Because lymphatic massage is different from more-familiar muscle massages, it’s important to understand what it is before you get one. Sunlight Day Spa (Sunlighten’s Day Spa located in Overland Park, KS) Massage Therapist Cristina Nitti says you can set yourself up for better success by understanding the lymphatic system and what is involved with a massage that is designed to stimulate your lymph nodes for detoxification rather than help your muscles relax and heal.
First: Understanding that “detox” is far more than a buzzword or fad
The human body is remarkable. Its abilities span a wide range of wonders: We can see snowfall, smell fresh blooming flowers carried by a warm breeze, it breathes for us, beats our hearts and protects us from pathogens and disease. Our immune response is also incredible. When we think of a “detox,” many may not realize that our bodies do that for us, too, as easy and naturally as breathing.
Detox is more than just a buzzword for juice cleanses and fad diets. The lymphatic system works to pick up and destroy the waste and toxins we encounter on a daily basis. Cells called macrophages actually consume and destroy those toxins! Our urinary tract system and liver also help us to eliminate waste.
Why do our bodies need to detox?
Whether we are breathing them in, consuming them, or absorbing them through products on our skin, toxins get in. Daily, we are exposed to at least 129 chemicals, at work and at home from sources like cleaning products, food, water, skin care products, and makeup to name a few. We are even exposed to harmful chemicals in our running water, which the skin can absorb at a rate of 64%. The purpose of lymphatic massage is to assist the body to drain and eliminate this daily barrage of harmful heavy metals and chemicals.
According to the CDC, 13 million workers in the United States are exposed to chemicals that can be absorbed by the skin on a daily basis. Professions at highest risk include cosmetology, health care, agriculture and manufacturing. And we are exposed to those same chemicals through our hair products, detergents, the food we consume, and skin care products.
These chemicals and heavy metals originate from a variety of sources and can result in a variety of adverse effects. These are often referred to as endocrine-disrupting chemicals or hormone-disrupting chemicals. These chemicals negatively impact the hormonal systems in the body; the results have been linked to cancers, heart problems, and other concerns according to Cleveland Clinic. They can harm the skin and internal systems. Some of these exposures could result in fatigue, immune disturbance, and skin irritation.
The lymphatic system’s role in our body’s detox
Lymph vessels trace the same path as blood vessels, with a few clusters of lymph nodes along the way, primarily the neck, under arms and joints. The role of the lymphatic system is to carry lymph fluid where lymphocytes and macrophages are produced with the mission of destroying invading toxins and returning waste to the bloodstream, where it can then be eliminated by the digestive and urinary tract system. The lymphatic system also acts as a helper to the circulatory system, maintaining proper fluid volume. Massage of the lymphatic system can aid in the balance of fluid, i.e., water retention and communication between lymphatic and circulatory systems. It can also aid in digestion, further helping eliminate unwanted toxins.
Our bodies work so beautifully, and lymphatic massage is a gentle and effective way to aid our bodies in that loving process. We can assist the natural process as well as potentially improve the health of those who may have a weakened lymphatic response.
How does lymphatic massage work?
Cristina is also a registered lymphatic massage therapist who has been doing lymphatic massage for years. She says understanding the purpose of lymphatic massage is important to making sure you get the most out of it. Lymphatic massage feels different than regular massage:
- Lymphatic massage is typically light pressure and small circular motion moving toward the heart, in lymphatic regions such as underarms, chest, neck, legs and joints.
- This is not a muscular massage, rather a massage of targeted lymphatic vessels, primarily in the neck, underarms, chest, abdomen and joints.
- It typically only takes 30-45 minutes as opposed to a traditional 60-90-minute deep tissue massage.
- Lymphatic massage is for anyone suffering from swelling, lymphedema or fluid retention, but can also help individuals who may be recovering from surgery or general inflammation including sinus pressure and headaches.
- While both treatments offer unique and powerful benefits, the purpose of a lymphatic massage is to eliminate deep toxins from the body, therefore reducing swelling and retained water.
Bonus Detox Boost: Add a Post-Massage Infrared Sauna Session
DETOX BONUS: If you have access to an infrared sauna at home or one at a spa near you, it is a profound addition following a massage because of the deep cellular detox it provides.
Sunlighten’s infrared saunas provide additional support to the lymphatic drainage process after a massage. Sunlighten’s sauna detox occurs by heating the body and directly increasing core temperature, resulting in a deep detoxifying sweat at the cellular level, where toxins reside.
Lymphatic massage offers a therapeutic space for those seeking relief from swelling, fluid retention, and digestion, by improving circulation and assisting the body in lymphatic drainage. Results can take time; the fluid drainage can occur 24-48 hours after the session. Like traditional massage, Cristina recommends drinking plenty of water after, in addition to reducing sodium intake, and exercising regularly. The movement of muscles through exercise helps to move the lymph fluid. These actions will further assist the body in detox.