Lymphatic Drainage Massage

lymphatic massage

What is the Lymphatic System?

The lymphatic system can be thought of as a drainage and fluid transport system. As blood circulates through the body, blood plasma leaks into tissues through the thin walls of the capillaries to feed all the cells. This fluid is called interstitial fluid (in between cells.)  Although most of this fluid seeps immediately back into the bloodstream, a percentage of it is left behind along with larger proteins, fats, and other larger materials that can’t filter back through the capillary wall. The fluid and materials left behind enters the lymphatic vessels becoming lymph fluid.  The lymphatic system moves this fluid via the lymphatic vessels to the bloodstream, and thus prevents a fluid imbalance.

The lymphatic system can also be thought of as a sewer and filtration system.  The lymph system is the fundamental immune system capturing and processing waste and pathogens.  The lymphatic system takes the lymph fluid to the lymph nodes where white blood cells, macrophanges, antibodies, and other defenses destroy or absord waste and pathogens. The lymphatic system also carries white blood cells to parts of the body where they are needed to fight.

What is a Lymphatic Drainage Massage?

Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a gentle, yet powerful form of bodywork.  MLD is intended to stimulate and encourage the natural movement of the lymphatic fluid, which carries waste products away from the tissues back towards the heart.  Lymph vessels are as thin as a strand of silk so manual lymph drainage must use a specific amount of light pressure and rhythmic movements to stimulate the flow and mimic the rhythm of the body’s lymphatic system.  This powerful technique is designed to detoxify the body. It is also used to reroute lymphatic fluid and reduce swelling after plastic or orthopedic surgery.

Lymphatic Massage Benefits:

Healing After Surgery

Manual lymph drainage can help with healing after surgery. This technique assists in regeneration of cellular tissues to reduce scarring, reduction of swelling and detoxification the body.

Improved Immune System

The immune system is so tied to the lymphatic system that if flow of lymphatic materials slows, the immune system weakens. Lymph drainage can improve the function and increase the production of antibodies that fight off infections as well as reduce systemic inflammation.


Lymph drainage is especially relaxing because the slow, methodical rhythm and pressure and repetitive motion allows for the brain to relax and elicit the parasympathetic nervous system to slow heart rate, increase glandular activity, reduce pain and promote general vitality and well being.

Decongestive Effect

Any swelling of the body, except for cardiac or renal edema, can be treated with MLD. The lymphatic system is a “one-way street” to transport cellular waste from tissue and dispose back into the circulatory system.

Who can benefit?

Although lymphatic massage may not be as common as other types of massage modalities, the benefits that it provides are numerous. If you are feeling a bit sluggish, experiencing mild to moderate swelling, recovering from an injury or surgery, or interested in optimizing your immune system MLD could be the therapeutic option for you.

MLD commonly treats lymphedema but also has been found to be beneficial for those who have swelling due to almost any reason including surgery, sprain, lipidema or arthritis. Those with autoimmune disorders such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis; additionaly, neuropathy, migraines, sinus issues, lyme disease, and varicose veins may gain relief from pain and swelling through MLD.  It is also widely used after cosmetic surgery to reduce swelling and prevent fibrosis.

Manual lymphatic drainage therapy is often recommended as part of a treatment plan for these conditions. How often you need lymphatic drainage massage depends on the individual condition and its severity. Consult with a healthcare professional to determine if lymphatic drainage massage is right for you.

MLD is indicated for many…including healthy individuals wanting to boost their immune system.


The twists to Lymphatic Massage for complicated issues and post-surgery


Not all therapists are trained

Therapists trained in standard MLD have only a basic knowledge of the lymphatic system. In most introductory classes the instructor emphasizes the teachings are for “uncomplicated” or “non-complex” clients only. This means students should do MLD only on healthy people for health and wellness purposes. Without further training, these introductory students should refer-out patients  with complex lymphedema, lipoedema, post-surgical issues, and other complexities not taught in entry level classes.  Therapists should be trained in an approved 135 hour full Certified Lymphedama Therapist course.


Post-surgical treatments are often delayed

Surgeons generally recommend treatments to begin by an appropriately trained manual lymphatic drainage therapist as soon as 3-days after surgery but some don’t.  Any delays in post surgical treatment may result in fibrosis and seromas developing in the trauma area, and scar tissue can become immobile as soon as 4-5 days after surgery.


Pushing fluids out incisions is NOT  manual lymphatic drainage

There are “massage therapists” in various places in the United States and abroad who believe the best way to reduce swelling is to get the lymphatic fluid out of your body.  This is done by reopening the incisions and pushing fluid out manually. First, this process is outside the scope of practice (100% illegal) for any massage therapist in any of the 50 United States. Only wound care persons such as nurses or similarly licensed healthcare workers would even be permitted to do this.  Secondly, this opens the body to possible infections, healing could be reduced by dumping out the bodies healing lymphatic flued.  If you are a surgery patient and someone wants to do this to you, just say “No!”


Manual lymphatic drainage does NOT use brushes, tools, cupping, bamboo sticks, rollers, or creams.

MLD requires the use of hands, movement of the skin in particular directions, and gentle pressures to move fluid correctly. Any other technique, tool, cream, or even cupping, is not part of the lymphatec drainage process and should be avoided. If you have a therapist who is insistent on using creams, tool, cups or rollers, simply end the session and leave.  In the ealy stages of post surgery, only MLD should be performed.


Lumps and bumps can happen but fibrosis can be treated by a skilled therapist!

Fibrosis is a build up of scar tissue that can occur as a result of cosmetic surgery which can cause lumps and bumps in the subdermal tissues.  It can sometimes be found in the lateral torso, lower abdomen, and back after liposuction. While this consequence of liposuction is not ideal, not to worry.

Through various techniques, fibrosis and scar tissue can be gently treated causing any lumps and bumps that may have settled during the recovery process to get smoothed out. Using warm oil and lymphatic cupping, myofascial decompression allows for scarring and edema build-up to gently be reduced allowing the patient to feel more comfortable and confident in their new body.


You Deserve a Better Healing Process

At Avant Garde Total Wellness Centers, our lead therapist, Bob Wilson, is certified in providing the highest degree of care.  He is a Cerified Massage Therapist, Certified Lymphatic Drainage Therapist, and holds the higher level of lymphatic system training, Certified Lymphedema Therapist.  He specializes in care after cosmetic surgery, orthopedic surgery, and complex ailments requiring manual lymphatic drainage.  He has worked with clients who have had procedures such as lipo-360, mommy makeover, breast reduction or augmentation, Brazilian butt lifts, abdominoplasty, brachioplasty, facelifts, knee surgeries, hip replacements, shoulder surgeries, mastectomies and reconstruction. He has hundreds of hours of training.


If you are planning surgery, consider booking with us!  Give us a call and we can get you started on your recovery plan!

Call to schedule your lymphatic drainage massage today.


Avant Garde Total Wellness Center

66 Newark Pompton Turnpike

Downstairs from Dentist

Riverdale, NJ 07457