Even if you are not a person that tries to manage chronic swelling day and day out, receiving a lymphatic massage is of great importance for the body, mind and soul.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage is very slow, rhythmic and light to the touch. The lymphatic system is just underneath the skin layer and right above the muscle tissue, which is the reason why the massage is so much lighter than your average Swedish or deep tissue massage, other wise the therapist would be cutting off the lymph vessels. One of the goals of the session is to place the body and mind in the deep relaxation/parasympathetic mode, for the healing to begin, which explains why the session is so slow and rhythmic. When the therapist presses down on to the lymph vessels, they are pumping the fluid 10 times faster than the normal contraction speed for the system, which then decreases any stuck fluid that is causing swelling along with detoxing the system. By pushing so much fluid through and out the body, the toxins are released by going to the bathroom and the immune system is increased getting rid of anything that the body doesn’t want or need.
It is important to find a therapist who is certified in Manual Lymphatic Drainage massage technique.
In the times that you don’t have the access to see a therapist, or in between sessions with your therapist, there are a few self-care activities that you can do in which helps keep the lymphatic system flowing and healthy. These will be described, however please note that in no way that these self-care tips should completely replace MLD sessions. More so, these tips will help keep the momentum going and act as teammate rather than a substitute.
Klose Training self – massage video: Klose Training is one out many schools for therapist to certify in. They have a great resource for self- massage, teaching the specific technique and sequence needed to decrease swelling properly mainly for lymphedema clients. However, these videos can help everyone, especially before and after surgery and especially if you have a cold, in order to boost your immune system.
Light Feather Technique: The sequence taught in the videos mentioned above is the ideal self-massage and should be done on a regular basis for great self care. However, for stubborn “stuck” swollen spots or if you only have 5 minutes for a self massage, then a light feather technique is recommended. As in the videos, you still should start with circular motions in the neck, arm pits and groin to clean out the stations. Then, inch by inch move down your limb using a feather light touch stroke your arm/leg moving up towards the nearest healthy (all lymph nodes are intact and able to digest the fluid) lymph node station. It’s as though you are lightly painting your limb. Each spot should have five feathers strokes before moving to the next.
Geranium Essential Oil: Geranium provides lymph circulation for the systems that are “stuck” and/or have chronic swelling. It is very important not to use 100% essential oil directly on the skin for sensitivity issues. It is best to cut the oil with a carrier, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or grapeseed oil. For every tablespoon of carrier, use 10 drops of essential oil. To apply, use that light feather approach which was explained above. Less is more; light touch with light layer of oil.
Castor Oil: A chiropractor and health coach, Dr. Axe describes the benefits of Castor oil very well, stating that “research studies have found that castor oil contains therapeutic components including fatty acids, flavonoids, phenolic compounds, amino acids, terpenoids and phytosterols. These various compounds give the oil the following properties and potential health benefits: anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, hepatoprotective (ability to prevent damage to the liver), free radical scavenging, and wound-healing”. This particular oil is very messy and thick. It is recommended to do a heat compress with oil to the abdomen to receive the benefits. Even though you may have swelling in arms and legs, having the castor oil specially on your abdomen will affect and decrease lymphatic fluid swelling, along with detoxing your entire body. For the abdomen method, take cheese cloth, place in a bowl and pour castor oil on top of cloth, making sure it is completely soaked with the oil. Wearing gloves, massage the cloth and oil to fully incorporate. Then, place cloth on your abdomen, placing plastic wrap on top of cloth to fully cover the abdomen. Next, place heating pad on medium setting on top of abdomen and keep for 20 minutes. While enjoying the benefits of this healing oil, it is also recommended to take deep belly breaths, this is actively pumping your lymphatic fluid.
Deep Breathing: Taking deep belly breaths, making sure your abdomen goes high towards the sky when breathing in and not moving your chest at all, not only places your body into the relaxing parasympathetic mode but it contracts your abdomen muscles which then actively pushes the lymphatic fluid to digest and decrease any swelling. Stress is a huge component for an increase in chronic swelling. Being mindful in taking deep breathes every day, adding it into your daily routine, will drastically help decrease the stubborn chronic swelling.
Dry Brushing: If you have a healthy lymphatic system, meaning all of your lymph nodes are intact, dry brushing can be used as a self-help tool to clean and boost the quality of your lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is just right below your skin layers, so that if your skin is polluted with toxins it does compromise how the lymph fluid is pumped and moves through out the body. By cleaning out your skin, you are cleaning your lymphatic system. Take a bristle long handle brush and go in the shower without water running. Starting with your feet brush your skin, using light to medium pressure, going towards your heart. Brush every inch of your body. Take a shower once you have brushed your entire body to wash off all the dead skin and toxins.
With everything suggested, please experiment and see if it works for you. After doing a self-care action and you find your self more swollen than when you started or bogged down and heavy feeling, then don’t do that specific care anymore and go exercise in order to pump the recent increased fluid. Once you find what works for you, being consistent is key with your self care health.