When I learned Swedish massage of both the face and body, I was taught that Swedish massage has a stimulating effect on the skin. Squeezing, pressing, stroking and even tapping movements can help relax muscles, desquamate surface skin cells, soothe nerve endings, increase blood flow and improve lymph drainage.
So, if Swedish Massage improves lymph drainage why would I need to learn another technique such as lymphatic drainage massage? How do these two techniques differ?
To achieve the desired outcome with Swedish massage a certain amount of pressure on the skin and underlying tissues are needed. If you only use a light superficial pressure, you’ll need to massage for quite a while before reaching those results. Try it now, gently stroke back and forth 10 times on the back of your hand, feels nice doesn’t it? Now, repeat the same movement but use more pressure. It still feels nice but now you are probably feeling an increase in temperature, your skin will feel warmer. We have successfully stimulated the circulation.
By default, when you increase blood circulation you will also get an element of lymph movement because the two systems are intrinsically linked. One of the functions of the blood circulation is to collect tissue fluid from between the cells (interstitial fluid) back to the capillaries. The lymph capillaries also share that function, therefore, when we stimulate blood circulation, we also stimulate lymph flow. However, the featherlight pumping action of lymphatic drainage massage with the hands does not cause an increase in blood flow to the area. Combining this action with correct direction, rhythm and speed ensures we are mimicking the lymphatic flow.
The end result is to calm the skin (reduce inflammation as circulation is not stimulated), help to detoxify the skin (lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, created and circulated within the lymphatic system assist in neutralizing and removing potential pathogens/toxins) and helps reduce puffiness (fluid retention is stagnant tissue fluid, it’s not moving. So, we can encourage the lymph to flow back to the blood circulation).
Given these main benefits we can see that lymphatic drainage massage would be an ideal touch technique for sensitive skins, rosacea and acne prone skins. This doesn’t mean they are the only skins to benefit. Every skin type and condition would benefit from lymphatic drainage massage, after all we all have lymph and the easier it flows the better exchange of nutrients and removal of waste which ultimately will result in healthier skin.