“The Scoop” on Lymphatic Massage

I like good massages, which is why I have added lymphatic massage to my repertoire.

Lymphatic massage is refreshing. It boosts lymph flow, allowing your system to filter and cleanse toxins from tissues and remove excess water. Enabling lymph improves energy, recovery from work and sports, and perks your immune system.

That’s a pretty good list of benefits, and why lymphatic massage is now tops in my book. It’s just so darn different from other massages. It’s as if I had to throw out the playbook on how to do massages and start over.

Lymph massage is light pressure, while most receivers of massage ask for firm or deep-tissue massages. It’s very subtle, and it works the opposite of how most people would guess it works. As a therapist, it’s not easy to do a mental headstand, but I must say the lymph massage has well been worth the topsy-turvy.

I am going back to the kitchen, the most comfortable room in my house, to explain. Let’s take the plunger. When I have to plunge the sink in my kitchen, I’m going to use some direct muscle force to push water through the drain. Anything in the way is pushed through until the water is running freely again.
Now, people plumbing is radically different, thank Heaven. Heavy pressure like a plunger closes delicate lymph channels, backing up fluid even more. Our lymph system relies on whole-body movement to create gentle waves. Those waves encourage lymph to drain back to the organs that filter fluid.

This is where “the scoop” comes in.

Massaging lymph involves a light, rhythmic scooping action to open lymph channels and allow fluid to flow through those channels. It starts near the end of the system, in the neck area above the collarbone. As lymph moves from the end of the drainage system, the therapist “scoops” more lymph fluid forward, all the while moving backward along the channels to lymph node clusters in the neck, underarms, and down into the arms. I follow the lymph system backward to the chest, trunk, legs, etc.

Even though the pressure is light, it is not the easiest massage to do, because I have to stay focused on where and how lymph is moving and follow the system backwards. That extra focus and energy has made lymph massage unpopular with a lot of massage therapists. It’s easier to use more pressure and work on big muscles instead of tiny little channels.
Who has sluggish lymph?
  • Anyone who is unable to move about for long periods – computer users, drivers, people on airplane flights, etc. may have reduced lymph flow. Folks with conditions such as fibromyalgia often feel as if their lymph is sluggish.
  • Women – those dreaded cottage cheese thighs are associated with lymph backing up in the fatty areas of the hips and upper legs during the premenstrual-period. It’s thought that this “cellulite” never quite completely drains away, eventually dating one’s legs by the amount of bumpy excess water accumulating there.
  • Trauma that reduces or interrupts lymph flow – sprains, strains, infections, surgery, car accidents etc. Big lymph backup is a medical condition called edema – and while I can help you with swelling from a simple sprained ankle, a serious back-up of fluid needs to be seen by a doctor and evaluated.
Some therapists specialize in treating so-called pathology edema, but right now there is little agreement how much and what method of training is best for these edema treatments. The Europeans who have the best results require a minimum of five years of training. But there’s an American school that trains therapists with a 10-day class. I’m not touching this controversy with a 10-foot scoop. If you have edema, check it out for yourself and draw your own conclusions. Better yet, ask your doctor. If you have edema after breast surgery, your doctor probably has tried different treatments and therapists for edema control and has some good ideas already.

Now, the rest of the scoop: It’s in your court!

In addition to massage, you can do several things to improve lymph flow on your own. One easy way is to incorporate gentle, steady walking into your daily routine. Walk on softer surfaces, such as asphalt or dirt instead of cement, and leave your inner over-achiever at home. Lymph flow improves with steady walking at a comfortable pace.
Get in the water. And I mean that, literally. Lymph is encouraged by the increased pressure on your body from surrounding water. Walking in the pool, gentle stretching and movement helps lymph.

  • Body-brushing. This is a way to do something approximating a  lymphatic massage on your own. Ask me to show you how.
  • Epsom salt soaks. This is a great way to spend 20 minutes after a  lymphatic massage. Warm bath water with Epsom salts detoxifies the body and encourages lymph. No tub? At least soak your feet.
  • Avoid tourniquet bras. If it’s leaving a big dent around your middle, it either too small or the wrong design for you and that can affect your lymph flow. A store recently opened in South Coast Plaza that specializes in fitting bras properly. Nicer department stores often have a lady that specializes in fittings and hold bra-fitting clinics now and then. Check it out.
Learn more about my lymphatic massage service or give me a call at (949) 251-8907.

Taking the Pain Out of Working on Concrete Floors Q&A

 Q: I have started working in retail again and my feet are starting to really hurt. I work two jobs, both on concrete floors, and at my second job I have to walk about 10 blocks after work to get to my car. My arches and bunions are aching! Help!
Gayle Ryan, Costa Mesa
A: Concrete floors are foot torture! I spent a few years in retail, and my best hours were after work, with my feet up on the wall while I laid flat on my back. Now that I do massage, I see a lot of people who feel stiff and achy in the arches and the balls of the feet.
Here are a few tips:
1: Get good shoes. Running and walking shoes can't stand up to concrete. Go to a uniform store or a professional shoe store and look at what they sell for nurses, chefs and servers. These shoes are well-padded and arched, with thick rubber soles.
2: Get those feet massaged. Arch and calf muscles tend to spasm after a few hours of standing, and as they contract they can develop painful micro-tears. A good deep-tissue massage of the arches and calves can get you a little more flexibility to survive the day.
3: Soak your feet in warm water and Epsom salts for about 20 minutes after work. Epsom salts relax muscles and improve flexibility.
As your feet start to feel better, try changing to a walking shoe during breaks and go for a little walk -- on something softer such as asphalt or dirt. Muscles like to move, and they will get better blood supply with some aerobic movement. On your days off, stay out of those big stores with endless aisles of polished concrete!
-- Sue

Pain Prevention - Steps To Avoid Everyday Muscle Injuries

I’m always giving advice on fixing aches and pains, so I thought I’d leap out there and go for some suggestion on prevention. Stopping a problem before it starts, of course, what makes the most sense – that’s probably why so few people do it.


Let’s say you are about to do something you know will create an avalanche of symptoms. Clean out the garage, help friends move, ready tiny lines of computer printouts on next year’s budget, whatever. You know it will take you to the edge. Yes, avoidance, especially regards vacuum cleaning, is preferred. But when it is about work, or visiting your relatives during the holidays and other unavoidable ordeals, you can take these steps:

  • Start hydrated. If you wait for your thirst, it’s too late to prevent the migraines or aches that muscles will develop when they are starved for water. Start your project with a nice big glass of water and keep sipping as you go. Better yet, just start the day with two glasses of water. Whatever cannon you get shot out of when you get to work, at least your muscles will last longer before quitting.
  • Use a topical lotion on an area that tends to get achy as you work or play. I’ll dab some MSM, Epsom lotion or arnica on my low back before I head for the garage. Or I’ll put some lotion on my neck before turning the computer on.
  • Beware cautious of taking anti-inflammatory pills before a project. It seems logical, but taking an aspirin before a workout has been linked to some pretty weird and serious joint infections in athletes.
  • Breathe out with your effort. This is so basic – yet lots of people inhale as they lift, or worse, hold their breath. If you inhale or hold breath while pulling or lifting, you are putting a lot of pressure on the muscles in your back and neck. That leads to pain later if not immediately.
  • Warm up muscles before using them. A few gentle, slow, hula-dance rolls of your tummy can get your back and abdominal muscles ready for lifting.
  • Let the whippersnappers do it. Hey, if you’re mature enough to read this, I’m sure you can get someone else to paint that fence.

Epsom Salt Lotion - Muscle Relief in a $10 Bottle

When you need a quick relief product for neck knots or low back pain, try Epsom Salt lotion. I’ve always recommended a good soak in Epsom salts for achy muscles, but lots of people do not have time or the inclination – or the tub – to enjoy a 20-minute warm bath.

I’ll mention the store and brand here because I haven’t seen it at any other store – CVS carries an Epsom Salt lotion that retails for about $10 a bottle. The bottle should last a good long time. Just dab a dime-size drop on the center of whatever body part is aching. A few minutes later, the magnesium and sulfates should be working into your muscles, relaxing them.

How do Epsom salts work? Let’s just say folks in Epsom, England, figured out somewhere-round-abouts the 13th century that soaking in their local chalky water had very beneficial effects on muscle strains and aches.

Turns out Epsom salts contain magnesium, a muscle relaxer and calcium helper, along with sulfates, which boost oxygen levels in soft tissues.

Interestingly, modern foods lose a good bit of their natural levels of magnesium and sulfates in processing, leading some folks to think our diets lead to creaky, achy muscles. I love a good theory, although I pitch toward the theory we are also simply not designed to sit at computers for hours or drive in traffic, too. Twinkie, anyone?

I tried the lotion on myself and on my toughest test subject – my mother-in-law. She’s 85, she is not getting into any bathtub under any circumstances, and she aches all over. I rubbed some lotion on the zone in her low back, and she felt quite good just a few minutes later. Works for me.


Stiff Neck…Squinty screens and that Dreaded Big Report Deadline

It happens at this time of year – too much to do, not enough time to do it in and lots of deadline stuff due on the computer. That stiff neck has gotten a little worse each day. Now the head turns barely, as pain shoots into the neck and shoulder.

My name is Susan Peterson, and I am a licensed massage therapist. I see this type of problem almost every day. Let me share a story from one of my clients.

She’s very active in the gym and at work and nothing stops her from accomplishing her goals. She has new bifocal glasses and she has found herself squinting at the screen and tilt her head back to read. Her working posture is tight, focused and pitched forward. That stance strains muscles at the back of the neck and shoulders.

With a big report due, and a few extra hours of stress, that nice, long, stress-relieving workout has suddenly had the opposite effect. Her neck pain woke her up several times during the night. In the morning turning to the right seemed impossible.

During her massage we addressed the neck, back muscles and the arms. The scalenes, small stress-sensitive muscles on the sides on the neck, felt like iron rebar. They are supposed to feel like soft rubber bands.

After her massage, I suggested she call her optometrist and see about getting eyeglasses that would keep her from squinting or crunching to read her computer screen.

I called my client to follow up a few days later.

“It felt a lot better and I got a good night’s sleep.’’ she said. She has an appointment for new glasses, and is trying not to lean too far into the computer screen at work.

“I was thinking, one of the things that may have set it off is that I have to walk from my car to the house, and I had bags from the store. I don’t like to make many trips, so I loaded myself with like 10-12 bags and I think that may have aggravated it.”

“I have to remember that I am not Superwoman,” she said.

More Articles...
Facebook Image
Professional Member

Professional Member of American Massage Therapy Association

American Massage
Therapy Association

Professional Certifications

National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork

National Certification Board for
Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork



Certification Number: CMT #1039