If you’ve seen before-and-afters like this one in your feed, you know the supposed lymphatic massage transformation is astounding.

Getting rid of excess bloating to reveal a slimmed-down midsection – with just a simple massage? (sign.me.up!)

But could it really be that easy?

What We Know

First up, what the heck is a lymphatic system?

It’s an incredible network that’s like a sanitation system for your body. It breaks down the “gunk” and transports “clean” fluid to all your tissues (and brain!).1

Super important, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much to throw your whole lymphatic system out of whack:

– Not moving enough
– Eating a diet high in sugar
– Drinking lots of coffee
– Dehydration
– Infections
– Pregnancy
– Surgery
– Traumatic events1

These lymph stressors can lead to fluid buildup (swelling and puffiness), in certain areas of your body. Eventually, the “clogged” lymph nodes can lead to illness or other side effects.1

To keep the lymph fluids flowing, a Danish physiotherapist developed the first lymphatic massage: Manual Lymph Drainage, or MLD for short.1

In MLD, a professional uses gentle massage to direct the flow of lymphatic fluids and “unclog” areas that may be backed up. Pressure and movement must be done in a specific direction: an upward motion towards the heart and neck.

Does it actually work?

So far, studies have shown that MLD can help reduce lymphedema swelling in breast cancer patients under 60.2

But what about everyone else?

What We’re Still Learning

There’s not enough research to conclude that MLD is the magic fix to purge toxins and excess weight. (Sorry, this pains us as much as it pains you!)

Even if it does reduce swelling and bloating, lymphatic massage results may only be minimal and temporary.3

On the bright side, MLD can still be a relaxing experience that feels good and improves your quality of life. Where’s the harm in that? 

The Bottom Line

Most of us won’t get long-term #transformationtuesday results from a lymphatic massage.

But keeping your lymphatic system moving is still important for your health!

Unlike your blood, which has your heart to keep it moving, lymphatic fluid needs muscle contractions to flow through your body.

Here are some DIY ways to get your lymph moving – without the $$$ massage:

Toes In  

💧  Drink more water to prevent dehydration.

🤸  Set reminders to get up every 20-30min and move around.

☀️  Love yoga? Sun salutations are excellent for lymphatic flow.

🛁  Use a dry brush on your skin before your shower.

Waist Deep  

🥶  End your shower with a 30-sec blast of cold water.

🦘 Invest in a rebounder (trampoline) and bounce on it for 5 minutes 3 times a day.

Full Immersion  

🧘 Add some 2-min bursts of mindfulness throughout your day: breathe deeply in and out from your ribcage and stomach.
🧊 Practice cold plunges a few times a week. You can buy a cold plunge tub or create your own.


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Pique's Head of Content & Wellness Education, is a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, RYT, and holds a JD from UC Berkeley. After 10 years as a practicing trial lawyer, she shifted gears and has spent the past 9 years as a health coach, educator and writer. It's her passion to help people learn sustainable, effective ways to unlock their full wellness potential. When she's not teaching or writing, you can find her hiking, mountain biking, cycling, backcountry skiing, camping and drinking anywhere from 5-7 cups of tea per day.
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Jessica Ederer, JD, CPT, FNS, RYT
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Pique's Head of Content & Wellness Education, is a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, RYT, and holds a JD...