What is a Lymphatic Drainage Massage and How to Perform One

What is a Lymphatic Drainage Massage and How to Perform One

Lymphatic Drainage massage is different from other messages. It is a gentle massage that moves lymph fluids around your body instead of focusing on just relaxation.

You see, your lymphatic system is responsible for removing toxins and waste from your body’s tissues. 

You can think of your lymphatic system as a water filtration system. If you don’t look after the pipes they will quickly get clogged.

Your lymphatic system consists of vessels and nodes with lymph which is a mixture of waste products, protein, water, and other immune system elements. 

Lymph helps your body absorb nutrients from your digestive system and it also removes toxins, and even viruses from your system.

Your neck, groin, and armpits contain the largest nodes in your lymphatic system. These nodes all work together to make sure clean lymph is carried through the veins that connect to your heart.

When the lymphatic system gets clogged all kinds of health problems occur, such as lymphedema. This is where your tissue starts to swell because of lymph fluid buildup. Swelling can occur in your arms, legs, chest wall, abdomen, neck, and genitals.

In more severe cases it can also affect the ability to move your arm or leg and also increase the risk of infections and skin changes such as acne.

A lymphatic drainage massage can keep your lymphatic system running smoothly by gently massaging specific areas to get the lymph flowing and unstuck.

It helps move this fluid through your lymphatic vessels by gently stretching the skin to assist the lymphatic flow.

This stretching creates a pumping action in the lymphatic system, unclogging the lymph nodes.

Signs your lymphatic system might be clogged

  • Swelling in part of your arm or leg or even in your toes and fingers
  • Limited range of motion
  • Infections that keep occurring
  • Hardening of the skin (fibrosis)

    Lymphatic massage has been shown effective at treating lymphedema. It helps improve the flow of lymph helping to reduce swelling.

Benefits of a lymphatic drainage massage include:

Unclogging and getting the lymph fluid flowing properly can have many benefits like:

  • Feeling lighter and less bloated
  • If you have water retention it can help you reduce swelling all over your body.
  • Improve digestion 
  • Boost the immune system to be able to fight off pathogens and viruses
  • Improve sleep
  • Many also report better skin complexion after completing a lymphatic massage

The Benefits of Massage courtesy of Body Science Therapy & Performance Centre (Read the caption)

How to prepare for lymphatic massage

Lymphatic massage is usually done by a trained practitioner however here are some techniques you can do in the comfort of your own home.

You can perform these movements either standing, sitting, or lying down.

Just keep these things in mind before completing:

  • These massages should only affect the surface of your skin and not deep into the tissues. To do this use gentle massages with just enough pressure to feel the muscles.
  • Do not massage swollen or infected areas.
  • Avoid areas that have undergone cancer treatment.
  • Drink lots of water after the massage to flush out the toxins.
  • Avoid using any types of lotions.

So with that in mind, let’s get started…

Deep breathing

Deep Breathing is one of the most important things you can do to move fluid through the vessels because it acts as a pump.

Place your hands on your belly and take slow and deep breaths in through your nose then out through your mouth.

Repeat 5 times and relax. 

5 benefits of massage therapy courtesy of INNOVA Integrated Wellness Centre (Read the caption)

How to perform an upper body lymphatic drainage massage

This technique is designed to drain lymph fluid from your chest, shoulders, and upper arms.

First, start massaging your chest:

Place your palm on the top of your chest of the opposite side.

Then gently glide you hand up your chest and over your collarbone.

Continue all the way up to your neck. When doing this you should feel your skin gently stretching. Then release.

Next move to your shoulder:

Take your hand and glide it over your opposite shoulder toward your neck.

Next move to your upper arm:

Place your two fingers on the opposite arm right below your shoulder. Then move the fingers to the outside of your upper arm and back to the starting position.

Next massage your full arm:

Place your palm right below your shoulder and stretch the skin upward toward your shoulder and then back down the arm to your wrist.

Next move to your fingers:

Place your index finger and thumb at the base of your swollen finger. Then stretch the skin down toward your hand.

That’s how you perform an upper lymphatic massage. Now performing a lymphatic drainage massage on yourself might not be nearly as effective as hiring an experienced specialist. If you would like a registered massage therapist to perform a lymphatic drainage massage, use the search box on this page to find one near you.

Whether you’re looking for a lymphatic drainage massage in Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver or anywhere else we have registered massage therapists in almost every city in Canada.

Massage Therapy during pregnancy courtesy of Integra Health Centre (Read the caption)


This appointment is your opportunity to tell us what hurts and discover whether physiotherapy or chiropractic care is a good fit for you! During this session, you will talk with a physiotherapist or chiropractor on a phone call (or online) and create the right care plan specifically for your pain. There is no obligation on this session is to find out whether physiotherapy or chiropractic care can help you getting back to doing the things you love in life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Your therapist will let you know based on your condition. 

1.) Drink plenty of water before

2.) Don’t eat a big meal before your session

3.) Wear comfortable clothing

Since it works on the surface of your skin you should experience no pain. It’s a soft gentle stretch of the skin.

About Taylor Sipos

Taylor is a physiotherapist at The Orthopaedic Therapy Clinic located in Toronto, Ontario. He treats patients with various musculoskeletal conditions using patient education, exercise therapy, manual therapy and acupuncture. His treatment philosophy involves giving his patient’s the means to self-manage their injuries. He does this through reassurance, education and health promotion. Taylor uses the same principles as a patient educator at Pain Hero. He aims to provide you with high-quality, easy to understand information to teach you about your condition and how to improve it.

Medical Disclaimer:

The information presented in this blog post is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, treatment or a diagnosis, consult with a medical professional such as one suggested on this website. The Clinic Accelerator Inc. and the author of this page are not liable for the associated risks of using or acting upon the information contained in this article.

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