What is Lymphatic Massage?

Katie Schaefer

Lymphatic massage is a technique used to encourage lymph flow in the body. Lymph is the clear fluid produced by the lymph nodes, located in the neck, chest, underarms, groin, and abdomen. A healthy flow of lymph supports the body's immune system in fighting off toxins responsible for viruses and infection. The lymphatic system — comprised of 500 to 600 lymph nodes, in addition to the spleen, tonsils, thymus, and adenoids — is the body's filter system for dangerous toxins and disease-promoting bacteria. For this reason, the health of the lymphatic system is crucial to the body's ability to heal.

A lymphatic massage may include the neck.
A lymphatic massage may include the neck.

Developed in 1932 by Danish physiologist Emil Voder, the objective of lymphatic massage is the stimulation and subsequent opening of the lymphatic glands, resulting in an increased flow of lymph. The potential benefits of this type of massage — or lymph drainage — include, but are not limited to, decreased joint pain and the pain of arthritis, mood and energy enhancement, infrequent infections, and improved skin conditions. It may also alleviate migraines and menstrual cramps.

A doctor should always be consulted before considering lymphatic massage.
A doctor should always be consulted before considering lymphatic massage.

The focus of this massage is primarily on the upper body, including the face, neck and underarm regions. Typically, the touch is incredibly light, as the lymphatic vessels are located directly beneath the skin and respond to .5 to 8 ounces of pressure per square inch (about 6.5 square centimeters). This light application of pressure mimics the natural rhythm of the lymphatic system, resulting in a simple, non-invasive encouragement of lymph flow.

A lymphatic massage may include the underarms.
A lymphatic massage may include the underarms.

Lymphatic massage can be performed independently or in conjunction with deep tissue massage, depending on preference and the issues a person wishes to address. Issues of musculature, for instance, may be addressed by combining 20 to 30 minutes of deep tissue massage with 20 to 30 minutes of lymphatic massage afterward. Conversely, issues of swelling, scar tissue and inflammation may benefit most from the light touch alone.

Lymph drainage from a massage might help ease menstrual cramps.
Lymph drainage from a massage might help ease menstrual cramps.

As with all forms of massage, it is important to drink plenty of water after a session is completed. Lymphatic massage releases toxins that the consumption of water helps to flush out. Conversely, salt and alcohol consumption is strongly discouraged after a massage, as they inhibit the body's ability to flush out toxins.

While lymphatic massage is an excellent way to prevent infection, people currently suffering an acute infection should not receive lymph drainage. Similarly, people with undiagnosed tumors, clotting issues, and cardiac conditions should avoid massage, as it encourages the release and flow of potentially dangerous bacteria and toxins. For this reason, massage should be practiced only by those with a healthy immune system.

A lymphatic massage can be performed independently or in conjunction with a deep tissue massage.
A lymphatic massage can be performed independently or in conjunction with a deep tissue massage.

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Discussion Comments


I have been massaging my lymph glands in my neck, groin and arm pits for about six months. I massage them for about two minutes on each gland every day. i do this twice a day.

I am worried, though. I have read on the net that it is dangerous to press too hard as it damages the lymph tubules. Now i am really worried as i feel i might be doing my harm than good.

I am now worried my immune system is going to suffer as my lymph glands may be damaged.


Great article guys -- I really liked how you mentioned the potential health risks associated with lymphatic drainage massages -- so many other sites just focus only on the benefits.

And although there are a ton of benefits to lymphatic draining, the simple truth is that the therapy is not for everyone.

So before you sign up for a lymphatic massage, just talk to your doctor, and make sure that you use a reputable massage therapist -- it really can affect your health very seriously.


If you're a pregnant woman and you're not shy, you might want to consider getting a lymphatic drainage therapy massage on your breasts as your pregnancy progresses.

Forgive the personal information, but my breasts have always been very sensitive to changes in my hormones, so as you can imaging, being pregnant was crazy on them. I was almost constantly in tears anyway because of the hormones, and having painful breasts didn't help matters.

Well, a friend told me about her lymphatic draining massage therapist and said that maybe she could do something for me. I went because by that point I was willing to try anything, and let me tell you, it was awesome!

The pain almost immediately went away, and I even felt more stable emotionally. So if you're OK with a stranger massaging your breasts, or just too desperate to care, get a lymphatic draining massage; it really does help.


I am totally addicted to lymph drainage therapy -- it sounds kind of gross (I mean, come on, how appetizing can the word "drainage" be?), but it is so, so relaxing.

I go to a local massage therapist who specializes in manual lymphatic drainage, and I really like going to her because she always takes the time to explain to me exactly what is going on during the massage, and what I can expect afterwards.

For example, the first time I got a lymph massage, my therapist warned me that I might get a headache afterwards, or feel achy or like I have the flu because of all the toxins being flushed out, but to stick with it because after a few days I would feel amazing.

Well, she was definitely right -- on both counts. I did feel terrible the next day after my first massage, but three days later, it was like I had been reborn! My body just felt so healthy and even lighter.

So I would definitely recommend people to get a lymph drainage massage -- it is definitely worth the initial discomfort.

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