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Lymphatic Massage

Does a Lymphatic Massage Actually Work?

Question:

Lately I’ve been feeling run down, but I’ve had difficulty figuring out why. I did have a sinus infection about a month ago, but the infection cleared up. I’m still a little congested, especially in the morning, but I don’t necessarily feel sick. I just seem to lack the energy to do the things I used to enjoy, and I feel tired all the time. I was researching treatments that might help me, and I came across lymphatic massage. Proponents make it sound like some sort of miracle cure, but I’m a bit skeptical. Does a lymphatic massage actually work?

Answer:

The answer to your question is “maybe.” Researchers at Penn State University reviewed the efficacy of lymphatic massage in the context of sports medicine and rehabilitation, and found the results inconclusive.[1] However, lymphatic massage is less frequently touted as a treatment for recovery from injuries. More typically, proponents of lymphatic massage claim the technique can help in the detoxification of your body.[2]

Medical practitioners understand that your lymphatic system is fundamental to an efficient immune system and the removal of toxins from your body. Congestion in your lymphatic system can result for a number of reasons, including anything from allergies, infection, and injuries to stress or a lack of exercise. However, there have been few clinical studies on whether manual drainage techniques, including lymphatic massage, actually improve the health and well being of the patient.[3]

A network of ducts and vessels make up your body’s lymphatic system, and move fluid through your organs and tissues. The bulk of this fluid is made up of white blood cells and antibodies, which help your body fight off infection. Your lymphatic system relies on the contractions of surrounding muscles to move this fluid through your body, which means fluid may collect if you are stressed out or inactive for a period of time.[4] All massage releases tension in your muscles, and lymphatic massage stimulates the muscles surrounding the ducts and vessels of your body’s lymphatic system to release clogs and get that fluid moving through your body.

According to the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, harmful toxins also build up in lymph fluid over time. Lymphatic massage can help drain that fluid to release those toxins from your body, alleviating a number of conditions, including fatigue, allergies, menstrual cramps, even water retention and cellulite.[5]

As to whether it will help you, renew your energy, or make you feel a little less run down, the only way to know for sure is to give it a try. It typically won’t make you feel any worse, and it might make you feel a little better.

References:

[1] Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy: “Systematic Review of Efficacy for Manual Lymphatic Drainage Techniques in Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation: An Evidence-Based Practice Approach” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2755111/

[2] Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals: “Lymph Drainage for Detoxification” http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/1200/Lymph-Drainage-for-Detoxification-

[3] Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy: “Systematic Review of Efficacy for Manual Lymphatic Drainage Techniques in Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation: An Evidence-Based Practice Approach” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2755111/

[4] Pacific College of Oriental Medicine: “Lymphatic Drainage and Facial Massage Can Help Sinus Infections and Allergies” https://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2014/10/12/lymphatic-drainage-and-facial-massage-can-help-sinus-infections-and-allergies

[5] Id.

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