Lymph massage cover picture

The circulatory system with the veins and arteries is known. But our body also has another fluid system, which is the lymphatic system. Numerous lymph vessels meander through our body, which then unite in some places to form lymph nodes.

The lymphatic system transports two to three liters of fluid (lymph) through the body every day. This transport can be disrupted by various factors, such as kidney damage or an infectious disease. The lymph flow can be restarted with a lymph massage or lymph drainage.

What is a lymph massage?

A lymph massage is used to treat lymphedema. This occurs when the lymph flow in the lymphatic system is disturbed and fluid builds up. Lymphedema can be recognized externally by clearly visible swellings.

Lymphedema is very common on the arms and legs, i.e. on the limbs. However, such edema can also form on the face. In order to treat this with the lymph massage, the massage must be used more often. Patients are usually given a drainage several times a day, at least as part of a medical decongestion therapy.

In addition to manual lymph drainage, external skin care, movement exercises and compression therapy are also used here. Arms and legs can be treated particularly well, and the face and back are also suitable for the treatment.

What are the therapeutic benefits of a lymph massage?

The lymphatic system can reach its limits when the volume of the lymph fluid increases. At first, the body can compensate for this, the lymphatics simply transport more fluid than would be normal. But at some point the load becomes too great and more and more liquid remains in the vessels.

In the long run this is unhealthy as it can seriously damage the blood vessels. Causes of excessive demands on the lymphatic system are, for example, a damaged lymphatic system itself or infectious diseases. Especially if the lymph nodes become inflamed in the course of the infection and they swell in the process, this can disrupt the lymph flow.

Lymphedema then forms, which results from the fact that more protein-rich fluid is stored in the tissue. This is where the lymph massage comes into play, which is known as MLD (manual lymph drainage). This is a gentle superficial massage.

Processing the affected areas with pump-like and rotating handles or cupping handles results in a  Stimulation of the lymph flow . The correct application of pressure is decisive for the success of the lymphatic massage. The lymphatic vessels are located under the skin quite close to the surface. This means that the pressure should only be very low so that the lymph vessels are not pressed in too much and the drainage is disturbed.

The lymph massage can be understood as a kind of help for self-help. The lymph flow does not take place through the movements themselves, but the massage promotes contractions in the affected lymph vessels. As already described, the right pressure is crucial for this.

In addition to reducing congestion in the vessels, manual lymphatic drainage also has the advantage that it  Has an analgesic effect and has a positive effect on the immune system  can affect. As a result, the reduction in pain also improves patient mobility.

Can lymphatic drainage be harmful? Are there any risks?

Lymph massage should only be performed by a competent person, usually physiotherapists who are specially trained for it. If the pressure is applied incorrectly, the whole thing can go in the wrong direction and the lymph flow can be impeded. In itself, however, a lymph massage is not dangerous. However, there are a number of complaints and diseases for which lymphatic drainage must not be used. These are the following:

  • Cancers
  • acute inflammatory reactions of the body
  • Heart problems (heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, etc.)
  • Hypertension (significantly low blood pressure)
  • Changes in the skin that have not yet been clarified
  • Thrombosis (especially in the leg veins)
  • Circulatory disorders
  • Hyperthyroidism

Treatment should not be used during pregnancy. If manual lymph drainage is carried out properly and the previous illnesses mentioned above have been excluded, there are basically no risks.

How does a lymphatic drainage work?

A lymph massage stimulates the lymph vessels, which in turn promotes the removal of the lymph fluid. Even if the term massage suggests, lymph massage does not activate the skin's pain receptors. That would be the case with the classic form of massage.

The therapist moves his hands over the affected areas in circular movements. There are several types of handles for this, for example the standing circle, the cupping, turning or pump handle. These four grips are the basic grips of massage.

Depending on your needs and the causes, additional handles can then be added. When the therapist has finished his treatment, the affected part of the body is wrapped, this is called compression therapy. This is to prevent the edema from spreading again after the lymph massage.

What do I have to consider after lymphatic drainage?

Nothing special needs to be considered after the lymphatic drainage. But there are a few tips that can help you stay away from lymphedema longer. For example, after therapy it makes sense to  wear loose and comfortable clothing that does not constrict and does not additionally impede the lymph flow from the outside. Likewise, tight chains, bracelets, watches and shoes should not be worn.

The patient can also take care of his skin care. With lymphedema, the risk of infection increases, so the skin should be cared for very carefully. The best way to do this is to use pH-neutral care. In addition, care should be taken that there are no injuries. Even the smallest injuries can lead to infections, as they are already a gateway for pathogens.

It is advisable to wear gloves when doing housework and gardening. In between, the legs should be raised up every now and then so that the lymph can drain off better. Exercise is of course always recommended, but after the lymph massage it should be taken more slowly. Moderate activities and light movements, such as walks or Nordic walking, are ideal.

Sunbathing, saunas and swimming pools should be avoided for the time being. Such activities attack the skin. You should also avoid using drainage tablets. It is a misconception that these stimulate the lymph flow. As water is withdrawn from the body, more protein is deposited in the tissue and this tends to make lymph flow more difficult.


How does lymphatic drainage work in the arm and hand area?

The lymphatic drainage is characterized by a certain sequence, this can be done from proximal (close to the body) to peripheral (far from the body). If the arm and hand are treated, the lymph nodes in the armpit area must first be de-excited.
Then it goes over the shoulder area over the upper arm to the lymph nodes in the elbow.

As post-processing, the lymph is pushed in the direction of the vein angles using pump or circular handles. This continues down to the forearm and finally to the hand. The hand itself is processed with special grips, including all individual fingers.

Work is carried out on the area where the swelling is located until the tissue located there becomes softer. Only then can the liquid be pushed further. It is transported to the next lymph node trunk.


Is lymphatic drainage associated with pain?

As a rule, there is no pain during the lymphatic massage. However, you feel a slight pressure, it is a kind of gentle pressure waves. These run from your feet up to your hips and arms and up to your neck. The contractions cause the lymph to become unblocked.

Is lymphatic drainage covered by health insurance?

If you receive a benefit certificate from your doctor, you can submit it to your health insurance company along with the invoice. Payment is made by the patient in advance. Whether and how much the health insurance company will reimburse you depends on the respective insurance company. The therapist has no influence on this. With private insurance, the costs are usually borne.

How often should the treatment take place?

Discuss with your doctor or physiotherapist when and how often you should have lymphatic drainage performed. You will discuss the treatment interval together in the consultation; the type of treatment and the reason for treatment play a role here. As a rule, you visit the practice once or twice a week to have lymphatic drainage performed.

When do the first successes appear?

When exactly you can expect positive changes, depends on the severity of the lymphedema. However, it is possible that you will already feel the first small successes after the first treatment. But sometimes it takes a little longer.



dr Melzer, M .: Lymph drainage: When it makes sense. Available at: Status: January 17.01.2021, XNUMX.

Herpetz, U. (2013): Edema and Lymph Drainage, Schattauer Verlag. (5th edition)

Medicare: Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD). Practical help for edema patients. In good hands with manual lymphatic drainage. Available at: Status: January 18.01.2021, XNUMX.


Also interesting: mobile massage | Office massage | Massage at home | Massage at work | neck massage