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What is lymphatic drainage?

Updated: Dec 2, 2022


Lymphatic drainage is a form of treatment which is used to stimulate and massage the lymph vessels that make up the lymphatic system. The purpose of this lymphatic drainage is to move lymph away from certain swollen areas, such as the face, neck, genitals, trunk, breasts or thighs. By stimulating certain lymph vessels, the system is activated, and new pathways are opened for the lymph to move through.


There are two different types of lymphatic massage available: simple lymphatic drainage and manual lymphatic drainage (MLD). In both cases, massaging hand movements are used to stimulate certain vessels, but the manual version must be performed by a qualified professional, while the simple variant can be done at home.


A soothing evening routine


For those who opt for simple lymphatic drainage, it's important to note that the swollen areas should not be massaged directly. Massaging hand movements pin-point various parts of the lymphatic system. It's recommended that the simple lymphatic drainage is performed at the same time each day to provide the system with regular support.


This can become a very relaxing and soothing evening routine and can also be taught to a family member or friend who is willing to help out. After a simple lymphatic drainage in the form of, for example, a neck massage performed by a partner, sleepiness may come swiftly and carry you off into a good night's sleep.


Tools for lymphatic drainage


There are tools available for lymphatic drainage, such as compression pumps and skin tape. Pumps may or may not be helpful depending on the person's needs and how it is used. If you wish to use a compression pump at home, it's recommended that you discuss this with a qualified lymphoedema specialist, since it may lead to complications.


Using a compression pump can, for example, lead to excess lymph being stored in the trunk of the body. However, some pumps may be useful and can help to soften tissues and provide quick relief in addition to MLD. Skin tape is another tool that a qualified lymphoedema specialist may recommend for home use when suitable.


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