By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
December 19, 2012
- The perfect gift for anyone who makes health a top priority
- The little-known benefits of lymphatic massage
- Prep and after-care that will make the most of your session
What do you gift the person who has everything? That’s the age-old conundrum many of us face this time of year.
You are hoping to find something they wouldn’t buy for themselves. Something that seems decadent. Different. Indulgent. Like a gift certificate for a massage…
…with a twist, that is.
How about a specialty massage – one focusing on stimulating and draining the lymphatic system? What, not sexy enough, you say?
Maybe that’s because you don’t know how much a lymphatic massage can improve health, increase immune function, reduce pain, and even help with weight loss.
Most of us consider any form of massage a guilty pleasure, even if we get them regularly. They are usually given at posh spas, rather than in medical facilities. They are rarely covered by insurance.
Many of my patients will get a massage for therapeutic reasons, such as to relieve sore muscles, or because their need to relax has reached dangerous proportions. But they often don’t realize that massage in general – and a lymphatic massage in particular – should be viewed as an integral, necessary, part of any preventative health care regimen.
This year, I recommend you gift this type of massage to someone you love – even if you have to pretend it’s relaxing and sexy, just to get them on the table.
And it isn’t such a bad idea to gift yourself as well…
In the next issue, I’ll discuss a lymphatic system cleanse for between the holidays. This complex network of lympnodes, vessels, ducts, and glands are a critical for healthy immune function. This is one area where an ounce of prevention can go a long, long way in keeping your entire system healthy.
That’s why I also recommend to my patients that they get lymphatic massage, in addition to “regular” therapeutic massage.
This type of massage is also called Lymph Drainage Therapy (LDT) or Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD). It is characterized by gentle, slow motions, designed to stimulate the lymph system, and help the fluid to drain and move.
It also focuses on the areas where lymph nodes are more abundant – the neck, underarms, groin, abdomen, and hips. Also, it will usually include gentle massage of organs such as the liver and kidney, which help to remove the toxins once they move through the lymph system.
If you are accustomed to deep tissue massage, or sports massage, the pressure of a lymph massage will feel very light and gentle. And perhaps, unsatisfying.
But don’t be fooled.
Most of the lymphatic vessels are just below the surface of the skin. So these gentle strokes are doing more than you might realize. A practitioner who specializes in lymph massage will know the direction lymph fluid moves, and will know how to get the whole system moving in the right direction to detoxify and rebuild.
If you want to gift someone else – or yourself – here’s what they (or you) can expect from the experience…
A lymphatic massage can be delivered on its own, or for a short time frame within a regular massage session. Anywhere from 10-15 minutes, to a maximum of 30 minutes during a 60-minute session is plenty. You don’t want to stimulate more of cleansing than your body is ready to handle.
While professional massage therapists are skilled at draping and providing modesty during a massage, working on the lymph system works best with direct contact to the skin. If you are comfortable, and can allow them access to the places where there is a concentration of lymph nodes, you will get better results.
Also, go into your massage freshly-showered, without any lotions or creams on your skin. Remember, that your skin is an organ, and sweat is part of the lymph system’s way of draining! Keep the pathways for toxins to leave the body clear of obstruction.
Here are a few additional tips that will maximize your experience:
Hydrate: I can’t stress the importance of drinking water before and after a lymphatic massage. Fluid is the key to a healthy detoxification, and not enough water may even make you feel ill.
Liver and Kidney Support: Avoid alcohol, acetaminophen, or any other tax on the liver or kidneys before or immediately after your session. These organs are the detox centers, and will need as much support as they can get.
Eat Light or Not At All Before: Because some of the organs involved in lymph drainage are located in the deep abdomen, having an empty stomach will be the most comfortable.
Move After: While a massage is relaxing, and you may be tempted to take a nap afterwards, it is best to plan on moving your body for about 10-15 minutes after your session. A short walk, some gentle yoga, some deep breathing – these will help clear whatever was moved during the massage from your system.
Then, Rest: After some movement, do plan to rest. Allow your body’s energy and internal resources to go to work and regenerate and heal.
If you are already sick and fighting off a cold or flu, you might want to reschedule this type of massage, or at least, have a shorter session. If you’re not sure when a good time would be for you to receive this treatment, contact the massage therapist and discuss your circumstances and progression of your illness and they can help you to decide.
One last note…
There will be noticeable changes – beyond just “feeling good” – after you’ve had a lymphatic massage. These changes could last for a few hours, up to a few days or even a week.
If you experience anything on the list below, know you are having a normal post-massage experience:
- Your body may feel lighter
- You may feel a little mentally “foggy”
- Your urine and/or bowel movements may be a little more odorous
- You may have a temporary change in your body odor, and you may sweat more
- You may experience deeper and more restful sleep, and may be more tired
- You may feel more hungry or thirsty, or crave fats
- Your sinuses may drain
Keep in mind, pain is not within the normal range of responses, so if you are experiencing pain or swelling, do contact your physician and get checked out. And of course, if you become concerned at all, contact your massage therapist and/or your physician for follow-up care.
To find a licensed massage therapist who can provide a lymphatic drainage massage, you can visit the American Massage Therapy Association and search their database for someone in your area. Most massage therapists are happy to provide you with a gift certificate, especially at this time of year.
While holiday gifts are often meant to be frivolous – a gift that is masked as frivolous, but is really a health essential may be the very best kind of gift.