How to Give a Proper Lymphedema Massage to Reduce Swelling, Ease Pain and Promote Healing
Lymphedema massage is a practice that helps relieve the discomfort brought about by the condition. It works best when paired with a prescribed lymphedema treatment plan. Learn more about the effects of a lymphedema massage and how you perform one properly below.
Proper Lymphedema Massage and Its Benefits!
In this Article:
What Is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is characterized by localized swelling due to fluid buildup or retention. Typical affectation occurs on the arms and legs, but it may develop in other parts of the body as well. Primary lymphedema cause may be:
- Injury or blockage affecting the lymph nodes
- Surgery (post-removal of lymph nodes)
- Cancer treatment (as a side effect)
- Other pre-existing conditions
The most common symptoms of lymphedema include the following:
- Swelling in the affected area
- Gradual discoloration
- The soft, grainy texture of the skin
Manual Lymph Drainage Massage!
The Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is a specialized massage that moves the built-up lymph fluid to an area where the activity of the lymphatic system is not compromised. Specialists require this method for several sessions until the swelling reduces. It is combined with compression therapy and exercises for added effectiveness. However, you can perform a simpler and equally efficient massage yourself as an at-home lymphedema treatment.
How to Properly Do a Lymphedema Massage at Home!
The goal of lymphedema massage is to reduce the swelling, ease the pain, and promote the healing of the affected area. You can personally do lymphedema therapy at home twice a day for about 20 minutes per session.
1. Keep the Affected Area Relaxed!
Massaging helps to gradually guide the built-up fluid to the other areas of the body. Relax. Lie down or sit comfortably before beginning a lymphedema massage. Muscles are more flexible when they are relaxed.
2. Massage Gently!
Use the flat area of the fingers instead of the tips to cover more skin. This also maintains a light pressure.
Remember: If you can feel the muscle when massaging, you may be pressing too hard.
3. Massage Towards Unaffected Areas!
Start the massage at the point farthest from the affected area. For example, if lymphedema occurs in the lower half of the leg, start the massage from the upper thigh and gently stretch the skin of the legs towards the unaffected area. Work your way down and continue to massage in the same direction. This clears room for the fluid to flow as you massage closer to the swelling. It is then more effective in distributing the fluid to different lymph vessels.
4. Massage the Whole Body!
Do not end the lymphedema massage after you have covered the affected area. Continue on gently distributing the fluid to the different parts of the body. This process helps sweep the fluid even more until it flows naturally in the lymphatic system.
5. Repeat Twice Daily!
Perform the massage at least twice a day until the swelling reduces to fully move the stagnant lymph out of the swollen area. Maintain the flow of the lymph by exercising and mobilizing the body.
Take note of the following when performing lymphedema massage:
- Do not self-massage if it causes pain.
- Do not touch the swollen area if there is an infection.
- Control weight to avoid further lymph fluid build-up.
- Exercise to keep the lymphatic system healthy.
- Inform your doctor or specialist of any abnormality or recurring swelling and pain.
If you want to know how manual lymph drainage works, here is a video tutorial by Concord Hospital:
The lymphatic system helps eliminate body wastes. In cases such as lymphedema, it ceases to fulfill its function and, at the same time, provides discomfort and inconvenience for the person affected by it. Lymphedema massage, when done right and consistently, will help ease this discomfort and help one return to full mobility and function.
Do you have other lymphedema massage tips? Share it with us in the comments section below!
DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. None of the nutritional products mentioned are intended to Diagnose, Treat, Cure or Prevent Any Disease.