While the heart continuously pumps blood through the blood vessels, the lymphatic system relies on the movement of smooth muscles to transport fluid through the lymph vessels.
Health conditions can interrupt the normal flow of lymph, causing lymph fluid to build up in a particular area of the body, often in the arms or legs, where it can causing swelling. This condition is called lymphedema.
People can develop lymphedema as a result of infections, cancer treatments that involve the removal of lymph nodes, and any condition that damages the lymphatic system.
Lymphatic massage can reduce swelling and improve circulation throughout the lymphatic system. Lymphatic massage usually forms part of a treatment program called decongestive lymphatic therapy (DLT).
DLT for lymphedema includes:
- lymphatic drainage massage
- compression garments
- skin care
Lymphatic drainage massage can benefit people who are experiencing the following:
- swelling or edema
- skin disorders
- digestive problems
- migraine episodes
The authors of a 2015 systematic review concluded that lymphatic massage might be more effective than connective tissue massage in relieving symptoms of stiffness and depression in people living with fibromyalgia.
People should not have a lymphatic massage if they have congestive heart failure, blood clots, kidney problems, infections, or circulation problems. If a person has any medical conditions, they should talk to a doctor before trying a lymphatic massage.