Lymphoedema massage, also known as massage for lymphatic drainage, is an effective non-invasive treatment that reduces fluid build-up in the body.

It works by gently stimulating the body’s natural lymphatic system to remove excess fluids and improve circulation to the affected area.

The lymphatic massage technique can be helpful for people with lymphedema, which occurs when lymph nodes or vessels become blocked or damaged. For example, lymphedema may develop following an arm or leg amputation, or it may occur because of breast cancer or another condition involving surgery to remove or damage lymph nodes or vessels.

What is lymphoedema?

Lymphedema is a condition that causes the lymph nodes to swell as a result of reduced drainage, which in turn prevents them from functioning properly. This leads to an accumulation of fluid and protein that can cause the skin to become thick, heavy and painful.

An effective treatment option for lymphedema is lymphatic drainage massage (LDM). This is because it improves the flow of fluid in the body and helps reduce levels of protein in the tissues, which may lead to further swelling.

Who needs lymphatic drainage?

Lymphatic drainage massage can be used to help those with lymphoedema. The lymph nodes in the body produce a clear fluid called lymph that drains into the bloodstream, carrying nutrients and white blood cells.

When a person has lymphedema, their lymph vessels are damaged from surgery or radiation treatments so their body cannot drain properly, which causes swelling and high pressure in the arm or leg.

Types of treatments for

There are many different types of lymphatic drainage including:

Compression bandaging

This passive treatment involves using compression garments to displace lymphatic fluid. This can be helpful for patients when they are unable to attend a lymphatic clinic.

Manual lymph drainage

This form is a form of lymphatic treatment that uses special equipment, such as pumps and tubes, to remove excess fluid and toxins from body tissues.

Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Lymphatic drainage massage is a technique that helps reduce swelling by stimulating the lymph system.
It also reduces the risk of developing complications like lymphedema. Lymphatic drainage massage can be used to help manage chronic conditions like lymphedema and also has other benefits, including:

  • Lymphatic drainage massage techniques can reduce swelling in the arm after treatment of breast cancer as well as in people with venous leg ulcers, varicose veins, cellulite and edema.
  • The massage therapy stimulates the lymph nodes, which are an important part of the immune system since they produce cells called T-cells that fight against viruses and bacteria.
  • The soothing movements also increase blood flow to tissues around them, reducing inflammation or pressure from excess fluids like edemas in your legs or arms.

 

Other benefits of lymphatic massage

  • Lymphatic drainage massage can decrease swelling and fluid retention after cosmetic surgery, allowing for an expedited healing process. It should be used with compression garments post-surgery to maximize recovery time.
  • Supports relaxation and relieves stress
  • Reduces scar formation by boosting healing responses

How do I know if I have lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is a chronic condition that develops when the lymphatic system becomes damaged. This leads to an accumulation of lymph fluid in the tissues, which causes swelling and inflammation. The swelling can cause pain and restrict movement.

Preparing for your lymphatic massage.

Before the lymphatic massage treatment begins, your therapist may ask you to remove outer clothing and jewellery, as well as any restrictive clothing such as a belt or tight socks. You will be on a massage table covered with a sheet.

How often should I get a lymphatic massage treatment?

Lymphatic drainage massage can be performed weekly or monthly, but the frequency of treatments will depend on the severity and type of lymphedema.

For example, a person with mild to moderate secondary lymphedema may only need one treatment per week while someone with severe primary lymphedema may need two or three treatments per week.

Are there any side effects to lymphatic massage?

Lymphatic drainage massage is a great, safe way to maintain your lymphedema management plan. However, those with an active infection should not receive lymphatic drainage massage.

Lymphoedema and Lymphedema

These two words relate to the same symptom, that is tissue swelling caused by an accumulation of protein-rich fluid that’s usually drained through the body’s lymphatic system.

It most commonly affects the arms or legs, but can also occur in the chest wall, abdomen, neck and genitals.

The spelling difference can create confusion for some people, but the difference can be easily explained:

  • Lymphoedema
    This is the ‘international’ spelling and is also preferred in Australia
  • Lymphedema
    This is the US spelling variant and not generally used in Australia
lymphoedema examples

Lymphoedema examples. Image: Wikipedia

Lymphatic Drainage Massage

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