Updated: Aug 23
The short answer is No, lymphatic massage should not be painful. While I’ve seen various types of “lymphatic massage” on social media, their vigorous approach often conflicts with the methods I learned, which is primarily Vodder-based MLD (Manual Lymphatic Drainage), and I also use a medical device called a Lymphstar Pro-Fusion manufactured by Arcturus Star Products in Colorado. Both of these methods are gentle, effective and virtually pain-free.
MLD is a type of bodywork that consists of short, slow and very light-touch strokes that gently stretch across the skin. Remember, most of the lymphatic vessels are hair-thin and just below the skin’s surface, so to work any deeper completely bypasses the lymphatic system and becomes more of a muscular or myofascial type of treatment.
The Lymphstar Pro-Fusion is a device that utilizes sound waves and electromagnetic waves to move more fluid. The sound waves can actually ‘wake up’ congested lymphatic fluid as if to change the consistency of the congestion. Then, the sound waves dilate the lymphatic vessels thereby moving more fluid. Very often, we utilize both methods simultaneously, but only if there are no contraindications to using the Lymphstar (i.e., pacemakers, blood clots, etc.).
Many of our clients are suffering with auto-immune disorders, which aren’t necessarily painful in and of themselves. But almost half of our clients come to us after a surgery, so they’re still in pain, they’re swollen and tender and if they haven’t read over my website, they’re feeling anxious because they think it’s going to hurt. Imagine their relief when I promise them that we will do NOTHING to hurt them and they’re going to feel so much better after their session! Open communication and a thorough client intake process can make all the difference in creating a safe and comfortable setting for clients in distress.
Often times, our clients are surprised by - if not skeptical of - the effectiveness of such a light-touch approach, so it’s incumbent upon us to educate each and every client while we work. We pride ourselves in our ability to explain what we’re doing throughout the session and offer sound rationale for our approach; our clients love it! Sometimes, we’ll take before & after pictures (see images on our website) and other times, we may measure the limb or appendage before and after the session. We’ve been able to reduce fluid in the ankles by almost a full inch! What a difference-maker that can be to someone suffering with post-radiation swelling.
So, the bottom line is that MLD and the Lymphstar Pro-Fusion methods are two gentle and pain-free approaches to working with the lymphatic system. If you prefer to avoid pain, and your therapist can’t promise they won’t hurt you, I encourage you to seek out someone who is better able to accommodate your needs.