6. Manual Lymphatic Drainage Techniques Sometimes, the lymphatic system needs a little help to get things flowing again. Manual lymphatic drainage is incredibly effective at removing… Samantha Davis - April 14, 2022
Sometimes, the lymphatic system needs a little help to get things flowing again. Manual lymphatic drainage is incredibly effective at removing toxins from the body. This takes things a step further than traditional massage, using pressure in certain areas and small, circular motions that stimulate the flow of lymph fluids through the body. Unlike traditional massage that relies on pushing on the muscles, this is a gentler technique that promotes flow through the lymphs by pulling skin, rather than impeding it by pressing down too hard.
If going to a professional isn’t an option, you can do manual lymphatic drainage yourself. Start by familiarizing yourself with where the lymphs are. To massage them, you are going to make gentle circles and press outwards, away from the lymph nodes. This helps push toxins out of the lymphs, so they can drain from the body and the lymphatic system can pull more toxins from the cells. Some of the most important lymph nodes are located near the armpits, in the groin area, and in the head and neck.
Yoga is another activity that helps improve circulation and encourages movement in the lymphatic system. Yoga that involves twisting and bending is most helpful to the lymphatic system. As you bend and twist, it almost “squeezes” the lymphs the way that twisting a towel squeezes water out. Some yoga positions that benefit the lymphatic system include child’s pose, downward facing dog, standing forward bend, and the cat and cow pose. A type of yoga called yin yoga also uses many downward-facing positions that really help with lymphatic system drainage.
As an added benefit, yoga promotes deep breathing and relaxation. Making time to relax benefits the lymphatic system because it helps relieve stress. A stressful lifestyle is one contributing factors of a lymphatic system that doesn’t work as well as it should. Stress causes your body to pump high levels of hormones, especially cortisol, through your body. These hormones trigger the fight-or-flight response. Since the body is focused on survival, other important bodily processes are stopped. This blocks the lymphatic system and stops the immune system from functioning effectively.
Dry brushing is a great way to stimulate the lymphatic system. All you need for this is a brush with soft-to-medium hardness bristles. Ideally, you’ll want a brush with a long handle so you can easily reach your whole body. It’s also important that you dry brush in the right direction, so you stimulate flow of the lymphatic system. You’ll start with short, circular strokes. While you should brush hard enough that you feel it, dry brushing should not hurt. Additionally, you can be gentler in more sensitive areas.
Dry brushing should start at the ankles, as you brush up toward your knees. As you work toward the different areas of your body, the goal is to brush “toward your heart“. Next, brush the fronts and backs of your thighs, then your stomach. You’ll do the back next, but you’ll move with long strokes from the neck down to the base of the spine. This is the only time you don’t stroke toward the heart. Finally, dry brush your arms by moving from your wrists to your shoulders.
One of the major functions of they lymphatic system is removing toxins and chemicals from the body. This is necessary because people are exposed to trace amounts of toxins all day long, at home, outdoors, and at work. The body tolerates trace amounts of these chemicals, but too much makes the body sick. By reducing your exposure, your lymphatic system doesn’t have to work as hard. This makes it run more effectively and keeps your body cleansed of all those things that could make you sick.
A great place to start is at home, where you spend most of your time. Be sure you don’t have contaminants like mercury, asbestos, and lead in the home. If you do, hire a professional to have them removed. Switching to glass and metal containers instead of single-use plastics also reduces chemical exposure when storing food and packing lunches. Additionally, consider switching to green cleaning products and wash your hands regularly to remove any contaminants you may have come into contact with.
Botanical medicine relies on using herbs and plants to heal the body. There are many herbs that benefit the lymphatic system, either by improving how well it drains, fighting against inflammation in the body, or supporting the immune system. Many herbs benefits the immune system in more than one way. While herbal and botanical medicine is generally considered safe, you should talk to your doctor first if you are pregnant or nursing, if you have any pre-existing health conditions, or if you are already taking medication.
Dandelions, cleavers, red clover, and devil’s paw are all known for their ability to purify and de-toxify the blood. They will give your lymphatic system a boost and help clean out any sludge in your body. Calendula, echinacea, and goldenseal all have powerful anti-inflammatory properties that stop inflammation. When inflammation isn’t keeping lymph passages swollen, fluids are able to flow more freely through the body. There are also botanicals that benefit the lymph and skin specifically, including mullein, knotted figwort, and astragulus.
A lymphatic drainage facial involves using light pressure, gentle movements, and even skin brushing to encourage flow of the lymphatic system through the face. It works by manually draining the lymphatic system. Research shows that lymphatic drainage reduces swelling and inflammation. It benefits conditions like eczema and acne and it’s even been used after surgeries and cancer treatment to reduce swelling. You can work with someone licensed in lymphatic drainage facial, or you can do it on your own.
You can lie down, sit, or stand while doing this yourself. It’s best to position yourself however you are most comfortable. Before you start, take several deep breaths. Starting at your head, take the palms of your hands and apply gentle pressure. The pressure you’re applying should pull skin downward slightly. Work in a downward motion, encouraging the lymphs to release toward the nodes in the neck. Target each area of your skin at least five times. Additionally, be gentle around the eyes, switching to just a finger instead of using your whole palm.
Infrared saunas are beneficial because they offer the same benefits to the skin as sun exposure, with much fewer risks because there isn’t exposure to radiation. The light waves penetrate skin deep down, making it easier for cells to regenerate and encouraging them to release toxins. As you sweat from being in the sauna, the pores open up and it’s easy for the lymphatic system to drain through the skin. Using an infrared sauna has many other benefits as well, including boosted metabolism, reducing pain and inflammation, and managing certain conditions like allergies and skin conditions.
An infrared sauna is something you can use at a spa. There are also smaller sized models made for people who want one in-home. For the most benefit, you should be well-hydrated beforehand. You may even want to bring a glass of water in to help replenish the fluids you are losing through sweat. While the heat does have benefits, it’s still possible to overheat so keep an eye on the time and don’t stay in too long. You can also open the door if you get too hot and still receive the benefits from the light waves.
Hot and cold water therapy works by causing the muscles and skin cells to contract and relax. Hot water relaxes the muscles and opens the pores up. Once you switch to cold water, everything contracts and it works by squeezing all the toxics and lymph fluid. Since the lymphatic system relies on muscle contractions and other movements to pump lymph fluid effectively, switching between hot and cold water is a great way to detoxify your lymphatic system. Plus, it’s really easy to do this at home while you’re in the shower.
Start with hot water and let your body adjust. Once your muscles are relaxed and it feels like things are opened up, switch to cold water. Wait at least 1-2 minutes while switching between temperatures to give time for the heat or cold to penetrate your muscles. You should do this about 5-7 times on each setting for a deep drainage of the lymphatic system. For added relaxation and lymphatic benefits, try deep breathing while you’re doing this type of therapy.
When you spend a lot of time on your feet, the pull of gravity causes blood, water, and toxins to accumulate in the legs and feet. There are no lymphatic drains around these areas. Instead, these toxins need pushed back toward the organs so they can be filtered through the liver, spleen, or kidneys. You can make it easier for your lymphatic system to push these toxins back where they need to go by turning yourself upside down. With your legs being inverted, the lymph fluids travel toward the lymph nodes found in the groin.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to turn yourself upside down without doing a headstand. Some people use an inversion table, but even laying on the floor with your legs flat against the wall in front of you helps the lymphatic system flow. Any way you invert your body is beneficial, so headstands, handstands, and even shoulderstands help cleanse the lymphatic system. There are also several inverted yoga positions you can do, such as the downward-facing dog.
Deep breathing engages your stomach, chest, and diaphragm. As you inhale and exhale, it helps move the muscles around and squeeze the lymph system. By stimulating the lymphatic system, lymph fluids are pushed where they need to go and it helps detoxify the body. Plus, deep breathing benefits the lymphatic system because of its relaxation benefits. Often, balancing a social life, our home lives, work, and family cause people to lead fast-paced lifestyles and they don’t make time to relax. High levels of stress is something that stops the lymphatic system from working as efficiently.
To get the most benefit from deep breaths, you should try to do breathing exercises at least once or twice a day. It only takes a few minutes, but there are great benefits from relaxation. As you breathe, close your mouth and keep the tip of your tongue on the uppermost ridge of your teeth. Inhale for a count of four, hold it for a count of seven, then exhale for a count of eight. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, being sure to keep your tongue in position for the most benefit.
Rebounding is an exercise done using a mini trampoline. Unlike running, jumping offers cardiovascular benefits without putting excess strain on joints. As an added benefit, rebounding involves an up-and-down movement rather than a horizontal movement. Since you are working out in a vertical manner, it becomes easier for the lymphatic system to drain. Some additional benefits of rebounding for the lymphatic system include reducing water retention, better detoxification of the body, and improved skin. Rebounding also has fitness benefits regarding strength, blood pressure, and overall health.
To get the most benefit, you only need to bounce on a mini trampoline for 10-15 minutes each day. As you bounce, the upward and downward motions cause the lymphs to open and close. This helps excess fluid and toxins drain and move through the lymph system. Since the motions cause the valves to open and close, you don’t have to do these exercises all at once. Breaking them up into 3-5 minute sessions offers the same benefits and won’t be as stressful for people that are new to the activity.
Research has shown that gut and digestive health play a greater role in overall health than we once thought. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the enzymes that digest food play a big role in lymphatic system health. Enzymes break down food and aid in many metabolic processes. In between meals when they aren’t breaking down foods, these digestive enzymes also break down organic matter, complex fats, and proteins found in the blood. By breaking these things down, the lymphatic system removes them more efficiently.
While the body produces some digestive enzymes, taking an enzyme supplement gives the digestive system a boost. It increases how well your body processes food, giving the enzymes more time to support the lymphatic system between meals. There has also been research that good gut health decreases inflammation, which helps keep the lymph system running smooth. In addition to adding an enzyme supplement to your diet, you can support digestive health by avoiding processed carbohydrates and sugars, choosing healthy sources of fats, and eating lots of fiber and raw fruits and vegetables.
Essential oils are commonly used in aromatherapy or applied to the skin. They are extracts from various herbs and botanicals, often those that have been used in traditional medicine systems. Mastic opens the lymphatic and respiratory systems, having anti-microbial and decongestant properties, while guaiacwood is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Citrus essential oils like lemon and grapefruit fight inflammation and help purify the lymphatic system, too. Some other beneficial oils include juniper berry, peppermint, and rosemary.
While modern medicine hasn’t fully researched the many benefits of essential oils, many of them have been used in Native American medicine, Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, and even since the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Essential oils can be used in aromatherapy by adding them to a diffuser, or even adding them to a pot of boiling water. When applying essential oils to skin or massaging the lymph nodes with them, many need to be diluted with a carrier oil like coconut oil, almond oil, or jojoba oil to avoid damage to the skin.
Chiropractic care is recommended for people who have problems or abnormalities in the musculoskeletal system, which is made up of the spine, bones, nerves, muscles, tendons, and joints. Keeping this system working as it should is also important to the health and flow of the lymphatic system, since it exists alongside it in the body. Misalignments or inflammation in the musculoskeletal system block the lymphatic system and stop it from flowing freely.
Chiropractors identify problem areas and then help with treatment, often by adjusting the spine and muscle groups using manipulation and other types of therapy. As obstructions and areas of tension are removed during a chiropractic session, lymph fluid flows freely to detox your lymphatic system. Research shows removing this tension improves the flow of the lymphatic system and improves immunity. Additionally, chiropractic offices offer other services that benefit the lymphatic system, including inversion tables and electro-lymphatic drainage. They may also be certified to perform manual lymphatic drainage.
Inversion tables offer a number of benefits for the body, as well as the lymphatic system. An inversion table is a padded table that has straps for your feet on the bottom. You are secured to the table and then turned up side down. While in this position, the lymphatic and circulatory systems are stimulated. Gravity works with the body, bring blood and oxygen to the tissues and pushing out toxins. Then, they move through the lymphatic system so they can be filtered and transported out of the body.
In addition to its benefits for the lymphatic system, an inversion table benefits the joints and the spine. As mentioned above, keeping these areas free of inflammation helps the lymphatic system keep moving smoothly. This is especially true since the muscles of the body are the most effective “pump” for the lymphatic system. Inversion therapy can be done with a professional, or you can buy an inversion table for home. Chiropractic offices and other hollistic medicine practioners may offer inversion therapy.