainage. It is often used as an anti-aging procedure, as proper lymphatic drainage results in the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles.

Read on to learn more about how to perform lymphatic drainage massage on both the upper and lower extremities. Newsletter Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC.