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How to Perform Lymphatic Drainage Massage

What is lymphatic drainage?

Your lymphatic system helps eliminate your body’s waste. A healthy, active lymphatic system uses the natural movements of smooth muscle tissue to do this.

However, surgery, medical conditions, or other damage can cause fluids to build up in your lymph system and your lymph nodes, a condition known as lymphedema.

If you’ve ever had a surgery on or involving your lymph nodes, your doctor may have suggested lymphatic drainage massage.


Procedures that affect or remove your lymph nodes can cause lymphedema as a side effect.

Lymphedema will only occur in the area of your body near a surgical site. For example, if you have lymph nodes removed as a part of cancer surgery to your left breast, only your left arm, not your right, might be affected with lymphedema.

Lymphedema can also occur as a result of an injury or medical conditions such as congestive heart failure or blood clots in the body. There are other causes of lymphedema.

Lymphatic massage is a gentle pressure technique used to move the waste fluids away from the damaged area.

Raakhee Patel, PT, DPT, CLT, is a physical therapist and certified lymphedema specialist who trains patients to perform their own lymphatic massage after surgery. Lymphatic massage is one technique used to reduce lymphedema.

“We don’t talk enough about lymphedema,” says Patel. Not only is fluid buildup uncomfortable, causing pain and heaviness in the affected area, but according to Patel, “

Stage 3 lymphedema can be devastating,” causing significant depression and lack of mobility that could further complicate healing.

When performing a lymphatic massage, it’s important that the massage include more than just the affected area to be effective. The entire lymphatic system of the body, except the head, right side of the chest, and right arm, drains near the left shoulder, so a massage should include all areas to drain properly.

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