What is lymphatic drainage? Here’s what you need to know

If you’re attuned to what’s happening in the massage world, you may have heard the phrase “lymphatic drainage” or “lymphatic drainage massage.”

It sounds a bit off-putting, but experts say it’s nothing more than a gentle form of a massage to move fluids.

“The lymphatic system is part of the body’s immune system. Lymphatic drainage is a technique to move excess fluid called edema,” said Yvonne Wdowiak, a registered massage therapist based in Toronto.

Edema is the medical term for swelling, she says, and your body can swell for various reasons — including injuries or inflammation.

“It can affect a small area or the entire body. Medications, pregnancy, infections, and many other medical problems can cause edema,” she said.

Swelling can happen when small blood vessels leak fluid to tissues and when this fluid builds up, the tissue can swell, WebMD notes.

The lymphatic drainage treatment always begins and ends with treatment to the neck as this is where all the lymphatic vessels come together to join the main vein going into the heart, Wdowiak said.

“Then the therapist would work on the area of swelling or concern,” she said.

“As the lymphatic system is very delicate, the treatment is very gentle.”

Can anyone get a lymphatic drainage massage?

In a healthy body, Wdowiak says, a lymphatic drainage massage will give the lymphatic system a small boost.

“Many clients come to see me for this treatment as part of a detox regime or to strengthen their immune system during cold and flu season,” she said.

But if you don’t have any specific issues or swelling, you won’t be able to see visible effects — they are all internal.

“Also if you are healthy and your lymphatic system is working well, then your body is doing its job and you don’t need lymphatic drainage.”

Grace Dedinsky-Rutherford, a registered massage therapist and soon-to-be executive director for Dr. Vodder International Schools in B.C., tells Global News the massage technique dates back to the 1930s in Europe.

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