DIY Lymphatic Drainage: What to Know and How to Do It, According to Experts

If you don’t have 10 minutes to spare, that’s fine too. Several lymphatic drainage techniques can be completed in even less time than that, and while you’re seated at your desk or during a brief stretch break. No matter your schedule or level of interest in movement and fitness, there is at least one form of lymphatic drainage stimulation that will work for you.

Ahead, see everything you need to know about lymphatic drainage, plus how to DIY and fit the practice into your routine.

What is lymphatic drainage?

Lymphatic drainage is a form of stimulating our own lymphatic system, which according to Bianca Melas, BHSc, an Alo Moves pilates instructor and naturopath, “plays a crucial role in maintaining the body’s fluid balance, immune defense, and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins.”

“It is a collection of vessels, nodes, and organs that work together to transport lymph around the body,” Melas explains. But draining it? “Lymphatic drainage is the process of either self-massage, massage, movement, or techniques that can further enhance and support our body’s natural process. By supporting lymph, we can prevent the accumulation of excess fluid.”

In short, it helps stimulate our lymphatic system, “which is the one responsible for removing toxins, excess fluids and any type of waste from our bodies,” adds Landa.

Is lymphatic drainage scientifically proven?

As is the case with most forms of holistic therapy, there are limited studies confirming the clinical benefits of lymphatic drainage (such is the case for cold plunge too).

That said, there are some: In 2015, a study found that manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) was effective in reducing swelling and pain in patients recovering from surgery compared to standard care alone. A 2019 review also concluded that MLD was part of a comprehensive treatment approach for people with lymphedema, and another 2019 trial established that patients with fibromyalgia symptoms experienced improvements in pain, fatigue, and quality of life after receiving MLD. Still, further research is needed.

Lymphatic drainage benefits

While clinical evidence is required to determine the effects of lymphatic drainage, holistic practitioners assert that it is effective. There is also a plethora of anecdotal evidence, including the facial massages I give myself every day. “Lymphatic drainage reduces swelling and bloating, relieves physical pain, helps boost immune function, helps detoxify our body, and overall enhances our well-being,” says Landa.

Lymphatic drainage is also said to help aid in managing IBS and constipation “by promoting gut healing and reducing inflammation,” says Melas, adding that it can also provide mood and stress relief by calming the nervous system and help boost immune function.

When to do lymphatic drainage

“There isn’t really a ‘best time of day,” to do it, what matters is that you do,” says Landa. That said, she believes there are benefits to doing it in the morning as well as at night. “It is a wake-up call to the lymphatic system that boosts its daily function and enforces its detox processes.”

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