This winter, I was able to get a massage from a good friend who is a massage therapist at a resort in Alaska (it was my first visit to this exceptional land of pioneers!). It was a wonderful massage and very needed, but knowing what I do about the lymphatic system, I understood that such a deep tissue massage would not be good for everyone! Read on to learn about lymphatic massage dangers and why you should think twice about getting one.
What is the Lymphatic System?
The lymphatic system is a network of organs, tissues, and vessels that work together to transport lymphatic fluid, a clear, colorless fluid that contains white blood cells and other immune cells, throughout the body. The lymphatic system plays a crucial role in maintaining the body’s immune system and fighting off infections and other diseases.
The lymphatic system acts to remove cellular waste by transporting lymphatic fluid, which contains waste products and other debris, through the lymphatic vessels and into the lymph nodes. In the lymph nodes, immune cells called lymphocytes and macrophages work to identify and remove foreign substances, such as bacteria, viruses, and cellular waste products.
Once the waste products have been identified and removed, the lymphatic fluid is returned to the bloodstream, where it is eventually filtered by the kidneys and excreted from the body as urine.
The lymphatic system also plays a key role in removing excess fluid from the tissues, which can help to reduce swelling and promote healing. When the lymphatic system is not functioning properly, excess fluid can accumulate in the tissues, leading to a condition known as lymphedema.
Overall, the lymphatic system acts as a crucial “garbage collector” for the body, helping to remove cellular waste products and other debris and maintain overall health and well-being.
The Key Components of the Lymph System
The lymphatic system includes several key components, including:
Lymphatic vessels: These thin tubes carry lymphatic fluid throughout the body, much like blood vessels carry blood.
Lymph nodes: These small, bean-shaped structures are located throughout the body and act as filters for lymphatic fluid. They contain immune cells that help to identify and fight off infections and other foreign substances.
Spleen: This organ is located in the upper left side of the abdomen and helps to filter blood and remove damaged or old red blood cells.
Thymus: This gland is located in the chest and plays a key role in the development of the immune system, particularly in children.
Tonsils: These small masses of tissue are located in the back of the throat and help to filter out bacteria and other foreign substances. If you take out your tonsils (preferably you should never remove an organ but heal it with a lifestyle and alkaline diet), your body compensates by overburdening other organs and mechanisms.
What is a Lymphatic Massage and is it Beneficial to Health?
A lymphatic massage, also known as lymphatic drainage massage, is a specialized type of medical massage that can help treat lymphedema, reduce swelling, and improve circulation of body fluids to expedite the removal of waste and toxins from the body’s tissues.
It is often the treatment of choice because it helps the body remove proteins and waste products from the affected area and reduce the swelling, which helps reduce pressure on cells and allows them to reproduce faster to heal the body.
Lymphatic massage can also increase the speed of blood flow and make the femoral artery perform better immediately. It is a gentle form of massage that can relieve painful swelling in your arms and legs caused by lymphedema.
Lymphadema occurs because the lymph system becomes stagnant and the kidneys are not filtering properly (they could be overburdened or are weakened because of an acidic diet composed of too much salt and/or protein). Here, the solution would be to work on strengthening kidney function, while engaging in light exercise that promotes natural lymph flow. Unlike the blood that has the heart as a pump that keeps it circulating at all times, the lymph system has no equivalent and requires muscle movement to circulate properly.
A lymphatic massage is typically conducted by a trained therapist who uses gentle, rhythmic strokes and light pressure to stimulate the lymphatic system and promote the flow of lymphatic fluid throughout the body.
During the massage, the therapist will typically focus on specific areas of the body where lymphatic fluid tends to accumulate, such as the neck, armpits, groin, and limbs. The massage may also include techniques to stimulate the lymph nodes and promote the release of toxins and waste products from the body.
Here is a bit more about what you can expect during a lymphatic drainage massage:
When about to receive the massage, you should lie down on a comfortable surface, such as a massage table or yoga mat.
Then, the massage therapist will use natural oil and any additional essential oils on your skin by applying gentle pressure to the neck and collarbone area, which is where the lymphatic system starts. This helps loosen the lymphatic vessels and encourage lymph flow.
The therapist will then use light, rhythmic strokes to massage the skin in the direction of lymph flow, which is towards the lymph nodes. This helps to move lymphatic fluid (bodily waste) through the vessels and towards the lymph nodes, where it can be filtered and purified.
The massage may also include some deep breathing exercises and stretching movements to help stimulate the lymphatic system and improve lymph flow.
Overall, the massage therapist will work on different parts of the body, depending on the person’s specific needs. For example, if the person has swollen ankles, the therapist may focus on the legs and feet. Swelling is a good sign that there is lymph stagnation in that area of the body, and should be focused on gently.
The lymph massage should last from 30 minutes to 90 minutes, depending on the client’s needs and the therapist’s recommendations. It should be gentle and relaxing, and the therapist should avoid using too much pressure or causing any discomfort.
After the massage, you may feel relaxed and rejuvenated, with improved circulation and reduced visible swelling in the affected areas.
Lymphatic Massage Benefits
After a lymphatic massage, individuals may experience a range of effects, including:
- Increased relaxation: The gentle, rhythmic strokes of a lymphatic massage can help to reduce stress and promote a sense of relaxation and calm.
- Improved circulation: Lymphatic massage can help to stimulate circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid throughout the body, which can help to reduce swelling and promote healing.
- Reduced swelling: Lymphatic massage can help to reduce swelling in the affected areas, such as the arms or legs, by promoting the flow of lymphatic fluid and reducing pressure on the tissues.
- Improved immune function: Lymphatic massage can help to stimulate the immune system and promote the release of toxins and waste products from the body.
- Enhanced well-being: Many people report feeling a sense of well-being and improved energy levels after a lymphatic massage
It is important to note that some people may experience mild discomfort or soreness after a lymphatic massage, especially if the massage was focused on a specific area of the body. Drinking plenty of water and avoiding strenuous activity for a few hours after the massage can help to minimize any discomfort and promote healing.
If you feel a bit sick after the lymphatic drainage massage, know that it is temporary as your body is adjusting to the influx of acidic waste in the lymphatic system. Make sure to rest and consume plenty of hydrating foods and liquids like cold-pressed juices, lemon water, coconut water, and fruits.
What Are the Major Lymphatic Massage Dangers?
Lymphatic massage is generally considered safe, but there are some situations where it may be potentially dangerous, especially if you suffer from kidney-related health problems.
If you suffer from chronic pain, inflammation, or autoimmune conditions, lymphatic massage can exacerbate the problems by intensifying the flow of acidic waste throughout the body without strengthening the function of the elimination organs (the kidneys, skin, gut, and lungs) that enable this waste to be purged by the body effectively.
If you have kidney issues, it is important to consult with your wellness practitioner before undergoing lymphatic massage. Lymphatic massage increases the flow of fluids in the body, including lymph fluids that are composed of cellular waste, chemicals, and toxins that are processed by the kidneys.
If your kidneys are not functioning properly, this increased fluid flow could potentially put additional strain on your kidneys and re-circulating the waste that has not been purged back to the body, exacerbating your condition.
In addition, lymphatic massage can potentially cause dehydration, which can be especially dangerous for people with kidney issues. If you have kidney issues, it is important to stay well-hydrated before and after the massage to help minimize the risk of dehydration.
Aside from kidney issues, there are other potential lymphatic massage dangers you should know about, especially if you are suffering from the following health problems:
Active infections: If you have an active infection, such as a skin infection or cellulitis, lymphatic massage could potentially spread the infection to other parts of the body.
Allergic reaction: Some individuals may have an allergic reaction to the massage oil, essential oil, or lotion used during the massage. Make sure to research which types of products are safe for you and communicate that information to your massage therapist.
Blood clots: If you have a history of blood clots or are currently taking blood thinners, lymphatic massage could potentially dislodge a blood clot and cause serious complications.
Cancer: If you have cancer or have had cancer in the past, it is important to consult with your doctor before undergoing lymphatic massage. In some cases, massage can cause cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body.
Heart problems: If you have a history of heart problems or high blood pressure, lymphatic massage could potentially put too much strain on your heart and exacerbate your condition.
Pregnancy: If you are pregnant, it is important to consult with your doctor before undergoing lymphatic massage. In some cases, massage can cause contractions and other complications.
It is important to talk to your doctor before undergoing lymphatic massage if you have any underlying health conditions or concerns. Additionally, it is important to seek out a qualified and experienced massage therapist who is trained in lymphatic massage techniques to minimize the risk of complications.
Who Should Stay Away from a Lymphatic Massage?
Overall, if you are currently suffering from any disease or are in the process of healing from a medical condition, you should consult with your healthcare practitioner before undergoing a lymphatic massage. In many cases, the massage could potentially interfere with the healing process or exacerbate the condition.
Instead of a lymphatic massage, your priority should be strengthening your elimination organs through alkaline diet, light exercise, herbal medicine, and a positive mindset. As you heal cells and elimination mechanisms, acids that need to be eliminated by the body can do so more easily, helping the body rebalance and become stronger.
Once you are fully healthy, a gentle lymphatic massage would be a wellness complement to your healthy lifestyle!
What Are Some Safer Alternatives to Lymphatic Massage?
There are several alternatives to lymphatic massage that can help improve circulation, reduce swelling, and promote healing. Some of these include:
Compression garments, such as compression stockings or sleeves, can help to improve circulation and reduce swelling in the affected areas. These garments work by applying gentle pressure to the affected area, which helps to promote the flow of lymphatic fluid and reduce pressure on the tissues.
Exercise can help to improve circulation and promote the flow of lymphatic fluid throughout the body. Low-impact exercises, such as walking, swimming, or yoga, can be particularly helpful for people with lymphedema or other conditions that affect the lymphatic system.
Some people with lymphedema or other conditions that affect the lymphatic system may benefit from performing manual lymphatic drainage self-massage techniques at home.
These techniques involve gentle, rhythmic strokes and light pressure to stimulate the lymphatic system and promote the flow of lymphatic fluid throughout the body.
Acupuncture can help to improve circulation and reduce swelling in the affected areas. This alternative therapy involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body to stimulate the flow of energy and promote healing.
Many herbs, such as ginger, turmeric, and garlic, have anti-inflammatory properties and can help to reduce swelling and promote healing. However, if you are taking medications, talking to your healthcare professional before going on an herbal regimen is vital, as the herbs and the medication can interfere and cause major side effects.
There are many foods that are excellent for circulating the lymphatic system, including leafy greens like kale, spinach, wheatgrass, turnip greens, dandelion leaves, broccoli, and mustard greens. Additionally, foods high in chlorophyll, which has powerful cleansing properties, can also be beneficial for the lymphatic system.
However, I find that some of the most powerful lymphatic cleansers are fruits, particularly watery fruits that alkalize the body by hydrating tissues and expelling toxins.
What to Keep In Mind When Getting a Lymphatic Massage
Overall, lymphatic massage can be a safe and effective way to improve circulation, reduce swelling, and promote healing. By taking the time to find a qualified therapist and communicate your needs, you can help to ensure a safe and effective experience.
Before getting a lymphatic massage, it is important to talk to your wellness practitioner to ensure that it is safe and appropriate for your specific condition.
Next, seek out a qualified therapist who is trained and experienced in lymphatic massage techniques. They should be able to provide you with information about their qualifications and experience.
Be sure to communicate your needs and concerns with the therapist before and during the massage. This can help to ensure that the massage is tailored to your specific needs and preferences.
Next, prepare for the massage by drinking plenty of water before and after the massage to help prevent dehydration. Wear loose, comfortable clothing and avoid eating a heavy meal before the massage.
Finally, be aware of potential side effects. While lymphatic massage is generally considered safe, some people may experience mild soreness or discomfort after the massage. Be sure to talk to your chosen therapist about any concerns or side effects you may experience.
Lymphatic massage dangers are real and should be taken into account before exploring the possibility of having the treatment. Oftentimes, the side-effects are worse than the desired health benefits, therefore, listen to your body and make sure to use your intuitive guidance to understand if it would be too harsh on your body given your state of health.
If you are experiencing any health issues related to acidosis and chronic inflammation or if you suffer from heart disease, blood clots, cancer, or are pregnant, do reconsider and opt in for gentler ways to move your lymphatic system, such as using lymphatic herbs, exercising gently, and self-massaging.
And if you’d like to learn more about how to improve your lymphatic system with herbs and diet, check out my in-depth guides: