Lymphatic Massage for Slimming Effect

By Hannah Kohut

young white blonde woman touching her face above her eyebrow

Your face seems puffy. Your jeans don’t fit just right because of an annoying muffin top. You feel sluggish and congested. 

It may be that your lymphatic system is due for drainage.

What is Lymph Fluid?

Most people don’t think about lymph fluid, but it acts as your body’s sewerage system, and is an important part of your immunity.

Lymphatic fluid is a clear, watery liquid that exists directly under the skin, directly above the muscle. Its job is to collect various “junk” and cellular wastes from your body, including bacteria and viruses.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, around 20 liters of plasma flow through our blood vessels and capillaries each day, delivering nutrients to our tissues and cells and picking up cellular waste along the way. Of those 20 liters of plasma, only about 17 percent of it is returned to the circulatory system via our blood vessels and veins. The other three percent seeps out of our veins, becoming lymph fluid.

What is the Lymphatic System?

 human lymphatic system diagram of head

Your lymphatic system consists of various organs and tissues that move this lymph fluid back into your circulatory system. Part of this system are your lymph nodes, which are small, bean-shaped nodules that filter the lymph fluid. They’re very powerful in that they can eliminate the harmful substances such as bacteria and viruses from your lymph fluid, releasing clear, “cleaned” lymph fluid back into your circulatory system, which is eventually flushed out through urination.

While all this is great, the problem is, there is no organ that pumps your lymphatic fluid. It just sits stagnant under your skin, collecting until it is manually pushed out and back into your circulatory system for filtration. This is where the bloating and congested feelings come from.

How Do You Clean Your Lymphatic System?

The good news is that you can push out all the fluid, right at home with a lymphatic massage, and it’s an amazingly simple process. In fact, I do this almost religiously every few weeks, or after a time of indulgence. Sometimes I have to take a before-and-after picture just to remind myself of how powerful this massage can be on my appearance, whether it be my face, upper arms, or lower belly. I always see results. 

Beautiful young woman doing facial massage with gua sha tool on blue background, closeup

Doing a lymphatic massage on yourself is very similar to gua sha, which is an ancient Chinese facial practice of using a smooth scraping tool to apply pressure to your skin, focusing on releasing blockages by stimulating the flow of stagnated blood and energy. With a lymphatic massage, you can use either your fingertip pads or a gua sha tool, as long as you use a very gentle touch. So light of a touch, in fact, imagine you are touching a newborn baby's skin.

Note: Depending on how backed up your lymphatic system is, you may experience slight cold symptoms hours after flushing your system. That’s because you are pushing that clogged fluid into your bloodstream and to your kidneys for elimination. It’s a good sign that the massage is indeed working, and subsequent massages should not have this effect, if done regularly. To help avoid the achy, tired feelings, make sure you drink lots of water after the massage to help filter the fluid even faster.

Lymphatic Massage for Your Face

 young beauty woman massaging her face. facial massage concept.

This is a great step to add to your morning routine. It will help flush out excess fluid retained in your face from the day before and overnight.

Step 1 - Wake up your lymph nodes by gently tapping along the top of your eyebrows, along your hairline, under your eyes, behind the bottom of your ears, then along your clavicle (collarbone). Remember, these taps should be extremely gentle. The fluid is directly under your skin, and too much pressure will not produce the desired effect. Tap each area for at least 30 seconds.

Step 2 - Start between your hairline and the tops of your eyebrows. With your fingertip pads or a gua sha tool, very gently sweep outwardly across the skin toward your temples, downward through the sides of your face and jaw, then sweeping outward toward the bottom backs of your ears. Do this 10-15 times.

Step 3 - Move to your under eyes, and use your fingertip pads to gently sweep under your eyes, across your cheeks, to the bottoms of your ears. Do this 10-15 times. I tend to actually feel the fluid moving on this section of the face. 

Step 4 - Take the pads of your fingers or a gua sha tool and very gently swipe down your neck from the backs of your ears toward your clavicle. Do this 10-15 times.

Tip: A face lymphatic massage is great for helping clear sinus congestion. In this case, put more emphasis on the sides of your nose (again, gently).

Lymphatic Massage for Your Upper Arms

Woman doing self massage, armpit

Women can experience a lot of fluid buildup in their upper arms and along the sides of their breasts, and some of that fluid can be flushed out with lymphatic massage. This part of the body takes a little more work, but the results will be worth it.

Step 1 - Wake up your lymph nodes in your armpit, particularly closest to the breast. You do this by very gently tapping and tracing from the bottom of your armpit to the top. Some people lightly cup their armpit with their palm and gently tap. Spend at least 30 seconds on each armpit.

Step 2 - Wake up your lymph nodes along your clavicle, gently tapping along the top of it, starting outward and working inward. Spend at least 30 seconds doing this.

Step 3 - Extend your arm, turned facing upward. Gently pinch just the skin (very superficially) at the bend in your arm. This helps lift the skin to allow fluid to move more freely. You can also gently pinch and lift the skin along your arm all the way up to your armpit if you choose.

At this point, raise your arm above your head, slightly bent at the elbow.

Step 4 - Starting at the bend in your arm, with the pads of your fingers or with a gua sha tool, gently drag along the skin from your wrist to elbow, then your entire bicep. I sometimes use my thumb as well, placing it on top of the bicep and letting my finger pads drag along the back of my arm. Move your fingers downward toward your armpit, and do this 10- 15 times.

Step 5 - Use your fingers and palm to gently cup around the outside of your breast, fingertips positioned at the back of your armpit. Gently run along the skin, upward toward your clavicle. Do this 10-15 times.

Lymphatic Massage for Your Lower Abdomen

Closeup of young woman with hand on her stomach

This massage is likely my favorite, as it does so much more than just push out stagnant lymph fluid. I find that it also helps wake up other parts of my body that, well, eliminate everything else. Be prepared to go to the bathroom not long after doing this massage, as your kidneys and colon may be working much quicker.

Step 1 - Lying flat on your back, take the palm of your hand and gently (same light pressure as before) trace along the outside of your belly button, going counterclockwise. Do this 10-15 times.

Step 2 - We will be pushing this fluid to your major lymph nodes in your groin. To activate them, gently tap the top of your thighs along the groin. For better results, lightly pinch the skin upward and release it. Do this at least 30 seconds, but the longer, the better.

Step 3 - With your palm, gently drag along the skin downward from below your belly button toward your groin. Do this at least 10-15 times, but since you are covering a much larger portion of the body, I sometimes do it upwards of 30 times.

Again, the more time you spend on each massage, the better the results. 

What to Expect After a Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Close-up Caucasian woman after spa covered with white towel holding a glass of water.

Immediately after, you should drink a lot of water to help flush the fluid through your body even quicker. Otherwise, you risk having mild cold symptoms, which are not necessarily a bad thing – it lets you know the massage is working!

You can also expect to go to the bathroom a few times, especially to urinate. Again, this is proof of the massage working. 

My tip is to take before and after images, so you can really see the progress. After the massage and all the fluid has passed through your body, you should feel less congested, less bloated, and may appear slimmer.

Other Ways to Move Lymph Fluid

 Black Woman Dry Brushing Legs Making Anti-Cellulite Massage Sitting On Bathtub In Bathroom Indoor, Wearing Bathrobe. Body Care Routine. Cropped Shot, Selective Focus

There are other ways to get your lymph fluid moving! Here are some of our favorites:

Dry Brushing

Dry brushing is a simple and invigorating way to move lymph fluid. Simply take a dry body brush with natural bristles and brush very lightly and swiftly all over your body. Move the brush toward your major lymph nodes in your groin, armpits, and clavicle. It’s also a great way to wake up in the morning and stimulate blood flow!

Rebounding

Negative gravity will get your lymph fluid moving. An easy way to initiate movement is by rebounding on a small trampoline. Your descent back to the rebounder causes negative gravity and will move your lymph fluid.

Far-Infrared Sauna

Young woman relaxing in a sauna dressed in a towel. Interior of new Finnish sauna, infrared panels for medical procedures, classic wooden sauna. oak broom

A good, deep sweat not only encourages lymph fluid movement, it speeds up your body’s detoxification process. Spending time in a far-infrared sauna before your massage helps kick start your lymphatic system’s elimination of excess water.

Learn more about the benefits of infrared saunas and shop our line of saunas!

Cupping Therapy

Cupping therapy is another great technique for stimulating lymph fluid. The heated suction of the glass cups causes the skin to lift from the muscle, allowing the fluid more freedom of movement. It can help remove stagnation, encourage blood flow, and allow the body to heal and regenerate. 

Essential Oils

Essential oils are also used by massage therapists to help stimulate movement of lymph fluid. Consider using citrus (such as orange, lemon, or a citrus blend) or geranium essential oils in your at-home lymphatic massage by mixing a few drops with your favorite massage oil or lotion.

Make a lymphatic drainage massage a daily or weekly part of your life and say hello to better beauty and health days!

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