By Rustina, Contributing Writer
Swollen ankles, calves, and even wrists were causing me a lot of discomfort. I knew I needed to do something, but every time I asked, the advice was the same – just wear compression stockings. With my fingers so swollen too, pulling on a stocking was a feat in itself! That puffy, stiff feeling needed to be dealt with somehow.
We talked about how important the lymphatic system is in this blog. It mentions how the lymphatic system carries away tissue waste and toxins while distributing healthy and much- needed hydration and nutrition throughout the body. We even talked about herbs that can help support it.
Disclaimer here, that I am not a healthcare professional, nor am I diagnosing, treating, or curing anything whatsoever.
If you want to see a healthcare professional concerning lymphatic drainage massage, then reach out to your trusted chiropractor or physical/occupational therapist for more information. Many of them are amazing and can be a great asset, especially if it is in your budget to go that route.
Now, let’s dive into a DIY lymphatic drainage self-massage!
5 Tips to make the most of a self massage
- Drinking fluids like water and herbal teas (see this blog for some herb suggestions) is excellent for our lymphatic system as well as the rest of our body.
- Remember to gently massage your skin – just rubbing along the skin really, like you would a baby kitten – bringing all points back to the center of your abdomen. If an area gets warm while you do this, that is where there is likely something blocking the flow, such as scar tissue or a node that is having trouble. You can help move it around by rubbing it around to find a different path. For example, mine gets caught up around my c-section scars, so I rub it out to the sides and then up the back.
- Do each massage step several times to get the flow going. It is a great relief for congestion so doing this up 2-3 times a day can be a great relief.
- If somewhere on your body begins to feel fuller or warmer, then you may have a fluid backup in this area. That is often associated with scar tissue, especially from surgery. Try gently rubbing it in a different direction and towards the center of your abdomen below the chest.
- Use a cream either during or after that is blended with herbs that support lymph node health and flow, such as Earthley’s all-natural Lymphatic Cream.
How to perform the self massage
The goal is to get things flowing well. That makes it important to know where the main areas of congestion are located. In the case of lymphatic flow, that is likely around the lymph node-heavy areas, so always open up those main centers first.
Priming the system
The main lymph drainage is in the thoracic area, and the lower one is along the lower end of the spine.
These areas can get “clogged up” easily, so generating flow through them first is very helpful. I generally do each step 5-10 times (10 for the most congested areas).
Main Lymph Node Centers:
- Thoracic area:
- Rub across the front of the shoulders to the middle of the chest
- Starting at the back of your neck, slide your hands down around the sides of your neck to the soft, kind of squishy spot below your collarbone and gently rub or pat it ten times with your palm.
- Use your palms to gently rub from the top and underside of your arms to down below your armpits to down below the sides of your chest.
- Lower area:
- Slide your hand from the back of the knees along the inner thigh up towards the groin, gently following the natural V shape, and up to the middle of the abdomen.
Bringing in the fluid
Now that those areas are moving well, it is time to get the outer fluids brought in.
- Imagine a line down the center of your face. Starting at the top of the line using both hands, gently rub from the middle of your face towards your ears. Go from the forehead down to the chin.
- Place your two fingers on each side of your lower earlobes down to the squishy spot below your collarbone.
- If you have jaw pain, press firmly but gently into the top jawline up into the corners towards your earlobes while lowering your bottom jaw.
- Gently rub down the back of your neck and around each side to below your collarbone.
- If you have a pronounced bump at the base of your neck, press firmly but gently, bringing the fluid around to the front.
- Rub the palms of your hands together then go up the palm side of your fingers and down the back side of your fingers (the lymph vessels are on the back side of your hands).
- Follow from the back side of your hand down following a natural curve to the inside of your elbow to the top, underside of your arm going down below the side of your chest.
Abdomen and Back
- Reaching as comfortably as you can from the middle of your back – while still being gentle, rub around to the front.
- The upper part of your abdomen drains to the thoracic area, and the lower abs drain down to the lower end of the spine in the sacral region.
Here are some abdomen and back lymphatic massages. It comes in 2 parts (upper and lower abdomen).
Legs and Sacral Region
Next is the lower half of the body. We want to open the flow in this area just like we did around the neck and arms.
- Comfortably spreading your legs, gently rub from your inner, upper thigh up towards your groin and then towards your middle abdomen. Repeat several times.
- Rub your hands from the ankles and top of your foot up towards your upper thigh. I start at the inside and go around each leg, paying extra attention to the knees.
DIY Body scrub to support lymphatic drainage
To keep the lymphatic system moving, especially when your body feels sluggish and sore, try this body scrub:
- 1 cup Pink Himalayan sea salt
- 1/2 cup avocado body oil
- 1/2 tsp of lemon or orange peel zest
- 20 drops of grapefruit essential oil
To use: Massage it in and let it “soak in” for 5-10 minutes before showering it off.