Lymph Drainage Therapy

The lymphatic system is a circulatory system that moves through the body parallel to the circulatory system that carries blood. It performs several functions:

  • It works in conjunction with the immune system to eliminate disease-carrying substances and filter waste so that lymph fluid can be returned to the circulatory system.
  • It removes waste, debris, and toxins from cells.
  • It works in conjunction with the blood circulatory system to deliver nutrients and oxygen to cells.

Practitioners of Lymph Drainage Therapy believe that when the lymphatic system is not working properly, excess fluids, cellular proteins, metabolic waste and toxins build up in the body, which compromises the body’s ability to remain healthy.

How Does Lymph Drainage Therapy Work?

Practitioners of this therapy work with flat hands, gently using all of the fingers to produce wave-like motions that first evaluate how well body fluids are flowing and then stimulate the movement of those fluids. The amount of pressure used differs with each patient; however, the typical amount of pressure that is applied is equivalent to the weight of a nickel. Excessive pressure is unnecessary because the drainage is activated by the stretching of skin or tissue in sync with the direction and rhythm of the flow of lymphatic fluid.

There are two forms of this therapy and each one treats specific conditions:

  • Whole body massage – This alleviates pain and swelling both on a superficial level and deep within the body.
  • Face massage – This variation of the therapy includes massaging the face, skull, neck and shoulders. It has a variety of uses including relieving migraines and headaches and mood stabilizing.

How Did Lymph Drainage Therapy Originate?

The system was developed by French physician Dr Bruno Chikly, MD, DO, whose medical training includes endocrinology, surgery, neurology and psychiatry. Dr. Chikly also earned this country’s equivalent of a master’s degree in psychology from Paris XIII University. His doctoral thesis, which focused on the lymphatic system and the manual lymphatic drainage technique, was awarded a Medal of Medical Faculty of Paris VI.

In addition to being an international lecturer, Dr. Chikly is the author of Silent Waves: Theory and Practice of Lymph Drainage Therapy, 2nd Edition. The text, which addresses the applications of the therapy for chronic pain and inflammation, is carried by Stanford University Medical Library.

Does Deep Tissue Massage Used in Lymph Drainage Therapy Cause Damage to the Lymphatic System?

In an article published in the March 1995 edition of Lymphology, the researchers discussed the affects of deep tissue massage on human male feet and hind paws of dogs. Some of the humans had no swelling in the feet, and some had veins with swelling.

Using a pressure level of 70-100 mmHg, with a frequency of 25 strokes per minute, the lymphatics were examined after three, five and ten minutes of massage. Here is what the researchers observed:

  • All participants showed signs of damage after 10 minutes
  • After both three and five minutes of massage, the human males with swelling in their veins showed signs of damage

However, practitioners of this methodology note that in normal tissue, the lymphatics should only be slightly affected and return to normal as long as the therapist applies a pressure level within the acceptable range. If there is swelling present, this is an indication that the patient should not be treated by any form of deep tissue massage, including Lymph Drainage Therapy.

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