Why lymphatic massage is the latest A-list wellness therapy
Lymphatic massage is the latest celeb-endorsed holistic therapy. Said to release tension, enhance circulation and promote wellness, what exactly is it and how does it work?
Jennifer Aniston is reported to be a huge fan of lymphatic massage, with images of her wearing compression pants designed to drain fluid from her lymphatic system surfacing online.
Hailey Bieber, Kendall Jenner and Kim Kardashian are converts too.
But what is the lymphatic system? And what is so special about lymphatic drainage treatment, such as a specialised massage?
What does the lymphatic system do?
Essentially, the lymphatic system is our body’s natural sewerage system.
It maintains fluid levels in our body and takes lymph fluid to the approximate 700 lymph nodes found everywhere from our neck and armpits to our groin and intestines.
Our lymph nodes check and filter the lymph fluid that may contain bacteria, viruses and cancer cells.
Harmful substances like these are destroyed in the lymph nodes; and problems can arise when our lymphatic system becomes sluggish and stagnant.
Signs your lymphatic system needs support
“When your lymphatic system is blocked, you will feel bloated and have less energy,” naturopathic practitioner and lymphatic drainage specialist Chelsey Jean says.
“You might get sick more often because pathogens won’t get filtered out of your body as effectively.”
Chelsea says other indicators your lymphatic system isn’t healthy might be having swollen limbs or ankles, heavy legs, and cellulite.
“Some people have constipation or gain weight and experience brain fog,” she says.
How a lymphatic massage can help
Your lymphatic system may be placed under pressure if you spend too much time sitting or standing still – lymph fluid is pushed through the body during movement, exercise and deep breathing.
Lymphatic therapist Kristin Osborn says surgery can also impact the flow of lymph, but lymphatic massage can help.
“It (lymphatic massage) is ideal after a C-section,” Kristin, owner and clinician at Newcastle Lymphoedema & Lipoedema Clinic, says.
“Women often fill with fluid during pregnancy and experience puffy legs and feet – after a C-section, you can manually help remove this fluid.”
Lymphatic massage can even be helpful after surgery to remove wisdom teeth when there’s facial swelling, she adds.
“If you have bloating, then this kind of massage can work on the abdomen to push through any waste product,” Kristin says.
“Bloating comes from gases from a build-up of faecal matter in the bowel, so massage can ease bloating and people will lose some weight as they are able to go to the toilet more regularly.”
What are lymphatic drainage pants and do they work?
The spacesuit-like compression pants worn by Jen Aniston are supposed to apply pressure to the legs and potentially help move lymphatic fluid or reduce swelling.
There is some evidence such devices – often referred to as external pneumatic compression – may reduce muscle stress and assist recovery from exercise.
How to love your lymphatic system
Enjoy a regular massage
For general maintenance, Kristin recommends a monthly lymphatic massage.
Expect a gentle, full-body massage to take about 90 minutes, but Kristin says the effects can be immediate with reduced bloating, changes to bowel habits, and reduced leg or ankle swelling.
To get your lymph moving through your body as it should, you can try compression garments, such as sleeves or stockings, or spend time in the kind of compression devices favoured by celebrities.
Try dry brushing
You can also look after your lymph system at home with two minutes of dry brushing each day.
Chelsey recommends starting at your chest, and always brushing towards the heart.
“Then brush under your arms and brush your shoulders, always in the direction of the heart; from there, brush your tummy, bum, legs, knees and ankles,” she says.
Move your body
It’s simple – exercise helps lymph move through the lymphatic system.
“Don’t forget to move regularly throughout the day to keep lymph flowing,” Chelsey says.
Read more on massage and other therapies:
- Which type of massage will best relieve your aches and pains?
- How reflexology can help you restore balance
- The ins and outs of dry needling
- Thermal wellness: the health trend taking it to the extreme
Written by Sarah Marinos.