You’ve probably seen footage of a lymphatic drainage massage on Instagram, usually accompanied by peaceful music and before-and-after-style praise. Though practitioners developed the idea of lymphatic massage in the 1930s, the technique has soared in popularity in recent years.
So, how does a lymphatic massage compare to a regular one? According to Laura Conroy, THE WELL Director of Education, both can be used therapeutically — but a lymphatic massage can also play a role in improving inner well-being.
What the Lymphatic System Does
“Your lymphatic system plays an important role in your health — it is essential to your immunity, for example,” says Conroy, who explains that "the lymphatic system is made up of the vessels responsible for carrying important immune cells around the body, picking up debris (like fats and waste), balancing fluids and absorbing essential nutrients.”
Blockages, swelling or cancers of the lymphatic system can all hinder this circulation. Unlike the cardiovascular system, your lymphatic system does not have a built-in pump — which is why the lymphatic system needs manual “draining” in order to keep the system humming optimally. When it slows, immune health is compromised.
One way to keep things moving: Lymphatic massage, which can encourage the circulation of lymphatic fluid through your body via pressure and motion. This modality stimulates your lymph nodes to promote efficient circulation.
How a Lymphatic Massage Works
This isn’t your typical massage, so don’t expect it to be deep tissue. “The massage itself is light touch,” says Conroy. “It focuses mainly on the superficial lymphatic system. The therapist works to encourage lymphatic fluid movement through different massage strokes and the creation of ‘pumps.’"
Bonus: According to Conroy, the sweeping, pressing motions and relaxation of this technique prompt the body’s parasympathetic response.
You can also level up a lymphatic massage. How so? “THE WELL lymphatic massage incorporates dry brushing and body oils into the treatments,” says Conroy. “Dry brushing is great for promoting circulation, skin exfoliation and improves product absorption. We also leverage Maderoterapia, a technique that uses wooden tools to help promote lymphatic circulation."
And lymph massage isn't just for the body — THE WELL offers Biologique Recherche facials, which focus on lymphatic drainage, notes Conroy.
Experience it for yourself at THE WELL by booking an appointment — and pick up a body oil for a moisturizing, nourishing massage at home.
Can You Do a Lymphatic Drainage Massage at Home?
Yes — but it might not look how you’d expect.
“One great way to experience lymphatic drainage: rebounding (aka jumping on a trampoline),” says Conroy. “It creates a great pump for your lymphatic system.”
If you’re looking for a lower energy lymphatic treatment, try dry brushing along with a self-massage technique.
RELATED: Start an At-Home Dry Brushing Routine
Another option: Grab a gua sha or jade roller and use these tools for a facial lymphatic massage.