We review our lymphatic drainage massage experience, with a before-and-after check-in plus the benefits the treatment stands to offer.
In need of a serious mind-body reset, I decided to try out lymphatic drainage massage for the first time. Apparently, it’s beneficial not only to help bolster the immune system, but also to promote the body’s natural detoxification processes, enhance mental well-being, and more.
Ahead, I’m documenting my before-and-after lymphatic drainage massage experience. Plus: insights from Jonathan Leary, DC, founder and CEO of Remedy Place, a social wellness club with locations in West Hollywood, California and New York City.
What Is the Lymphatic System?
“The lymphatic system is a complex network of lymph vessels, lymph nodes, and lymphatic organs that work together to transport lymph fluid throughout the body,” Dr. Leary begins. It’s essentially a filtration system that helps expel waste, toxins, and excess fluid from tissues.
He continues to explain that it’s a vital component of the immune system as it can trap and filter out pathogens within the lymph nodes. “This helps prevent the spread of infection and supports the body’s defense against illness,” he explains. When your lymphatic system functions as it should, Dr. Leary notes you can experience benefits including but not limited to:
- A healthy immune response
- Fluid balance
- Support for natural detox pathways
- Optimal nutrient absorption
- Tissue repair and healing
Chances are you’re already supporting your lymphatic health without even realizing it, via “lifestyle practices like exercise, hydration, and healthy eating,” he shares. Yet you can also take things a step further by integrating techniques like dry brushing and lymphatic massage to enhance overall well-being.
Before My Lymphatic Drainage Massage
Although this treatment has been on my radar for years, it was never at the top of my list of things to try. I’d read that it uses a light, sweeping touch to do the job—and as a lover of deep tissue, hurts-so-good types of massage, I anticipated that I’d consider lymphatic drainage massage to be a (pun alert) waste.
That said, I’m innately curious and always game to try anything once, especially when it comes to beauty and wellness. The timing was right, too. I’d just returned from a trip abroad and was feeling worse for wear, namely on account of jet lag and subsisting on takeout and restaurant fare for 10 days (plus some travel constipation for good measure, which this treatment shows promise to help alleviate).
Frankly, my mental health hadn’t been in great shape, either. Stress, sadness, and brain fog all made it challenging to go back to my day-to-day routine. But instead of languishing, I made a vow to do everything in my power to get rid of the nasties holding my mind and body back. In addition to moving my body daily, making my own meals from scratch, limiting alcohol and sugar, and starting the day with meditation and journaling, I headed over to Remedy Place to try out lymphatic drainage massage for myself.
My Lymphatic Drainage Massage Experience
Remedy Place employs a compression device called the BallancerPro—rather than a specialist—to facilitate the lymphatic drainage massage. It’s basically a garment that you zip on before it inflates in a wave-like motion from the feet up (it reached just below my bra line), compressing then releasing to increase blood flow and remove waste products from the body.
Since I told the staff about my preference for pressure, they programmed the machine to a medium setting. I got zipped up, equipped with noise canceling headphones and an iPad with a meditation specific to lymphatic drainage massage. For an hour’s time, I let the machine do its thing.
What It Feels Like
I’d say that the compression had relatively high pressure, but it didn’t feel uncomfortable or suffocating. (For reference, the “squeezes” were less tight than those from blood pressure checks.) The releases were the most gratifying of all; I definitely felt that *things* were moving around upon each one.
I have pain in my left hip and loved the feeling of compression and release there—as well as at my stomach—in particular. If you’ve ever held a long pigeon pose (or another compression pose) in a yoga class, the juicy openness you feel from getting out of it is pretty similar.
Potential Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage Massage
The meditation called out some claimed benefits of lymphatic massage, which I tried to scribe verbatim:
- Releasing blockages from daily life stress
- Breaking down toxins in stagnant areas
- Excreting all waste molecules
- Leaving the body younger, purer, and freer
Dr. Leary adds onto this list, stating that benefits also include:
- Stimulating the lymphatic system to enhance lymph flow
- Reduced swelling and edema, which “can be particularly beneficial for individuals experiencing post-surgical swelling”
- Boosted immune function
- Relaxation, stress reduction, and improvements in mental well-being
- Enhanced energy flow, which can “lead to a sense of revitalization and increased vitality”
The Meditative Component
Around the midway point, sounds to induce theta brain wave activity took over, which doubled down on the calming experience. (Theta waves are involved with learning and memory; increased amplitudes of theta and alpha waves are also linked to reduced anxiety. Moreover, a 2017 study found that participants who listened to binaural beats that induced theta activity achieved brain functions of a meditative state after only 10 minutes of exposure.)
As someone who never falls asleep spontaneously, I was shocked to find that I was thisclose to snoozing by the time the BallancerPro turned off, officially marking the end of my first lymphatic drainage massage.
After My Lymphatic Drainage Massage
Truth be told, I was so blissed out by the time the machine turned off and the meditation was complete that I didn’t want it to end. Despite my many yawns before I even got up, I felt refreshed, lighter, and much more at ease than before my lymphatic drainage massage. (Refreshed, light, and at ease aren’t terms I’d usually use to describe myself at any given time, but in this case, they’re the most apt.)
I’m not certain if it was the lymphatic massage, meditation, dark room, or combination of them all that made for such a positive treatment. In any case, I was grateful and believe that they all helped me tap into my parasympathetic nervous system (i.e., “rest and digest” mode), whereas I most often operate from the sympathetic nervous system (i.e., “fight or flight” mode).
In sum, I felt light and calm in my mind and body, and carried on with my day in good spirits. And although I’m a lifelong night owl (or a wolf, per sleep chronotypes), I fell asleep before 10:30 p.m. and enjoyed a full night’s rest—the first in well over a week since I’d returned from my travels.
My Final Review
While I’m careful to not make exaggerated claims or tout “miracle cures,” I can confidently say that my lymphatic drainage massage left me feeling much better post-treatment than before it. That said, I didn’t experience certain purported benefits—like less cellulite, puffiness, and glowing skin—but I certainly didn’t expect them either after a single treatment.
“To maximize and maintain the benefits of lymphatic drainage massage, multiple sessions are typically recommended,” Dr. Leary explains. The sweet spot of how many treatments you’ll need will depend on your individual circumstances and goals. As he continues, “A general guideline is to start with a series of sessions close together—such as once or twice a week for a few weeks—to establish a foundation of lymphatic flow and improvement.” From there, you can proceed with “tune-ups” monthly or as needed to consistently support lymphatic health.
Since I was able to feel a marked difference in my overall sense of well-being following just one session, I can only imagine the benefits of integrating lymphatic drainage massage into my ongoing wellness toolkit. Though the commitment may be an investment for most (myself included), physical and mental well-being are ultimately priceless.