Benefits And Uses Of Lymphatic Drainage Massage
Lymphatic massage is also known as manual lymph drainage, or lymphatic drainage. It is a technique that was developed in Germany to treat lymphedema. This is when fluid gathers after lymph nodes have been removed, this is most frequently after a mastectomy following breast cancer.
Additionally, it can be present at birth, but it can also develop during puberty or adulthood. The latter is referred to as primary lymphedema and can affect up to four areas of the body. No cause has ever been determined, and while lymphatic drainage massage is not medically recommended for any medical conditions apart from lymphedema, some therapists do promote its use.
According to BreastCancer.org the risk of lymphedema increases for breast cancer patients who have lymph nodes removed, and the risk grows as more lymph nodes are removed. Up to 25% of patients whose surgery includes lymph nodes being removed from the armpit go on to develop lymphedema.
Additionally, the American Journal of Surgeons states that around 90% of women that develop lymphedema, do so within 3 years of having breast cancer treatment.
Lymph nodes can also be removed in treating other types of cancer, such as colon, prostate, melanoma, and blood cancer. Other times lymph nodes are removed after being damaged by trauma, infection, or by radiation therapy. Lymphedema can appear in the weeks following surgery or radiation therapy, or months or years later.
The session beings with light massage on the skin surface around the neck. The massage therapist will gently stroke, rub, tab, or push the skin following the lymphatic systems structure. This encourages lymph fluid to drain through the proper channels.
The massage is not painful, nor does it have a stimulating effect- it is a simple and gentle therapy. The session will last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, and it’s generally competed once a day, up to five times a week, over a course of two to four weeks.
“The biggest reduction in swelling occurs during the first week of treatment, while it stabilizes in the second week.”
Potential Side Effects
According to the National Lymphedema Network, there are certain circumstances when lymphatic drainage massage should be avoided.
When there is a sudden increase in localized swelling after surgery. Patients should instead see their physician immediately.
Patients who have a sudden infection (lymphangitis) should cease treatment until the infection has been treated and has cleared.
Those at risk of blood clotting should be tested for deep vein thrombosis before having lymphatic drainage massage. These patients should be watched closely during treatment and should have this testing done regularly.
Patients with congestive heart failure should be monitored- moving too much fluid quickly could add strain on the heart.
If there is any pain during treatment the massage should be stopped. The underlying cause of pain should be determined before resuming treatment.
Massage therapists that complete lymphatic drainage massage can be nurses, physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, or massage therapists. They will have complete the traditional course work, as well as received instruction in lymphedema therapy.
The Lymphology Association of North America has established training guidelines and administers the exams for certification.
This type of massage therapy is not suggested for any other medical conditions or issues and was devised specifically for the lymphatic drainage. If a therapist suggests that it might be right for you, and you don’t have lymphedema you should look into their credentials. It is not a necessary treatment unless you have lymphedema.
If you are looking specifically for a certified lymphatic drainage massage therapist, you can find one in your area on the National Lymphedema Network’s website. However, it is worth noting that a few of our staff members here atZanctuary ARE trained in this particular massage treatment.
Please feel free to call in and discuss your needs with us so that we can get you the help and attention that you want and need.