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Manual Lymphatic Drainage – Part Two – The Technique

What Does Manual Lymphatic Drainage Feel Like?

This is an excellent question and it always helps to know what to expect before you receive any type of treatment. Personally, if I don’t know, my mind is spinning trying to figure out what comes next and I never fully relax. This segment of my Manual Lymphatic Drainage Series reviews the location of the lymph nodes and what it’s like to experience the Manual Lymphatic Drainage Technique.

Your Lymph Nodes

We have lymph nodes throughout our body. All of the nodes eventually drain into two “mother nodes” located in the supraclavicular area (just above your collar bone). Working the way down the body, the next major nodes are in your armpits (axillary nodes), your cisterna chyli is located in your abdomen, and your groin (inguinal). Below is an abbreviated chart to give you a basic visual.

The Manual Lymphatic Drainage Technique

When performing full body manual lymphatic drainage the client starts face up and the therapist starts by clearing the nodes just above your collar bone. Everything else eventually drains to this area, so you need to clear the path and give everything a place to go! We work through the body clearing the areas closest to the nodes and working away so we are always directing the lymph to towards the cleared areas. We work through the face, scalp, and neck all the way through the front of your body before turning you over. Majority of the work is actually completed with the client face up (supine), so it can be a much more comfortable experience, especially for those who get congested easily in the face down (prone) position.

The technique itself is very gentle. This is not a deep tissue massage. The lymph system is located very close to the surface of the skin, so the sensation you feel during the massage is very light pressure with a slight tug of the skin, typically in the direction of the nearest mother node (the tape playing in our heads is, “how light can I go, how far can I stretch”). There are a few areas that are massaged where you may not be used to receiving massage.

1) The eye sockets. I found it was a stranger sensation to perform this technique than to receive it. You can do it to yourself (pretty please be gentle and don’t poke out your own eye). Close your eyes, place a finger tip (preferably a clean one) on the bone UNDER your eye. Slightly roll your finger in until you feel the flat part of the bone. Yes, this helps relieve eye puffiness.

2)  Your armpits. It’s a quick technique, but if you aren’t expecting someone to put their hands in your armpits it can catch you off guard. The full palm goes in your armpit, so there are no little finger tips tickling around. It’s actually kind of a comforting sensation (I find this whole treatment to be very comforting in general).

3)  Under the breast. There are lots of nodes at the breast fold. The technique I use is for one hand to be on the side of the chest (kind of holding up the side of the breast tissue with my forearm and the other hand is under the breast, at the fold. Again, this felt much more invasive to perform than it did to receive. The hands barely move and the motion of the technique is towards your side and up into the armpit (to the auxillary nodes). Fun Fact: Wearing underwire bras and very tight sports bras can inhibit the full function of these nodes, which is why it’s important to clear them. It’s also important to let the girls breathe, either bra-less or with soft bras so your lymph can flow.

4) The Groin. Again, this sounded much more invasive to me than it felt when receiving the technique. The therapist’s hand is placed approximately between your hip bone and pubic bone and I always use secure draping. There’s lots of nodes in this area which is why it’s important to treat, and the therapist hangs out there for a while (about 30 seconds where other areas are about 10 seconds: one Mississippi, two Mississippi…).

Please note that techniques will vary by therapist and the issue you may be having treated. These notes are based on full body manual lymphatic drainage, but if your therapist is treating a specific area for any reason, that may be the only area treated. As with all my treatments, there may be techniques I do not perform if I’m not comfortable or if you’re not comfortable. It’s all about communication.

In addition to providing a stand alone lymphatic drainage massage, I will be adding this technique to select areas of the body during my Integrative and Ashiatsu massage sessions at no additional charge. Typically these will be areas that require extra attention or deeper work and the lymphatic drainage techniques will help minimize inflammation in those areas.

SPECIAL: During the month of September you may try our full body Lymphatic Drainage Massage for the special rate of $40 for a 60 minute treatment. May not be combined with any other offers; additional charge applies for mobile massage.

 

 

What is She Doing To Me? Part 2 – Why Do I have Knots?

I get this question a lot. Why do I have knots? What can I do to NOT get knots?  I cannot tell you how often I wish I had an MRI machine embedded in my brain. I’d love to see every muscle, scar, tear, break, and knot. It would be my super power (and flying – I mean flying is a super power given right?). Alas, all I can do is feel. I’ve been praised with giving a very intuitive massage and I hear so often, “You found every place that hurt!” Even that magical MRI wouldn’t be able to see the cause of the issue: be it physical or emotional. Let’s get technical for a moment. Here’s a little groundwork that explains your body1:

Fascia                                               

Fascia Close Up

Fascia is a type of connective tissue (the most abundant tissue type in the body) that possesses two physical states: Sol state and Gel state. Massage can change the fascia from the more gelatinous Gel state to the more pliant and elastic Sol state. When in the Sol state, the fascia allows muscles and trigger points to be manipulated. Hydration is key to helping the transformation between the two states.

 

Muscles

Muscles allow the body to move, maintain posture, and produce heat. They respond to signals from the nervous system.

Spasms

A spasm is a localized muscle contraction, usually caused by the stress of a minor injury like a strain or contusion. When the neurological stimulation causing the spasm is repeated in succession, a knot may form in part or all of the muscle.

Trigger Points

Trigger points are similar to spasms, but can be found in muscle, tendons, fascia, and ligaments. However, trigger points in the muscle are basically neurochemical events that cause fibers to stick together creating a knot or rigid zone.

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Now for the why: When I say, “I don’t know,” or  “you can’t do anything to stop them,” I see the disappointment on your face. I answer that way because there are SO many reasons you may be experiencing pain. Most are daily activities. Here are a few:

Fine motor movements: keyboarding or playing a musical instrument require your body to perform movements of constant fine motor control while maintaining posture.

Gross motor movements: yard work, sports, or exercise that use large muscle groups.

Posture: Yep, we don’t think about it, but resisting the force of gravity is work for our bodies.

Stress and Fatigue: Anxiety and depression. A muscle will spasm in response to stress like it will to a physical injury. The stress may be emotional or physical.

Inactivity: Sorry, if you do nothing at all, ever, you will not avoid the pain. Think about it: when you have been lying or sitting for an extended period of time you get up with pain and stiffness.

Direct trauma, disease, and disorders: From a slip and fall or car accident to fibromyalgia or arthritis, the body reacts to all of these conditions.

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So how do you fix it? I feel a teeny tiny bit bad when I say, “massage,” (sometimes I get actual eye rolling and an “of course,” from people when I say “massage”) but massages will truly help. They aid in circulation, loosening that fascia so your muscles move more freely, and releasing those knots that are causing you discomfort. The list of benefits is endless: both physical and emotional. Here are a few other helpful tips to keep you going between your massage sessions:

Everything in Moderation: The two worst things for your body are over use and no use.

Drink Water: Because I said so. The rule of thumb is 0.5oz per pound of your body weight. So if you weigh 130lbs, you should be drinking 65oz of water per day (that’s about eight, 8oz glasses). No. Coffee is not water. No. Soda is not water.

Warm Up Properly: If you don’t warm up prior to exercise you risk muscular tears and facial restrictions that will limit performance. Give yourself a minimum of 5-10 minutes of warm up. It’s worth it.

Try to be Healthy: Good nutrition promotes healing. Excessive use of alcohol or barbiturates slow metabolism. Disease or habits may decrease oxygen supply: smoking, diabetes, sleep apnea.

Circulation: Promoting good circulation is so important for tissue healing. Circulation delivers oxygen and removes waste-product. Massage is great for circulation. So is a healthy diet, drinking water, not smoking, and managing stress.

The body is an amazing thing. Be kind to it. Be kind to yourself. You will be rewarded.

Cheers!

Erin

1 Salvo, S. Massage Therapy Principles and Practice. Third Edition (2007).