Lymphatic Drainage at Home- The complete guide (2021)

A specialized biohacking massage to stave off body swelling

The lymphatic drainage at home catches traction as people spend more time in their homes or if they just don’t want to spend time and money visiting professionals. Chances are high you’re also looking for DIY lymphatic massages to flatten off those annoying puffiness under your arms, belly, and neck.

But why does this puffiness show up?

Usually, your lymphatic system manages fluid and eliminates waste in the body. It’s very crucial to keep your blood, immune, and digestive system in check.

The system relies on natural muscle movements and actions for smooth, fluid transportation. But certain health conditions and surgeries accumulate lymph fluid in the lymph nodes, causing Lymphedema.

Unfortunately, many people misinterpret Lymphedema with fat built-up and enroll in biohacking weight loss or biohacking belly fat programs when there’s enough science to prove workouts don’t de-puff bloated regions.

So before you decide on any DIY treatment, you must diagnose fluid built-up properly. Please check out these signs to find if you have Lymphedema:

these signs to find if you have lymphedema
  • Swelling in your limbs (arm or leg)
  • A feeling of tightness
  • Restricted motion
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Recurring infections
  • Hardening and thickening of the skin

What is lymphatic drainage?

what is lymphatic drainage

Your body has two central circulatory systems: the blood system and the lymphatic system. Think of them as a bunch of cables and pipes transporting fluid, cells, nutrients, and waste in the body. While the blood system carries blood, the lymphatic system moves clear fluid (lymph) in arteries to clean them.

But lymph fluids are not the fastest of the runners. They behave sluggishly sometimes in the lymphatic system.

While the heart in the blood system pushes the fluid to the encoded destination, the lymphatic system doesn’t have any pumping provision. So when lymph fluid piles up on cells and tissues, the body swells.

The built-up is a gradual process that doesn’t appear instantly but can be avoided with lymphatic drainage massage.

Manual lymphatic massage ensures the lymph fluid drains to the respective drainage. It’s a manual massage technique for removing stagnant liquid in the cells. Much like any massage, this involves the physical pressing of the body for smooth, fluid movement.

11 Benefits of lymphatic drainage at home

11 benefits of lymphatic drainage at home

Usually, when people hear about manual lymphatic massage, they think it’s only for enhancing lymphatic operations. But lymphatic massage is not a unidimensional act (1).

The therapy also helps with healthy blood, immune, and digestive systems. Yes, the lymphatic system is the biggest winner, but lymphatic massages also:

  1. improves blood circulation
  2. helps tissue regeneration
  3. quickens lymphatic flow
  4. promotes the removal of surplus interstitial fluid
  5. controls swelling
  6. retains water
  7. eliminates toxins
  8. boosts immune system
  9. relaxes the body and mental shape
  10. lightens the body
  11. energizes the system

How to Prepare for the Lymphatic Drainage at Home Or Office

how to prepare for the lymphatic drainage at home or office

Both professional drainage massage and at-home drainage massage are effective (2).

If you have decided to take up the professional route:

  • make sure you choose experts who know the knack of it as experienced hands get you the best results.
  • oil up your skin if it bruises easily.
  • avoid muscle relaxers, blood-thinning, and pain medications a week before the massage as they’re contraindicated drugs for lymphatic massage.

If you’re going for DIY lymphatic massages:

  • get oil or lotion for slippery skin, dry brush, and a lymphatic drainage tool.
  • warm-up your room (lymph moves best in the warmer temperature).
  • warm-up your body (for the same reason).

Here’s how you perform two-step lymphatic massage:

Lymphatic Drainage at Home Step 1: Dry Brushing

lymphatic drainage at home step 1 dry brushing
  • You need to start your way up from your feet.
  • Start with your ankle and brush up your legs in an upward motion.
  • Give a circular motion 3-5 times for any particular region.
  • Keep going up and up until you’ve covered the lower limbs.
  • Repeat the process in your groin, hamstring, and buttock muscles.
  • Once you’re done with both the legs, think of the upper limbs.
  • Put your hands up at 60 degrees, palms down— brush a deep downstroke towards the heart.
  • Brush down your neck, collar bone, armpit, and abdomen regions, for they also home lymph nodes.

Generally, the lymphatic drainage massages need to go soft and gentle with medium pressure if someone does it to you for a long time.

But DIY rhythmic massage strokes should go a little deeper as you may finish it in 10 mins. So go a little harder, but not hard enough to hurt your skin. A moderate push is good for activating the lymphatic system and draining fluid in the body.

Lymphatic Drainage at Home Step 2: Drainage paddling

lymphatic drainage at home step 2 drainage paddling
  • Now grab your drainage paddle and start re-working from your feet.
  • Maintain the same direction and motion.
  • The soft pumping should move the fluid in the direction of lymph nodes.
  • Though it takes more time than brushing, it almost doesn’t hurt as much as the brush
  • Repeat everywhere you brushed for 5-7 rotations.

What to Expect During the Lymphatic Drainage at Home Massage

what to expect during the lymphatic drainage at home massage

As with any massage treatment, lymphatic massages work best when you give yourself enough relaxation time and don’t rush off.

Since we’re having a DIY massage, you may not feel relaxed, but you can avoid rushing off and go slow about it in a heated room. The massage will get more effective if your body is nicely warmed-up.

For this, you can use lymphatic drainage at home paddle after a hot-shower. Ensure dry brushing your limbs, neck, and abdomen before hopping into the shower. Brushing yourself before the shower stimulates the lymphatic system. By the time you’re out, the drainage paddle sees home the rest of the fluid.

Once you’re done, expect a pinkish tint on your body. It denotes enhanced blood flow. Soreness may also show-up in a day or two. The process may leave you exhausted and thirsty, part of the reason why you want to give yourself some time to ease back and stay hydrated.

Daily Methods to Stimulate Your Lymph

One of the best thingslymphedema to stimulate your lymph is to add simple movements to your body. Even gentle activities shall help lymph flow. The muscle actions exert pressure on lymph pipes. Perform one of these daily to trigger your lymphatic system:

Lymphatic Drainage at Home Dry Brushing

lymphatic drainage at home dry brushing

Scrub your skin with a dry bristle brush. Make circular movements on the skin while you gently move the brush towards the heart. Note you’re pressing the fluid for better flow. You might have to apply the pressure that deems fit. Follow the scrubbing routine on your hands, neck, chest, and abdomen.

Lymphatic Drainage at Home Contrast Showers and Baths

Playing around with shower temperature gives an honest shake to the body. When you’re in a final couple of minutes of shower, turn it warmer than usual. And for the last 30 seconds, go about the lukewarm temp. The sudden drop in warmness will quickly shrink the lymphatic vessels, which, in turn, squash and force fluid movement.

Lymphatic Drainage at Home Salt of Coffee Scrubs

lymphatic drainage at home salt of coffee scrubs

Massage salt or coffee scrubs on your skin and allow it to permeate. Make the circular motion again, moving towards the heart. Continue it until you have covered all the major lymph nodes.

 

Lymphatic Drainage at Home Using Lymph massage tools

Combine dry brushing with lymph drainage paddle and work out from ankle to groin. As you move towards your heart, make sure your motions are not hurried but slowly stimulating.

Lymphatic Drainage at Home 100 Morning Jumps

When you wake up do hundred movements imitating jumps, but keeping your toes on the floor and just touching the floor with your heels. Do it fast concentrating on breathing.

Lymphedema

lymphedema

When your arms or legs are swollen it can be Lymphedema. While it can catch up both the limbs, the swelling can also show up near the neck, face, or belly.

You must be wondering who’s most affected by Lymphedema. Don’t you?

Generally, anyone with surgical treatment of cancer can develop this condition. These treatments often require the removal of lymph nodes. Many times treatments damage the nodes. This eventually results in a lymphatic system malfunction.

The blockage in the lymphatic system introduces sluggishness in the lymph flow. Then the slow fluid movement causes swelling.

Since the fluid stacks up in the damaged lymph nodes, it’s really crucial you keep the infection at bay.

Let’s say you damaged the lymph nodes in your left armpit. Any cut or wound near the armpit will call for more lymph in the wounded region (as lymph has immune cells to fight infections).

Though you may have enough fluid to fend off the infection, you may not have any outgoing lymph. It will bloat up your left armpit even more. So you need more care to not get injured.

Lymphedema doesn’t have any cure, but diligent treatment can help you with the condition. Clearing and reabsorption are the two-step massage process for treating it.

 

Clearing and reabsorption

a guide to reabsorption

Clearing uses a flushing effect to create a vacuum in the area. This prepares the area for a sudden rush of fluid. We generally clear three regions:

  • lymph area under the collar bones
  • lymph area under the arms
  • inside of the elbows

A Guide to Clearing – Lymphatic Drainage at Home





Clearing involves gently pressing all three areas. Please maintain this order.

To clear lymph area under the collar bones

  • lay flat and comfortable.
  • cross your arms on your chest.
  • ensure your hands lie just below the collarbones.
  • lift your elbows slowly without losing the cross.
  • repeat it ten times.

The muscle movement is just enough for creating a vacuum in the lymph system.

To clear lymph area under the arms

  • put one of your hands on the head.
  • scoop your underarm with other hands.
  • repeat it on the other hand.

Press as much to move the skin and apply a scooping force from top to bottom.

To clear the inside of the elbow

  • straighten your forearms parallel to the ground and at your side.
  • use other hands to pull the skin inside the elbow.

Again, keep it gentle and soft.

How to perform lymphatic massage on the legs

how to perform lymphatic massage on the legs

As with the upper body, the goal of clearing/lymphatic massages on the legs is to drain extra fluids and toxins to the groin’s lymph nodes.

Here’s how you can champion lymphatic drainage at home on the legs:

  • Begin with lymphatic massaging your upper body. It’s always better to drain the fluid of the upper body before the legs.
  • Put pressure gentle enough not to feel the muscles below your skin.
  • Start massage from the farthest point of swelling. For example, if Lymphedema lingers around the ankle, begin massaging the top part of the leg.
  • Apply gentle pressure and stretch the inside skin of your leg toward your hip.
  • Carry on the down motion till you reach the knees.
  • Now stretch the skin up towards the armpit. Use alternating hands for more stimulation.
  • Repeat this over and over again 15 times.

So that’s it for the clearing step for the upper and the lower body

A guide to reabsorption

Reabsorption is the second part of lymphatic massage.

clearing and reabsorption

To reabsorb in the upper body

  • Start from the farthest point of swelling. For example, begin from fingers if Lymphedema affects your upper arm.
  • Put a soft, sweeping pressure just enough to glide up the skin’s surface.
  • Go about this route: fingertips to hand–> hand to elbow –> elbow to shoulder.

To reabsorb in legs

  • put both hands at the back of the knees.
  • press them with the upward motion.
  • repeat 10-15 times.

Measuring Effectiveness

measuring effectiveness

How do you know if lymphatic drainage at home massages work on you? Simple! If your Lymphedema doesn’t grow or go worse from here, the massage is just working fine. It’s more like keeping your swelling from getting bigger.

Side Effects

Since lymphatic massage advocates what your body should ideally do— there’s very little to no risk with DIY lymphatic drainage.

As much as benefits, its side effects depend on how you do it (3). Please remember an essential thing with this type of massage: everything depends on how you scramble the tools on your body. It’s almost biblical instructions now:

  • always move your lymph towards the heart, and
  • downwards from belly to groin

However, you’d want to avoid massage risk if you’re pregnant or have any of these:

  • infection
  • congestive heart failure
  • blood clotting history
  • stroke issues
  • kidney & liver problems

The at-home tools you need

Fortunately, lymphatic massages don’t need fancy tools. It’s a 30$ to 40$ one-time investment for a healthy immune and circulatory system.

  • soft-bristle skin brush
  • lymphatic massage paddle (an incredibly effective for lymphatic drainage at home tool)
  • body scrub

Lymphatic Drainage at Home vs. by Professional

lymphatic drainage at home vs. by professional

Lymphatic massages by a therapist are always more fun than doing them yourself at home. As with any massage: the better you relax, the better the benefits. Since these massages are varying combinations of deeper strokes and gentle pressures, experts know when and where to mix up.

Sure, at-home massages are easy, accessible, and super-cheap. Something uncommon with therapists, especially during the pandemic flare-up. But they have less of a contoured effect. We call it 1:3 massages where experts’ one drainage setting is equal to three DIY lymphatic massages a week.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you do lymphatic drainage on yourself?

Self-lymphatic drainage is so simple you can do it at least three times a week. It’s a vital self-care biohack to get your lymphatic system on a roll when you have Lymphedema, and the therapist is not around.

Is lymphatic drainage a real thing?

Akin to other massages, the effect of lymphatic drainage is real. Though some experts have made efforts to link it with pseudoscience, most medical research calls it a useful tool to remove waste and toxins from the body.

How often should you have a lymphatic drainage massage?

You can go about lymphatic massages in two ways. Either you get it done by someone or have a self-service. As massages need a mix of deeper strokes with gentle pumping; it’s lucrative to hire a therapist than to have it pulled yourself. Once with the therapist is the same as three self-drainage sessions a week.

Can you lose weight with lymphatic drainage?

can you lose weight with lymphatic drainage

While there’s no direct link between lymphatic massages and weight loss, the drainage ensures healthy cardiovascular proceedings with an enhanced immune system for your body. A healthy heart and a strong line of defense reverse weight gain.

However, we strongly believe that lymphatic drainage at home will really help you in biohacking weight loss

How long does lymphatic drainage take to work?

Under the best relaxing condition, the lymphatic drainage at home massage onsets immediately with lightness and a calming effect. But the fluid drainage may take 24-48 hours. Thus it’s always advised to stay hydrated for at least two days post-massage to max out its effectiveness.

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Sources

1 https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-benefits-of-lymphatic-massage-89857

2 https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324518

3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5300821/

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