What is Lymphatic Drainage massage?

Lymphatic Drainage is therapeutic massage that uses what can be described as “milking” or syphoning techniques applied gently and rhythmically. These techniques help to increase lymph flow in the body’s tissues, helping it find new pathways that drain lymph away from swollen areas. The massage follows a specific protocol to ensure lymph isn’t trapped anywhere. There are many approaches to this type of massage depending on where you receive it and what the intention for it is. Sovereign Body Massage generally uses techniques from the Vodder Method. In order to effect the lymphatic system, the gentle techniques are applied to only the top layer of skin and no oil is typically used.

***For Primary/Secondary Lymphedema, Lymphatic drainage should only be one component of Complete Decongestive Therapy, which also includes compression bandaging, corrective exercises, and skin care education.

How does lymphatic  drainage massage work?

The lymphatic system is part of the circulatory system and acts as a waste disposal. It rids the body’s tissues of toxins such as bacteria, cell debris, excess water and wastes, and then returns them to the bloodstream to ultimately be removed by the kidneys. Lymphatic drainage also stimulates the formation of white blood cells which are very important for the immune system.

The lymphatic fluids are naturally moved by breathing and muscle contraction. Lymphatic drainage massage can help these fluids move 10-15 times faster which can speed the recovery time of illness, tissue injury, and chronic condition flare-ups.

Lymphatic drainage massage benefits

Lymphatic drainage massage is helpful for many specific conditions, however it can also be used for general health and wellness. 

For general wellness, Lymphatic massage can be useful for:

  • Cleansing the body for changes of season
  • Cleansing the body after a particularly stressful time period
  • Decreasing aches and pains after exercise

The most recognized benefits of Lymphatic Drainage include:

  • Swelling reduction
  • Detoxification
  • Improved immunity
  • Pain reduction
  • Deep relaxation

Conditions helped by Lymphatic Drainage can include:
lymphatic drainage massage

  • Injury induced swelling/inflammation
  • Post surgical swelling/inflammation
  • Prepare/cleanse body for surgery
  • Headaches
  • Lymphedema, in conjunction with Complete Decongestive Therapy
  • Chronic Venous Insufficiency
  • Scars, bruising, burns
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Allergies/Sinusitis
  • Sluggish immune system
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Lyme Disease
  • Mold toxicity
  • Medication detoxification

Lymphatic Drainage Massage SHOULD NOT be performed when the following conditions are present (CONTRAINDICATIONS):

  • Fever
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Untreated Congestive Heart Failure
  • Malignant cancers or undiagnosed lumps/tumors

What happens after lymphatic drainage? (side effects)

Side effects can include fatigue, increased energy, increased urination and/or bowel movement, nausea, or brief dizziness when first getting off of the table.

How often should you get a lymphatic drainage massage?

As with any massage treatment plan, the frequency of appointments truly depends on what your goal and physical condition is. Goals can include decreased swelling and pain and/or improved immunity and well-being. In these cases, the frequency of lymphatic massage recommended can range from bi-weekly, once a week, bi-monthly and farther apart once treatment has reached the maintenance phase.

For individuals who are active on a daily basis, it can be helpful to receive 2-4 lymphatic drainage massages 4 times a year as a preventative measure for strong immunity.

Lymphatic drainage self massage


The following resources demonstrate a few ways you can use lymphatic drainage massage for self care.

This video will show you how to drain congestion from your head and sinus:

1. Lymphatic Drainage massage for sinus

2.  Lymphatic Drainage for lower body

This video has exercise demonstrations you can do at home and it also offers some education about lymphatic drainage in general. We recommend you watch the entire video before trying the exercises as they explain what you should do BEFORE the exercises toward the end