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Lymphatic drainage massage

Discover how lymphatic drainage massage – or lymph drainage therapy – can play an important role in keeping your lymphatic system in good working in order.

What is lymphatic drainage massage?

The lymphatic system depends on muscle contraction and deep breathing to remove fluid and toxins from our body. But lymphatic drainage massage is another important way to keep the system running smoothly.

Less well-known in the UK, lymphatic drainage is a specialised form of massage used widely in Europe, the Far East and other parts of the world to improve lymphatic flow.

How is it different to ordinary massage?

We get asked this a lot! By ‘ordinary’ massage, people tend to be referring to aromatherapy, sports massage, Swedish massage or any of the other – often quite exotic-sounding – massages available today in salons and spas.

With these massages, a therapist is usually working on the muscles, and will often need to use deep massage techniques to reach the muscular layer. Lymphatic drainage massage, however, is targeting the delicate lymphatic vessels and nodes that sit just below the skin, which only require very light pressure in order to move fluid through.

What this means is that if you suffer from water retention, bloating, cellulite or poor skin tone, using traditional massage may not give you what you are looking for.

“Lymphatic drainage is sometimes termed ‘massage’ because it involves hand movements on the skin but it is very different from therapeutic or aromatherapy massage which can cause friction to the skin and increase the blood supply. This, in turn, causes more lymph to be produced.” Website of the Royal Marsden Hospital

Is lymphatic drainage massage new?

Lymphatic drainage massage was first promoted as a therapy in the 1930s by Dr Emil Vodder for treating the symptoms of sinusitis and chronic colds. He discovered that working on the swollen lymph nodes on the face and neck of his patients had a dramatic effect in decongesting the sinuses, eliminating inflammation and in many cases reducing headaches, migraines and even improving facial blemishes.

He expanded his study of lymphatic drainage massage to cover the lymphatic vessels and organs of the entire body, discovering both health and aesthetic benefits:

“We should be clear that a poor functioning lymph circulation lowers our defence which opens the door to every infection such as catarrh, chronic colds, sinusitis, sore throat, angina etc. Unfortunately, this condition of congestion which can be traced back to a worsening and stagnation of lymph, also has a detrimental effect on one’s appearance. This is the deeper cause of a series of cosmetic flaws such as swelling, reddening, puffiness, bags under the eyes, pimples…etc.

“Stagnation of the lymph flow therefore has catastrophic results for all health and beauty; one must get the lymph circulation going again at all costs and this is achieved with the help of Manual Lymph Drainage.” Dr Emil Vodder: Lymphatic drainage, a new therapeutic method, Paris 1936

Are there different types of manual lymphatic drainage massage?


In terms of manual lymphatic drainage massage, while the ‘Vodder method’ as developed by our old friend Dr Emil Vodder is seen as the absolute gold standard, there are two other schools of lymphatic drainage massage: the Casley-Smith and the Foldi-Leduc methods.

Both of these are almost exclusively used to treat serious medical conditions such as lymphoedema, lipoedema and fibrosis. Any manual lymphatic drainage massage offered in an aesthetic setting, such as a salon, spa or aesthetic clinic, will be based on the Vodder method.

How is lymphatic drainage massage performed?

Historically, lymphatic drainage massage has been carried out manually by trained therapists. This involves using light pressure and long, rhythmic strokes to increase the flow of lymphatic fluid – ‘lymph’ – helping the lymphatic system remove toxins and other harmful waste from the body.

Body Ballancer® is a groundbreaking lymphatic drainage machine that removes the need for a trained lymphatic drainage massage therapist. Instead, the Body Ballancer® uses clinically designed garments that fill with air to provide a powerful, consistent and effective lymphatic massage.

Furthermore, it’s based on proven principles of the Vodder method, using fluid compression strokes that gently work from the base of the leg or arm up to the torso – known as ‘distal to proximal’ – to efficiently decongest the entire treated area of excess fluid.

Lymphatic drainage massage benefits

Your lymphatic system supports your immune system by removing toxins, getting rid of excess fluid and helping your body absorb vitamins from your digestive system.

Unfortunately, the lymphatic system can often get blocked or overrun because of things like stress, illness and an unhealthy lifestyle.

While a good diet and regular exercise are important, lymphatic drainage massage is a proven way to give your lymphatic system a helping hand.

Because of the role the lymphatic system has, lymphatic drainage massage – or lymph drainage therapy as it’s sometimes known – can help produce a wide range of health, aesthetic and fitness benefits. These include:

  • Reducing swelling caused by water retention
  • Supporting weight loss
  • Reducing cellulite
  • Improving skin tone
  • Improving body shape
  • Helping you feel lighter and less bloated
  • Improving digestion
  • Aiding sleep and relaxation
  • Getting rid of toxins
  • Boosting the immune system to help prevent illness and disease
  • Supporting faster muscle recovery to aid with exercise
What to expect from the Body Ballancer® lymphatic drainage machine

Depending on the area of your body being treated, you’ll be helped into the Body Ballancer® trousers or jacket before reclining comfortably on the treatment couch. The garments are then attached to a computerised air-compression device programmed to apply exactly the right amount of pressure through all, or a combination of, the 24 overlapping air chambers.

Once the treatment starts, the garment’s gradual and gentle inflation will provide a smooth, flowing lymphatic drainage massage over the targeted area, providing a relaxing, enjoyable and comforting experience. When the treatment is complete, the garment will automatically deflate and you’ll emerge feeling lighter, more energised and refreshed.

How many lymphatic massage treatments will you need?

This depends on your particular reason for using the Body Ballancer® lymphatic drainage machine.

For example, if you’d like to reduce bloating and puffiness caused by water retention, you can enjoy noticeable results in as little as a single session.

But if you’re looking to reduce cellulite or improve skin tone, you’ll probably require a course of treatments. We typically recommend 12 sessions over three to four weeks.

A Body Ballancer® lymphatic drainage massage can also be used to improve the results of treatments like liposculpture. One or two sessions right up to the day of the procedure will help boost lymphatic flow and clear the area of excess fluid.

After treatment, a course of four to six sessions will reduce bruising and swelling, helping you to achieve your desired body shape faster and with less discomfort.

What to wear during a Body Ballancer® lymphatic drainage massage

We usually recommend comfortable clothes such as leggings with socks for the lower body, or a soft, long-sleeved top if you’re having treatment on your upper body.

For hygiene reasons, we advise against bare skin. If you’re having a Body Ballancer® lymphatic massage in a spa or clinic, they may provide you with a disposable top or bottoms.

Is lymphatic drainage massage safe?

A lymphatic drainage massage is perfectly safe. However, we don’t recommend Body Ballancer® if you suffer from the following:

  • Pain and / or numbness that’s not been evaluated by a doctor.
  • Ischemic vascular disease, including gangrene and pain when you’re at rest.
  • Uncontrolled congestive heart failure or unstable cardiac disease.
  • Known or suspected deep-vein thrombosis.
  • Infected skin or an infected open wound.

If you have any uncertainty about being treated, please talk to your doctor first.