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Lymphatic Drainage

Manual lymphatic drainage is a gentle form of massage that accelerates the circulation of the lymph—fluids that support your immune system—throughout the body.

I have heard that lymphatic drainage can be used to reduce cellulite. Does this actually work?

Sara Proffer (Marquette, MI) on Oct 10, 2014
It can help, but it's not a cure-all.
Kevin Franklin (Brandon, FL) on Oct 10, 2014
After speaking to doctors, this is what I have learned. Women's fat cells are shaped like honeycombs. Cellulite occurs when they do not stack properly on top of each other. The only true way to take care of this problem is through proper dieting, exercise, stretching, and massage.
Raquel Merrill (, ) on Oct 10, 2014
No it does not. Cellulite cells are very difficult to get rid of or hide. Weight training may reduce the appearance of cellulite. While I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, liposuction can get rid of cellulite semi-permanently.
Richard Bartlett (Lansing, MI) on Oct 10, 2014
Massage cannot make cellulite just "go away." Some people, women in particular, have a certain amount of cellulite under the skin, especially on the hips and thighs. Most experts say the texture of one's fatty tissues seems to be governed by heredity. I have heard some claims that some types of massage can reduce the lumpy appearance of cellulite, by smoothing out the connective tissue that supports it, but I have no direct experience or research to support this. Lymphatic massage is targeted at excess fluid in the subcutaneous layers, but this is a factor in edema (if you have it) and will most likely not affect cellulite. A low-fat diet and controlled weight loss *can* help reduce cellulite, according to medical sources I have found. Remember that this is one area where quackery abounds. Do some research on the internet for actual medical information from a reliable source before investing in any therapy or product.
Lloyd McElheny (Aurora, CO) on Oct 10, 2014
Unfortunately, in a word, no. Lymphatic drainage has not been proven to be an effective treatment.
Ryan Chapman (Los Angeles, CA) on Oct 10, 2014
I do not know the ins and outs of this, but I would think that any effect would only be temporary. Cellulite has different causes and massage does not do much to reduce those causes. Massage is very healthy, but I would be wary of anyone claiming they can cure cellulite with a massage. To reduce cellulite, you need to diet, exercise, reduce water retention and detoxify.
Kymberly Kula (Lakewood, CO) on Oct 10, 2014
Used alongside the right diet and exercise, yes, it can help. Massage can help flush out stored fats and toxins in your muscles.
Deborah Gilmore (Golden, CO) on Oct 10, 2014
Perhaps, but it would take a long time. Have you tried the Blood Type Diet? Very effective!
Paul Jones (Amherst, NY) on Oct 10, 2014
Sorry, massage cannot reduce cellulite. Regular exercise like regular brisk walking, can reduce cellulite in the legs and buttocks. Save your money for the new clothes you will need after a year of walking. Sorry, sunshine.
Timothy Mathews (Clearwater, FL) on Oct 10, 2014
There are many benefits to lymphatic drainage. Yes, it could reduce cellulite, but many treatments will be needed. Lymphatic drainage is used to reduce the toxins in the body as well as water retention.
Dominic Quin-Harkin (San Rafael, CA) on Oct 10, 2014
I have not done clinical studies personally, but from the numerous sources I have read, lymphatic massage, done on a regular basis, is the only non-invasive treatment that can reduce cellulite. The reasoning for it is based on two facts. 1. The lymphatic system is not a closed circuit and has no pump. There are two sizes of tubes in your body that carry fluid, arteries/veins and lymphatic tubes, which run in the same direction as the veins. The heart pumps blood through the arteries into the capillaries where there is a pool of fluid that has tons of particles in it (like a pond with organisms living in it). As the heart continues to pump, most of these particles are pumped into the veins that run to the heart. The lymph carries cells that are too big to fit in the veins (fat cells, proteins, and others). These 'junk" cells are transported through the lymphatic tubes to the nodes in your body to be processed and eventually eliminated from the body. However, The lymphatic system doesn't have a pump, and the heart doesn't control it, so its proper function is dependent on muscle contraction and lymphatic massage. That is why people who are very active have stronger immune systems and less cellulite. So the point is, you can either work out aggressively, or you can use lymphatic massage to help drain the lymphatic system. Ideally, do both, and drink at least 4 liters of water a day.
Christina Fries (Mesa, AZ) on Oct 10, 2014
I do not believe it does because it's such a light massage. There are some massage practices in other countries, like Ukraine, where they physically break up cellulite, a rather uncomfortable experience. Even this procedure does not produce long-term results. The cellulite almost always returns within months.
Megan Dempsey (Denver, CO) on Oct 10, 2014
Not really. Cellulite is a difficult issue to address. Lymphatic drainage addresses lymphatic flow and system health. The lymphatic system is a vascular system that circulates fluid that bathes cells, aids in removal of cellular debris, stimulates lymph nodes and reduces edema. Cellulite pops up in areas in subdermal fat tissues where toxins have been deposited, hardening the fat tissues. Endermologie and mesotherapy are effective in reducing cellulite. Diet and exercise are effective ways of preventing cellulite.
Ryan Iuliano (Boston, MA) on Oct 10, 2014
Unfortunately no. Blame the genetic pool you took a dip into as there is no "cure" for cellulite. There are a number of treatments available that will reduce the appearance for a period of time (such as caffeinated creams that draw water out of the skin cells and reduce its dimpled appearance for a number of hours), but nothing that will rid you of it.
Jenny Sweeney (Tallahassee, FL) on Oct 10, 2014
Cellulite is everyone's worst nightmare. And trying to get rid of it permanently can seem like an uphill battle. Doctors and massage therapists have varying opinions on the effectiveness of massage on cellulite-prone areas. Lymph massage increases circulation and boosts the body's ability to filter things such as excess fluids, toxins and waste. This helps helps prevent toxins from solidifying within the fat cell. So while massage may not get rid of cellulite, it is certainly a beneficial method of preventative care.
Keely Jackson (New York, NY) on Oct 10, 2014
Yes, lymphatic drainage can be very effective in the reduction of cellulite. A large percentage of cellulite (fat) is fluid. The lymphatic system plays a big role in circulating and removing bodily fluids. When the lymph drainage system becomes congested, cellulite become more pronounced. With lymphatic drainage the practitioner uses light pressure from the fingers and palms to stimulate the lymphatic system, moving the fluid found not only in cellulite but through out the entire body back to the heart. Lymphatic drainage decongests the capillaries and little filters of the lymphatic system (lymph nodes) reestablishing a regenerative flow of tissue fluid that not only washes the cells with nutrients but also removes waste products. Septa is a connective tissue that holds fat cells in place, something like cheesecloth wrapped around mozzarella. If the circulation of lymph is congested, septa becomes dry and tight. Now imagine tightening the cheesecloth around the mozzarella so the cheese (or cellulite) starts to protrude. How is that for a visual? Along with lymphatic drainage, a healthy diet, exercise and easy, deep breathing are also good habits to adopt for reduction of cellulite.
Keely Jackson (New York, NY) on Oct 10, 2014
Yes, lymphatic drainage can be very effective in the reduction of cellulite. A large percentage of cellulite (fat) is fluid. The lymphatic system plays a big role in circulating and removing bodily fluids. When the lymph drainage system becomes congested, cellulite become more pronounced. With lymphatic drainage the practitioner uses light pressure from the fingers and palms to stimulate the lymphatic system, moving the fluid found not only in cellulite but through out the entire body back to the heart. Lymphatic drainage decongests the capillaries and little filters of the lymphatic system (lymph nodes) reestablishing a regenerative flow of tissue fluid that not only washes the cells with nutrients but also removes waste products. Septa is a connective tissue that holds fat cells in place, something like cheesecloth wrapped around mozzarella. If the circulation of lymph is congested, septa becomes dry and tight. Now imagine tightening the cheesecloth around the mozzarella so the cheese (or cellulite) starts to protrude. How is that for a visual? Along with lymphatic drainage, a healthy diet, exercise and easy, deep breathing are also good habits to adopt for reduction of cellulite.
Audrey Hamilton (Roseville, CA) on Oct 10, 2014
From what I know about cellulite, it is a specific type of fat cell that is dense and round and can never go away. However, it is possible to change its shape, and therefore make it less visible. There are a few ways of doing this, but I have never heard of lymphatic drainage helping.
Tatiana Pandolpho (New Fairfield, CT) on Oct 10, 2014
Lymphatic drainage is helpful, but you need to combine it with diet and exercise.
Said Alla (Chadds Ford, PA) on Oct 10, 2014
Lymphatic drainage is a type of massage that clears lymph nodes and stimulates the circulation of lymph. I would personally recommend deep tissue massage on the cellulite. Body wraps might be helpful as well.
Cari Cater (Smyrna, GA) on Oct 10, 2014
Lymph drainage helps to eliminate toxins and reduce water retention. Therefore, it can be very effective for treating cellulite. Paired with a good lymph, liver and kidney cleanse, and a diet with good nutrition and proper hydration, the results last even longer!
Joseph DeBoo (Naperville, IL) on Oct 10, 2014
Yes. Massage therapy breaks up the fat. It then goes into the blood and lymphatic system, which takes it out of the body. Think of it this way. You can watch those broken-up fatty cells go down the drain when you flush the toilet. Keep in mind massage is not as effective as regular exercise.
Anastasia Nocentelli (Dallas, TX) on Oct 10, 2014
Yes! There is technique that is used to reduce the appearance of cellulite naturally. It is called Lypossage. The Lypossage treatment is a specified blend of massage modalities that derive from physical therapy, including deep lymphatic drainage and deep tissue release. It was created by Charles W. Wiltsie III, LMT, an internationally recognized massage therapy educator and practitioner. Mr. Wiltsie conducted a year long study of 100 female subjects that documented the effectiveness of the technique. The study was published in Massage and Bodywork Magazine in 1999. In the study, notable results included an average inch loss of 1 1/2 inches per thigh and a cumulative average inch loss of almost 7 inches. How does Lypossage work and is it safe? Lypossage cleanses the body of stagnant, stalled lymphatic fluid (lymph edema) that can create the lumps and bulges we know as figure imbalance. The deeper Lypossage strokes break up adhesions under the skin that can contribute to the dimpled, uneven appearance of cellulite. Lypossage also tones the muscles, lifting and firming sagging tissue. Lypossage can be performed on three areas of the body known as zones. The zones are defined as follows: Zone 1 refers to the lower body, including the hips, thighs, buttocks, and lower abdomen. Expected outcomes for this part of the body include dimension loss, structural improvements (posture and carriage), diminished look of cellulite, improved muscle tone, improved skin tone, cleansing of the lymphatic system and improved circulation. Zone 2 includes the upper abdomen, back, decolletage (chest and neck area) and arms. This zone targets improving posture, dimension loss in the arms and abdomen, toning and firming of the bust area, and improved circulation and lymphatic flow in the upper body. Zone 3 is the head, neck, and face. This can provide quite dramatic results in lifting and toning sagging tissues in the lower face and neck, diminishing the appearance of wrinkles and significantly improving skin tone and texture. This truly is a natural face lift. If you would like to book a consultation, please feel free to inquire. The results are really great! Anastasia Nocentelli, LMT, Clt (Certified Lypotherapist)
Audrey Filardi (Sweetwater, NJ) on Oct 10, 2014
90% of all women have some form of cellulite. Our lymph system is designed to take away waste and toxins while capillaries deliver fresh nutrient-rich blood to the skin. When blood flow is restricted, it weakens the surrounding tissue, starving it of oxygen. There is then a decrease in lymph flow which causes the connective tissues to get fibrous and push down on the fat cells, causing the dimpling effect of cellulite. Lymphatic drainage is a massage technique that stimulates the lymph system to drain the buildup of waste fluid from the cells. It is a very effective technique for getting rid of cellulite but must be done frequently and consistently for measurable, lasting results.
Laura Gruenwald (Jupiter, FL) on Oct 10, 2014
When you do manual lymphatic drainage it speeds up the lymphatic system and smooths out any bumps. Your lympathic system works 10 times faster after a lymphatic drainage treatment.
Ofer Orr (Jamaica - Estate, NY) on Oct 10, 2014
Unfortunately, lymphatic drainage massage does not reduce cellulite.
Nicole Scruggs (Detroit, MI) on Oct 10, 2014
Unfortunately, no. Cellulite is the collection of fatty tissue. Lymph work will aid in your circulation and improve your immune system. To get rid of cellulite, start a mucus-less eating regimen. Eat more foods that will de-congest the cells iny our body.
Mark Carlson (Costa Mesa, CA) on Oct 10, 2014
While lympathic treatment makes your body look better, it does not affect cellulite. Keep in mind that what most people think is cellulite is not. Cellulite is soft, smooth and round. All those little hard pebble-looking growths under the skin are actually uric acid encapsulated in fat. They form when you are acidic on a cellular level inside your body. The cure is to become alkaline, so drink lots of alkaline water.
Christine Gross (Grand Rapids, MI) on Oct 10, 2014
Yes, it can help. Anything that detoxes the body will help with cellulite.
Steve Leary (Chicago, IL) on Oct 10, 2014
Lymphatic drainage is a specific targeted treatment that uses extremely light pressure and circular movements to improve the peristaltic movement of lymph throughout the body. There is a study by Terrance Ryan MD, a professor of dermatology at Oxford University, that demonstrates a correlation between lymph and fat tissue. The study suggests that an increase in lymphatic circulation may create a release of adipose tissue, while the circular movement and pressure of the lymphatic drainage stroke can break down collagenous fibers (scar tissue) that trap lymph vessels. With that being said, utilizing lymphatic drainage for cellulite reduction would most likely be out of the scope of practice for most massage therapists unless they have been specifically trained in manual lymphatic drainage techniques (the Vodder method) as well as modifying those techniques for such a specific purpose, such as a reduction of cellulite. Screen your massage therapist as you would any other health care provider to find out if they are properly educated and credentialed.
Russell Fox (Tampa, FL) on Oct 10, 2014
No, it will not. Manual lymph drainage removes edema and excess fluids from the body, but does nothing for cellulite.
Jay Tee (Houston, TX) on Oct 10, 2014
You should try cellulite massage. That works. I have been doing it for two years and have had great results.
Jagdish Jindal (Houston, TX) on Oct 10, 2014
What you have heard is correct. Cellulite is the aggregation of uneven fat globules under the skin in adipose tissue. Massage does not reduce the amount of cellulite below the skin. Instead, it temporarily alters the shape and appearance of cellulite.
Carol Moore (Chicago, IL) on Oct 10, 2014
Lymphatic drainage is a light massage directed toward lymph nodes. It is used to stimulate removal of the interstitial fluids, which can accumulate in the body. It is definitely beneficial in reducing cellulite.
Daniel Posner (Port St Lucie, FL) on Oct 10, 2014
What you heard is correct, but there is a little more to it. Let me explain. The lymphatic system's primary function is to create immune cells, but it also moves fluids in the body and absorbs fat that gets moved to the circulatory system. Our lymphatic system can become stagnant due to such things as reduced activity, shallow breathing (so breathe deeply!) or some medical conditions. Getting a lymphatic massage will stimulate the lymphatic system and thus promote faster removal of fats from our body. However, it will not produce the same results as exercise and proper nutrition. I should mention that the lymphatic system's primary function is to create immune cells that keep us healthy, so a more important reason to get a lymphatic massage is to stay healthy.
Kim Pham (Cincinnati, OH) on Oct 10, 2014
No, lymphatic drainage can only serve to reduce fluid buildup in the limbs. Lymphatic drainage uses light pressure. Reducing cellulite requires a deeper tissue technique. But honestly, nothing is a cure for cellulite.
Michael Wolfes (Palm Desert, CA) on Oct 10, 2014
No, the only factors that will reduce cellulite are diet and exercise on a disciplined and consistent basis.
Angel Orozco (Miami, FL) on Oct 10, 2014
Cellulite is the accumulation of toxins inside your fat cells. Your lymphatic system eliminates toxins and moves fat; therefore lymphatic drainage will help reduce cellulite. For optimal results, decrease the intake of toxic foods and drinks like coffee, diet drinks containing either aspartame or sucralose, processed foods and the worst of all, dairy. You will be surprised with the results.
Jay Farmer (Jacksonville, FL) on Oct 10, 2014
Sort of. Draining your lymph fluid is good for you and a great thing for everybody, but it doesn't have anything to do with fatty buildup or skin texture. Coincidentally, however, the long, smooth friction associated with lymphatic drainage massage can also break up the adipose pockets, bound tissue and sub-cutaneous scar tissue that create cellulite.
Tony Ruggiero (Greenville, SC) on Oct 10, 2014
Lymphatic drainage may relieve some of the effects of cellulite but any relief will be short-lived. A regular plan of treatment including lymphatic massage, cupping and compression garments, in addition to a proper diet, would produce better results. There are also herbs and skin treatments that cab be used to reduce the appearance of cellulite. When combined with the treatment plan mentioned above, cellulite can be minimized, if not eliminated.
Joe Lavin (Kirkland, WA) on Oct 10, 2014
As I understand it, the term cellulite is more descriptive than medical, in that it describes the appearance of subcutaneous adipose (fat just under the skin). I have seen it medically used to describe the appearance of herniated subcutaneous fat, but the term is still descriptive in nature. A very thorough massage can have a temporary, superficial effect on the dimpled appearance of cellulite. It may even bring some long term benefits because of the increase in lymph, arterial and venous flow and the related benefits thereof. However, I have not seen any medical evidence that the appearance of cellulite is a result of a disorder of the lymphatic system, or any other system, for that matter. Even though I believe that there are holistic health benefits to massage and lymphatic drainage that can help the body function better, thus allowing adipose tissue to be dealt with more efficiently, I believe that we, as massage therapists, do our entire community and the people we serve a disservice by making claims that are not backed up by sound medical research. I think that lymphatic drainage has some wonderful effects on the body, but a significant (or even noticeable) reduction in the dimpled appearance of fat tissue is not one of them.
Joe Lavin (Seattle, WA) on Oct 10, 2014
As I understand it, the term cellulite is more descriptive than medical, in that it describes the appearance of subcutaneous adipose (fat just under the skin). I have seen it medically used to describe the appearance of herniated subcutaneous fat, but the term is still descriptive in nature. A very thorough massage can have a temporary, superficial effect on the dimpled appearance of cellulite. It may even bring some long term benefits because of the increase in lymph, arterial and venous flow and the related benefits thereof. However, I have not seen any medical evidence that the appearance of cellulite is a result of a disorder of the lymphatic system, or any other system, for that matter. Even though I believe that there are holistic health benefits to massage and lymphatic drainage that can help the body function better, thus allowing adipose tissue to be dealt with more efficiently, I believe that we, as massage therapists, do our entire community and the people we serve a disservice by making claims that are not backed up by sound medical research. I think that lymphatic drainage has some wonderful effects on the body, but a significant (or even noticeable) reduction in the dimpled appearance of fat tissue is not one of them.
Paula Irwin (Del Mar, CA) on Oct 10, 2014
Cellulite is fat cells that have been encapsulated in a sheath of collegen fibers. One of the main causes is excess estrogen. Lymphatic massage clears the excess fluids trapped in the cellulite, though it does not get rid of it. A treatment of deep tissue, myofacial and lymphatic massage can break down the collegen fibers, which then allows the trapped fat to be processed out naturally. It is followed by a detox body wrap which helps to flush the tissues of toxins once exposed. I offer a slim body treatment, which is a hands-on treatment followed by a detox wrap. The cellulite treatment and wrap can also be done individually.
Bharat Kalra (Wheaton, IL) on Oct 10, 2014
Partially. This is one of the tools to deal with cellulite.
Roger Bailey (Gatlinburg, TN) on Oct 10, 2014
Lymphatic drainage actually promotes increased circulation, which aids in cellulite reduction. The best way to reduce your cellulite is to watch what you eat and drink, and to exercise on a regular basis.