A common question regarding lymphatic drainage is “Why do you use such light pressure? Surely a firmer touch will force this swelling to move!?”
While most massage techniques are aimed to affect muscle tissue, the purpose of Manual Lymph Drainage is to affect fluid movement.
Fluid enters the lymphatic system through very delicate initial lymph vessels, small finger-like projections found everywhere in the skin. These projections are anchored by tiny collagen filaments and when these filaments are stretched they open single cell flaps allowing interstitial fluid to flood into the collector vessels and officially become lymph.
The way that MLD affects fluid movement is through a gentle stretch and release of the skin. This allows interstitial fluid to enter the lymphatic vessels and with slow pumping movements stimulate its rhythmic journey from the periphery back to the core. If the pressure is too deep then these tiny vessels collapse, defeating the goal of moving fluid and thus explaining why lymphatic massage is so gentle.
As a massage therapist used to working deeply into muscles and connective tissue, it can be a tricky modality to learn, but the pressure must be light and the skin must be stretched and released for MLD to work. And it does work! Not to mention the gentle rhythmic massage feels amazing, has an extremely calming effect on the nervous system, and promotes a deep state of relaxation- something we could all benefit from every now and then!