A patient receives a stomach massage.

Why is lymphatic drainage massage so popular?

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Discover one of the biggest health and beauty trends for 2022: lymphatic drainage massage.

One of the biggest changes expected in the cosmetics industry is a shift towards more natural approaches to face and body enhancements. In recent years, cosmetic surgery has been losing popularity with more people opting for injectables and the use electrotherapy, such as radiofrequency or microcurrent facials that promise to lift and tone the skin. And similarly, laser treatments promising to melt fat are being favoured over invasive weight-loss treatments.

This year, however, things are set to go even further towards natural enhancement with the growing popularity of lymphatic drainage treatments.

A patient receives a massage on her back from a therapist.
Lymphatic drainage massage. © Olia Danilevich
What is lymphatic drainage?

The lymphatic system carries away excess fluid from under the skin, assisting with the removal of waste and toxins (like germs) through urine. Unlike blood, it has nothing to pump it through the body, so it relies on muscle contraction caused by movement — if we don’t move much, then liquid will build up. For example, people who sit down all day might find their ankles swell — this is water retention from lymph fluid not moving. Similarly, when we wake up, we often find our faces are puffier than usual, for the same reason.

Lymphatic drainage treatments to try

Unless you’re trained in massage, this isn’t something you can easily achieve on your own. Flavia Morellato runs a clinic dedicated to lymphatic drainage massage. Working out of the Repose Clinic in South Kensington, with a team offering home visits across London, Flavia arranged for a member of her team to visit my home so I could learn more.

A young woman receives a stomach massage while stretched out on a sofa.
Stomach massage. © Yan Krukov

The 55-minute treatment across my body consisted of a massage far less relaxing than I was used to, but far more interesting.

Physiotherapist and lymphatic drainage specialist Camila Silva completed my treatment, which felt more clinical than your average massage as she, at times, talked me through what was happening.

For example, after working on one leg, she asked me to lift it in the air — I wasn’t sure why until she asked me to lift the one she hadn’t yet worked on, which felt like the leg of a rusty old robot in comparison: heavy and stiff. She then explained that I had water retention in my legs, likely due to working at a desk most days and doing very little walking day to day. Unfortunately, running and other more intense forms of exercise don’t always help as the release of lactic acid can contribute to water retention, she tells me.

After the treatment, I felt light and my movement felt fluid, as if I’d spent an hour stretching rather than simply being rubbed by expert hands. My stomach, which Camila worked on three times during the treatment, was significantly smaller in size and felt tight and toned, a feeling that remained for a few days.

It’s this side effect of lymphatic drainage — a reduction in size (due to less liquid being carried in the area) and a feeling of being toned — that’s making lymphatic drainage massage so appealing in the face of intrusive weight-loss treatments. Plus, it also comes with the added benefits of assisting circulation and supporting the immune system due to the removal of toxins.

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