This month, our columnist Angela Scanlon explores the mysterious world of lymphatic drainage to see what all the fuss is about
Ever felt curious as to what exactly lymphatic drainage entails?
Flavia Morellato arrived at my home on a windy Wednesday evening and hugged me before taking off her boots and bounding up the stairs. A little forward you might think, but I enjoy a human who travels light and knows what they want (‘a high bed’ as it happens). I had been told not to eat anything heavy that afternoon, to stay hydrated and be prepared to ‘wear little clothing during the massage’. I usually don’t do massage in a full boiler suit, so this wasn’t alarming. I lit a candle, brought my kid’s Miffy lamp into my bedroom, Flavia cracked on some music and away we went.
I was familiar with ‘manual lymphatic drainage’ and may have even had it at the arse end of a treatment in Thailand a decade ago. I knew, in theory, what it was about. If you don’t, the technique was invented by Dr Emil and Mrs Estrid Vodder in the early 30s. It’s a form of massage that stimulates the lymphatic drainage system (the network of vessels through which lymph fluid drains from the tissues into the blood) with gentle-ish massaging strokes.
Flavia started with my tummy. I love every type of massage, but having someone press firmly on that area is oddly terrifying. It’s the bit of you that houses all your major organs – there’s a cage to protect it and it’s usually hidden behind folded arms. Like getting a bikini wax, I figured tension and anticipation would only make it worse, so I forced myself to take deep breaths and relax into it. Once I did, things started to… gurgle. I can’t quite explain the sound (or the sensation), and that may not be a bad thing.
Flavia is almost evangelical about her work and spoke to my body as she massaged (which should be weird but somehow wasn’t). ‘Thank you, very good. That’s it,’ she said to the water, as she moved and manipulated everything that was trapped in my system – she said a few recent flights had made me pretty bloated. We cheered as she steered the water towards the lymph node. Apparently, there was air there, too, and I should just ‘let it out’. Although I was grateful for the gesture and was in the comfort of my own bed, I was not quite there yet.
The light, rhythmical massage encourages the lymphatic system to eliminate metabolic waste products, excess fluid and bacteria. It also speeds up metabolism, circulation, digestion, detoxification, facilitates healing and supports the immune system. Basically, all the benefits of colonic irrigation, but less invasive and without the obliteration of good gut bacteria.
I can’t really tell what benefits of lymphatic drainage, if any, I’ve gained internally, but my tummy did definitely feel flatter, I slept like a baby and I’m, ahem, gassed about having another one sometime soon.