To understand lymph massage is to first understand lymph. Lymph is a clear fluid that circulates throughout the body like a super powered garbage truck picking up waste products, bacteria, dead cells, viruses, fats and more. It is produced within the lymphatic system which is comprised of several organs including the spleen, tonsils, thymus and adenoids. This system works in conjunction with hundreds of lymph nodes and miles of vessels running throughout and alongside the circulatory system. Lymph massage can be done by a licensed practitioner trained in LDT, also known as Lymphatic Drainage Therapy, or can be performed on oneself which is called Manual or Simple Lymphatic Drainage or SLD, MLD. Whether LDT, SLD or MLD is used, this practice is an excellent way to gently get a sluggish lymphatic system moving along again and, in turn, strengthen the immune system.
A Light Touch
Because the lymphatic vessels are mostly just below the skin there is no need to do any deep kneading techniques. Working with a delicate touch to stimulate and move along the lymph is essential. Gently running your fingers over the skin is all you need to get the lymph moving. This will not feel like much at first, especially if you are used to deep kneading, but in time it can alleviate lymph buildup, called lymph-edema, caused by anything from a toxic diet to cancer related issues.
What You Will and Will Not Need
It is best to try to lie down on a bed, couch or floor to allow the body to release as many muscles as possible. MLD does not need any cream or oil. You want your hands to be able to be move lightly over the skin without getting sticky or tacky. Sometimes talcum powder works well, as it allows sliding but does not impede flow. Be sure and wash your hands thoroughly before working on yourself. Find a quiet, comfortable location with limited light and outside intrusions. Sometimes, if you live in a hectic household, alerting those you live with and reminding with a do not disturb sign hung on the door will reduce any interruptions. Shut off your phones and answering machines as well.
Be sure and always move the lymph away from the lymph nodes, lightly and methodically for a total of five to ten times for each movement, making sure to work both sides of the body. Placing the hand into the skin, pushing in and up toward the affected area and then down and away is the proper technique.
Working on the neck area can help reduce inflammation here as well as in the arms and even the legs, as the lymph fluid will begin to move throughout the body. Starting on both sides of the neck just below the ears, gently move your fingertips down and toward the back of your neck and then back around toward the front ending on your collarbone near your throat.
The lymph nodes here are often susceptible to swelling. Slowly start at one armpit and move across the chest being sure not to go too close to the other armpit. If someone is able to assist you, doing this same movement along the back is also recommended.
Starting at the armpit and working down toward the inner groin area is the path you want to travel to reduce leg swelling. Use the raking technique (open fingers), circular palm strokes, gentle palm vibration and/or gentle palm with finger pumping for this distance. Start slightly underneath the top of the crease where your upper bicep meets your upper rib cage. Work your way down the side of the rib cage concentrating along the front and then below the breast. This sort of makes a sideways V path as you will then work back to the side and into the outer groin where your inner leg meets your pubic bone. Finish here as the lymph will drain into your intestines and be excreted.