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Everything You Need to Know about Lymphatic Massage + how it can ward off Cold + Flu

We're about this hit that season...dreaded lurgy everywhere (as if COVID wasn't bad enough). I'm all for protecting myself coming into the winter months, so wanted to dig into the science behind lymphatic massage. How dos it work and how can it help the immune system? I check in with Barbara Choy, Founder of MO+ in Sydney (where I religiously have the most amazing remedial massages), who offers it in her popular wellness centre.

What is the lymphatic system?

Your lymphatic system is a natural part of your body’s immune system that helps to fight infection. It’s physical function is to deliver nutrients to the cells while collecting waste, bacteria, viruses and toxins from around your body via the lymph fluid and then expel them through your lymph nodes. Our lymph system however, unlike organs like the heart do not have a pumping mechanism to assist with movement of fluids around the body. It is with normal everyday functional movements like walking that the lymph is able to move and be eliminated naturally.

When you are sedentary as many of us were during isolation or just sitting for prolonged periods working in front of a computer screen motionless, it can lead to feelings of bloating, stagnation, stiffness or lethargy. Our bodies have evolved over millions of years to be in motion and we need to be active for our lymphatic system to function at it’s best and keep us healthy and vital.

What is Lymphatic drainage? What does it feel like / What should we expect?

Normal everyday movement will assist pushing the lymph fluid around your body helping it to eliminate naturally through the lymph nodes. Lymphatic drainage massage is a manual form of assisting this elimination process. The lymph fluid is located just under the skin but before the muscle layer so the experience of a lymphatic massage is a very soft gentle stroking or palpating pumping action on the surface of the skin encouraging the lymph fluids to move in the direction of the lymph nodes. So in fact, a lymphatic massage is not a massage at all.

Assisted lymphatic drainage through massage is not a modern invention. A more recently popularised form of lymph drainage is facial gua sha. Though gua sha as a traditional form of Chinese Medicine has been practiced in the East for many thousands of years it is only now that facial gua sha with a jade stone or facial roller has been more recognised as a beauty tool to reduce puffiness, increase blood flood and collagen production in the skin.

Also more recently, lymphatic drainage massage has been incorporated with other forms of massage techniques to create a fusion experience where you can sculpt the body or the face. Around the waistline, lympatic drainage can reduce swelling and thereby reduce the size and shape of your belly. This technique applied to the face can assist with TMJ, sculpt the jawline, lift the appearance of the cheekbones or widen the look of the eyes.

In a traditional sense, there are no downsides to assisted lymphatic drainage, unlike comparable wellness trends like Infrared Saunas where you can get very ill from over detoxifying your body.

How can we reap the benefits at home?

A very simple DIY home technique for lymphatic drainage is ‘dry brushing’, which is my personal favourite. The purpose of dry brushing is to stimulate the nervous system and assist with lymphatic flow and elimination of toxins. Use a dry brush all over your body every day. The perfect time is before bathing as dry brushing can often lead to excess dead skin cells flaking off your body, so doing this activity just before your shower is a wise choice.

Start with your limbs, either from your fingers or toes. Always brush towards the direction of your heart eg along your forearm and then arm from your fingertips or up your legs from your toes towards your heart. For the tummy, brush in a clockwise direction. From the back of your shoulder towards the front of your chest area etc etc.

Dry brushing takes about 5 to 10 minutes every day, it feels super sensuous, is incredibly calming for the nervous system and will assist with anxiety and uplifting mood. Practiced regularly just before bedtime, dry brushing will assist you to relax and prep your body for deep sleep.

What are the health benefits of Lymphatic Massage?

There are so many benefits, where do we begin? The lymphatic system is key to keeping your immune system is good shape. Here’s a short list.

  • Reduce water retention, puffiness and blotchiness
  • Reduce TMJ, sinus, allergies, inflammation and scaring
  • Fighting off infection or speed up healing after a cold or flu
  • Post-operative drainage will assist with reducing swelling so is perfect post cosmetic surgery like liposuction or more serious conditions like lymphodema.
  • Improve the condition and texture of the skin
  • Reduce cellulite
  • Detoxification of the body
  • Pain relief

What's the background and the philosophy of MO+ Wellness?

I had already been in business successfully for 10 years in partnership with my brother under the business name of Massage & Osteopathy, but I had reached a time in my personal journey where I was ready to go out on my own and create the kind of natural therapies business that I had been passionately dreaming of for the past 25 years. Then MO+ (a name harking back to our origins) was born a short two years later.

‘I approach the MO+ business the same way as I approach my life - with passion, integrity and a genuine interest in those around us and the welfare of our planet. I want to help each and every client that walks through our doors. A huge part of that is the incredible knowledge and skill that each of our practitioners hold, but another part of it is keeping it uncomplicated and then to have a much fun as we can along the journey.’

- Barbara Choy

With a focus on knowledge and transparency of traditional natural medicines and practices, combined with modern thinking and skill, MO+ focuses on sustainable natural health practices that benefit the mind, body and spirit. I often describe our offering this way. ‘If a Day Spa and Medical Centre had a baby, that would be us’.

MO+ has three of the most amazing practitioners delivering lymphatic drainage treatments. They all specialise in an area that is quite unique and targeted:

Emiko Terui (Remedial Massage Therapist) – Focusing on the Beauty and Self-care of lymphatic massage offers hybrid services for Fascial & Body Sculpting and Lymphatic Detox Massage.

Antonello Di Tomasso (Remedial Massage and Physiotherapist) – Our career therapist and Physio offers a more medical approach for clients with a more serious health condition.

Dr Yvette Forbes (Acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Medicine) – For a more traditional application of lymphatic drainage through what is known as ‘scraping gua sha’ for the body and during Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture.

Get your very own amazing Lymphatic with the team directly at

Sally O'Neil - Editor in Chief

Sal is on a mission to prove that healthy and nutritious doesn’t have to be boring – and that even while staying in shape you can have your cake and eat it too. After losing 14kg from adopting a healthier lifestyle, she shares her journey with others on The Fit Foodie Blog. She also works as a commercial food photographer and stylist, is studying a Bachelor of Health Science in Nutrition and Dietetics, and is the author of two cookbooks: Love Move Eat (Bauer Media, 2017) and Meal Prep Plan (Murdoch, 2019).

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