How to Perform Lymphatic Drainage Massage
Clearing motions can be repeated as many as 10 times a day. Patel advises, “Always massage both sides of your body, not just the side with the lymphedema.”
A guide to clearing
There are three stages to clearing. Be sure to clear the supraclavicular area, the axillary area, and the inner-elbow area, in that order.
To clear the supraclavicular area:
- Begin by lying on a comfortable, flat surface.
- Cross your arms on your chest, with your hands resting just below the collarbones.
- Then simply lift your elbows slowly. The muscle action is as much pressure as is required to prepare the area to flush lymphatic fluid.
Next, clear the axillary area:
- Lay one hand above your head.
- Use your other hand to gently scoop the underarm area from top to bottom. The only pressure required is that which is gentle enough to move the surface of the skin.
Finally, clear the area inside the elbows:
- Lay your arm straight at your side.
- Use the fingers of your opposite hand to gently pull the skin inside the elbow an inch at a time.
Only very gentle pressure is required. “In lymphatic massage, you’re only working the superficial skin structure,” says Patel. That’s where the fluid is trapped.
How to perform lymphatic massage on the legs
The goal of lymphatic massage on the legs is to open up the lymphatic vessels to let excess fluid drain back up into the lymph nodes located in the groin.
There are different techniques that can be used to perform lymphatic massage on the legs, but all have the same end goal: to release the fluid to go back up through the lymph nodes.
To perform a lymphatic massage on the legs, you can follow these steps:
- Perform lymphatic massage of the upper body before beginning with the legs. Follow the three stages of clearing in the supraclavicular area, the axillary area, and the inner-elbow area, in that order. This ensures that the system is clear to allow fluid to drain up.
- Use light pressure. If you can feel the muscles underneath your skin, you are pressing too hard.
- Begin the leg massage at the furthest point away from the injury or affected area and work your way down. For example, if your ankle has swelling, start the massage on the upper part of the leg.
- Starting at the top of the leg, put one hand on the inside of the leg and the other on the back of your leg.
- With gentle pressure, stretch the skin from the inside of your leg up and out, toward your hip.
- Continue this motion down the leg until you reach the knee.
- When you reach the knee, stretch the skin up, with alternating hands, toward your armpit.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times.
- You have now completed the “clearing” step of the lymphatic massage.
A guide to reabsorption
The second part of lymphatic massage is reabsorption. To perform this stage of massage:
- Begin at the affected part of the body farthest from the core of the body. For example, begin at the tips of the fingers if you have lymphedema in your hand, arm, and shoulder.
- Using a gentle, sweeping motion with just enough pressure to shift the surface of the skin, massage from fingertip to hand, from hand to elbow, and from elbow to shoulder.
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