Everything You Need To Know About Lymphatic Drainage
Everything You Need To Know About Lymphatic Drainage

Everything You Need To Know About Lymphatic Drainage

An A-list secret for tackling everything from hormonal imbalances and bloating to inflammation and IBS, lymphatic drainage is finally hitting the mainstream. Seeing as it promises lighter-feeling limbs and a more streamlined silhouette, we decided to consult the experts to find out more.
By Georgia Day

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More Than Just A Massage

Lymphatic drainage is a treatment that stimulates the lymphatic system and encourages the natural drainage of lymph, a clear substance made up of proteins, fats, salts and infection-fighting white blood cells called lymphocytes. A bit like a one-way drainage system, the lymphatic system filters lymphatic fluid through the lymph nodes, which are located all over the body, before draining it back towards the heart and into the bloodstream. During this process, metabolic waste products are removed, and more lymphocytes are added to it, to help fortify the body against infection. “It encourages the [lymph vessels] to work harder and find new pathways to drain away the lymph,” adds Dimple Amani, an Ayurvedic massage and body sculpting expert, who treats patients on Harrods’s 5th floor.

It’s A Suits-All Solution

As the body’s first line of defence against infection, the lymphatic system plays a central role in keeping the immune system healthy. Although the body has a good process in place to naturally drain lymph, these channels can easily become blocked. “Blockages are commonly caused by stress, poor diet, alcohol, medication and surgery,” says Dimple. “This causes water retention to develop which leads to puffy face and eyes, dull skin, bloating, cellulite and low immunity.”

As well as helping to reduce swelling and fluid retention, lymphatic drainage is a fantastic option for anyone experiencing hormonal issues, whether postnatal or pre-menopausal, as proper flow of lymph enables hormones to be transported freely between cells. If you suffer from recurring digestive issues, you might also benefit. In particular, the firm, rhythmic strokes concentrated around the belly trigger the parasympathetic nervous system to promote relaxation and normal bowel movements.

Choose Your Technique

Strictly speaking, there are two types of lymphatic drainage: manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) and simple lymphatic drainage (SLD). MLD is used by professional qualified therapists, while SLD is, as the name suggests, a simpler technique that can be done at home. There are lots of different variations practised by therapists. “The most commonly used methods are the Vodder technique, the Leduc technique, the Godoy technique and the Brazilian technique,” explains Flavia Morellato, a manual lymphatic drainage and post-op expert. Her own approach is based on Brazilian lymphatic drainage methods, making for a deeply relaxing yet invigorating treatment. “They all involve rhythmic and constant hand movements, and each method may be more suited to specific conditions or patient needs.”

Here Comes The Science…

Unlike regular massages which encourage blood flow, lymphatic drainage is specifically designed to guide healthy lymph flow back into the blood circulation. According to Flavia, it means that every movement is deliberate and considered, “To target specific lymph nodes, it follows the anatomy and direction of the lymphatic system,” she explains. Dimple agrees: “It’s completely different to other massages which are mostly focused on the muscles and pressure points. Lymphatic drainage massage, if performed correctly, is 20 times more effective than a deep tissue massage as we are cleansing and relaxing the muscles internally whilst releasing tension and toxins, so clients feel rejuvenated lighter and less tense.” For an added boost, Dimple uses Ayurvedic hot oils to ease joint pain.

Take A Personal Approach

Because it can be such a useful treatment for so many different issues, how frequently you have lymphatic drainage is an individual choice. “For some acute conditions, it may be beneficial to have daily sessions,” notes Flavia, who practises out of Harvey Nichols but is also available for home visits. “For chronic conditions or general health maintenance, weekly sessions may be recommended.” However regularly you have it, it’s crucial to avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water post treatment, as it will help flush out any toxins that have been released by the massage. As with anything that blurs the lines between holistic and medical, there are certain people who should avoid it. “That includes anyone with acute inflammation, malignant tumours, thrombosis or significant heart and kidney problems. Those with congestive heart failure should also be cautious, as the rapid increase in fluid circulation could strain the heart.” 

At-Home Add-Ons

A professional massage will always yield the best results, but there are ways you can keep your lymphatic system in good shape at home. Unsurprisingly, body brushing tops the list as one of the easiest and most affordable ways to improve drainage, which it does by stimulating the lymph nodes and helping lymph to flow more freely. Aim to body brush in the morning before your shower so you can rinse away any dead skin afterwards and emerge with smoother, softer skin. Using a firm, natural-bristle brush, start at the ankles and apply firm pressure as you move the brush up your legs. It should feel like something but should never hurt. Continue moving up your body, working with upward strokes towards the heart, spending 2-3 minutes on your whole body. To mimic something of what you can expect in a salon treatment, arm yourself with a body tool that promotes drainage, like Sarah Chapman’s Bodylift tool, which has 12 rolling heads and 72 massaging nodules. Use with a body oil like Sol de Janeiro Bum Bum Body Firmeza Oil to stimulate circulation and reduce puffiness. Work over areas like the thighs, buttocks and calves in upward strokes towards the heart. For something more contoured, Dimple’s Lymph Body Tool is designed to get into all the inner corners of the body to promote more targeted drainage.

For more information, visit Dimple-Amani.com & FlaviaMorellato.co.uk

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