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What is Lymph Massage?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Lymph massage is a type of massage which is designed to promote the healthy flow of lymph, the clear fluid which supports immune system function by flowing through the body and sequestering foreign material like viruses. Proponents believe that the massage eliminates blockages in the lymphatic system, while also helping to pull out toxins. This type of massage is generally very gentle, but there are some serious contraindications, because massage work around the lymphatic system can make some medical conditions worse. Therefore, it is important to talk to a doctor before booking an appointment for lymph massage.

According to practitioners, lymph massage reduces swelling and clears the lymphatic system so that lymph can move freely through the body. The massage also stimulates the flow of other interstitial fluids in the body, theoretically encouraging the fluid to pull out toxins so that they can be sequestered by the lymph system.

Some practitioners recommend this type of massage right before surgery, to ensure that the lymphatic system is clear. It may also be used after surgery to reduce swelling. Some practitioners offer breast massage to pregnant women and nursing mothers to reduce the aches and pains associated with the changes in breast tissue that occur during pregnancy. Lymph massage can also be used as a tool for general well-being.

You may hear this type of massage called lymphatic massage, lymphatic drainage, or manual lymphatic drainage. People with inflammations and current infections should not get lymph massage, because the massage can encourage the spread of the infection. It is also contraindicated for people with tumors and undiagnosed lumps, as well as people with clotting issues and heart problems, as it can make all of these conditions worse.

This style of massage has been practiced since the 1930s. Depending on where a practitioner trains, he or she may use a variety of techniques in lymph massage. Generally, the touch is very light, and the patient may remain clothed or nude, depending on personal comfort levels. Clients should always communicate about pain during the massage, and they should also be aware that swollen lymph nodes can be a sign of a serious health condition which requires medical treatment, not massage.

When seeking a practitioner, be sure to ask about where he or she trained. A reputable massage therapist will be happy to provide credentials such as proof of membership in a professional organization, and he or she should also be honest with you if lymph massage is contraindicated in your case.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon95275 — On Jul 12, 2010

The results of lymphatic massage are beneficial, but not during chemotherapy.

By cmsmith10 — On Jul 11, 2010

Lymphatic massage is a delicate and very useful form of massage used to stimulate the body’s lymphatic system. It utilizes light pressure and soft pumping movement in the direction of the lymph nodes. It is amazing how much your immune system can be increased with this massage. When your immune system is strong, it makes you feel balanced and whole.

Lymphatic massage improves your metabolism and also helps your body to eliminate toxins and waste.

By Tmuir53 — On Jan 02, 2009

As an oncology massage therapist I would like to add that it is never a good idea to get a lymphatic massage during chemotherapy. First, it would be too taxing on the body to detoxify during treatment. Secondly, it is very important that the chemo stays in a patient and lymphatic massage could possibly accelerate the body's natural lymphatic process of clearing waste from the body. This is not to be confused with manual lymphatic massage, which might need do be done if a patient has lymphedema and can't wait until after chemotherapy to start treatment.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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