How manual lymphatic drainage massage is performed

This massage technique encourages healthy bodily function

Sometimes, your body needs an extra push. Maybe you’re a little sore, or you don’t feel particularly flexible. Lymphatic drainage might be the quick solution you’re looking for – and it’s easy to perform manually.

A healthy lymphatic system can encourage the body to function smoothly, but lymph nodes can become easily clogged – that’s why lymphatic drainage is so popular for a wide variety of patients.

Read below to learn how this drainage technique is performed, why it can help, and why seeking help from a professional may benefit you.

What is lymphatic drainage?

There are hundreds of lymph nodes throughout your body. Their job is to filter out unwanted substances from your body, which are carried out through something called lymphatic fluid.

However, your body sometimes has trouble transporting this fluid – especially when these nodes are blocked or swollen.

Lymphatic drainage is a massage technique that frees up these nodes, allowing your body to eliminate waste more easily.

This massage is gentle and simple, using repetitive stretches and moments of pressure to encourage flow throughout your body’s connective tissues.’

Benefits of lymphatic drainage

This process can bring its benefits to almost anyone! It can encourage your body to remove unhealthy waste, help your immune system fight disease and infection, and limit swelling to bring you more comfort all over your body.

Most commonly, this massage is used for people with a condition called lymphedema. This condition often involves swelling in the legs or arms (or elsewhere), and is caused by a buildup of lymph fluid in the soft tissues. This condition may arise following injury, infection, surgery, or treatment for other conditions – or it may arise on its own.

Is there anyone who shouldn’t try lymphatic drainage?

Though most patients can benefit from this massage, some may want to stay away. Specifically, patients with a history of blood clots or stroke, congestive heart failure, liver problems, or kidney problems should seek approval from a medical professional before participating.

READ MORE: 7 Reasons Why Your Muscles Might Be In Pain

How lymphatic drainage is performed

Generally, this massage includes two ‘stages’ – the clearing stage and the reabsorption stage.

Here’s how these stages work.

The clearing stage for arms

This step involves performing motions to ‘flush out’ fluid. There are three steps to complete the clearing stage, and each one is noticeably gentle.

The first step is to clear the supraclavicular area, which is located under the collarbone. Lay down and cross your arms above your chest, resting your hands below the collarbones. Then, raise your elbows a bit – that’s all you have to do to clear fluid in this area.

The second step is to clear the axillary area, which is located beneath the arms. To clear this area, place one hand above your head while your massage therapist uses their hand in a cup shape to move from top to bottom under your arm.

The third step is to clear your elbows themselves. For this step, lay your arms straight, parallel to your body, while your massage therapist lightly pulls on the skin – one inch after another.

The clearing stage for legs

To perform clearing on your legs, a massage therapist will do the following:

The steps performed on your arms are similar to what will be done to your legs. The massage therapist will put one hand between your legs, gripping one leg, and placing the other behind the leg. Then, the skin will be stretched lightly toward your hip. This motion will be continued until they reach your knees, repeating up to 10 times.

The absorption stage

Once you’ve finished clearing your body, the massage therapist will perform the absorption stage. They may choose to begin by targeting areas where you feel symptoms of lymphedema.

To do this, a sweeping motion will be used to gently shift the surface of your skin and massage lightly.

Again, this stage will usually begin with your upper body, then your lower body.

Should I seek help from a professional?

Lymphatic drainage should always be performed by a professional massage therapist. These professionals are trained to understand how different motions can help the body in various ways.

If you experience symptoms of lymphedema, it’s recommended that you visit one of these specialists to ensure that your body can heal properly – though this massage can still be performed at home at any time.


Whether you experience lymphedema or simply want your body’s fluids to flow more easily, lymphatic drainage is a great way to encourage your body to do what it does best.

Interested in massage therapy? Contact us today!

Morgan Asquini, Registered Massage Therapist

Morgan Asquini is a registered massage therapist and a certified lymphedema therapist. She takes pride in ensuring that her clients are informed at every step of their treatment plans. Morgan also loves to educate people about what’s happening with their impairments, and the benefits of treatments.

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