Standing Appointment is our review series that investigates the best new and notable cosmetic procedures in the aesthetics space and determines whether or not they are worth trying for yourself. This week, our beauty writer tried a lymphatic drainage massage.
I’ve always been someone who bloats easily. I drink one sip of water, and I feel bloated. I’ve done hundreds of Google searches and read countless articles searching for remedies for my bloating; I’ve looked at creams, balms, baths, and supplements. Nothing seemed like it was worth a try, until I stumbled upon the lymphatic drainage massage — a treatment that is supposed to help reduce inflammation, drain your lymph nodes, and — you guessed it — help de-bloat the body. Could this be the miracle remedy I’ve been searching for? I had to see for myself.
I visited Sage + Sound, a new day spa and wellness center on New York’s Upper East Side that offers everything from meditation and breathing classes to classic spa treatments like facials and massages. Filled with neutral colors and cushiony fabrics, the aesthetic of the building already creates a calming atmosphere the second you walk in. Everyone who greets you acts like it’s their sole purpose to help guide you in a journey to relaxation. After a breathwork and meditation exercise, I was ready to go into the lymphatic drainage massage, already way more relaxed than I was when I first walked in.
What Is Lymphatic Drainage Massage?
For context, a lymphatic drainage massage involves a technique designed to drain your lymph nodes, the structure within the body that is part of the immune system. Your lymph nodes are key to filtering out toxins and protecting you from infection; stagnant ones can lead to puffiness, fluid retention, and even digestive backup. The technique used in lymphatic drainage massage helps to move the fluid that filters through your lymph nodes to better rid your body of the aforementioned toxins.
Sage + Sound works with IMD Beauty Spa, which specializes in the Brazilian lymphatic drainage massage method, to provide the treatment. Irani Makimoto-Domino, founder of IMD, said that she worked to ensure her particular method was backed by the science, drawing upon nutrition, anatomy, psychology, chemistry, and other areas of medicine to use proven ingredients and provide results that last. A native from Brazil, Makimoto-Domino said she sources mosts of the ingredients she uses in her massages from the rainforests in Brazil, selecting them for their potency and ability to heal the body.
Lymphatic drainage massages differ depending on the practitioner, but some may include a full-body scrub and then a wrap to boost circulation and prep the body for the massage. Then, the masseuse will often massage your body using a specialized technique focused on awakening your lymph nodes.
Benefits Of Lymphatic Drainage Massage
“Everybody needs it,” says my IMD massage therapist, Barbara. According to Barbara, the benefits of getting a lymphatic drainage massage are that it decongests, detoxifies, helps drain your lymphatic system, and boosts your immune system. “The lymphatic system is responsible for making sure that your immune system is in tip-top shape,” she says. “So [with] colds and sinus infections, you’ll notice that your lymph nodes are a little swollen — that's because they’re backed up.”
The other more obvious benefit is that your body may appear more sculpted. Barbara says draining your lymph nodes through physically moving around the fluid through this massage can also be beneficial when it comes to puffiness. “The [massage] can help people with stomach issues, lymphedema, and swelling,” she says. “If you have water retention or if you have weight gain and you reach that plateau, that [may be] because the lymphatic system is backed up.”
To be clear, there isn’t much scientific research on the effects of lymphatic drainage massage, but a 2016 study did find that manual lymphatic drainage was helpful in reducing swelling caused by lymphedema.
My Lymphatic Drainage Massage Experience
My massage experience started with a full-body scrub made with magnesium to promote blood circulation and lanolin oil, which protects the skin from heat. Then, my massage therapist wrapped my body in a soy wrap and sent me on my way to a 15-minute infrared sauna session to detoxify before my massage. Despite the seemingly short sauna session, I definitely felt the heat (I was provided with water to make sure that I stayed hydrated throughout).
After the sauna, it was time for the lymphatic massage, which lasted about 30 minutes. First, the masseuse unwrapped the soy wrap and wiped down the sweat and residue from my body. I then laid on the table face up and the massage began. My massage therapists started with both legs, then my arms, and then my stomach. If you are looking for a purely relaxing massage, this is definitely not the one for you. The technique is definitely more rough than a typical Swedish massage, as the masseuse is pushing hard up and down against your skin to promote the movement of fluids. This can be a bit painful at some points, since you’re feeling intense pressure across your entire body. The most sensitive part, for me, was definitely the stomach — it’s a deep and intense stomach massage with the sole purpose of reducing bloating. After that area, I turned around, so that the back of the legs, arms, and my back could be massaged as well. Overall, this part wasn’t necessarily relaxing, but definitely effective in delivering results.
After the massage was over, I noticed less bloating and I could see that my body was less puffy in some areas. I also noticed that my skin looked visibly smoother — I swear the cellulite was less visible on my thighs. The masseuse recommended that I make sure to stay hydrated after the massage to extend the depuffing results, and to wait to shower for at least six hours to make sure the combination of the magnesium scrub and lanolin oil continued to soak into my skin.
Another benefit of consistent lymphatic drainage massage is more energy since the massage promotes blood flow and can feel invigorating. In order to see lasting results, Makimoto-Domino recommends three sessions. During your first session, you massage therapist can evaluate your needs, but it is generally recommended that you do lymphatic drainage once a week.
Takeaway / The Cost
The major downside to a treatment like this is its cost. At Sage + Sound, the Signature Lymphatic Drainage Massage costs $285, which is definitely on the pricier side, but around the same price for similar services you’d get at other luxury spas in New York. If the price isn’t an issue, I would definitely recommend trying it out. I noticed a decrease in puffiness in areas like my thighs, my neck, and my stomach, and it really did help with my issue of bloating. Not only did I leave my treatment feeling lighter and less puffy, but I physically noticed less bloating as well, especially in my stomach; this continued a few days after the massage, too. If you’re looking for a quick fix for bloating, this is the perfect treatment to try before any event or trip.
Vairo, G. L., Miller, S. J., McBrier, N. M., & Buckley, W. E. (2009). Systematic review of efficacy for manual lymphatic drainage techniques in sports medicine and rehabilitation: an evidence-based practice approach. The Journal of manual & manipulative therapy, 17(3), e80–e89.
Shao, Y. & Zhong, D.-S. (2017) European Journal of Cancer Care26, e12517, doi: 10.1111/ecc.12517Manual lymphatic drainage for breast cancer-related lymphoedema