To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Lymphatic Drainage Therapy,” by Bruno Chikly, M.D., D.O., with Alaya Chikly, L.M.T., in the April 2011 issue. Article summary: When you practice manual lymph techniques, you might know certain words and phrases can inspire clients who want to stay healthy and vital. Boosting the immune system; reducing pain, inflammation and swelling; increasing detoxification; rejuvenating; and anti-aging—these all may be used when describing the benefits of manual lymph techniques.

by Renee Romero

One of the benefits of choosing a career in massage is that there are many specialties you can choose from to meet your needs and special interests. The area of lymph work is a specialty that provides the practitioner with many benefits in that the work is light, saving hands and wrists, and yet so beneficial to clients.

Lymphatic massage is different than classic massage where the intent is to resolve musculoskeletal problems with deep strokes and the focus is on muscles, tendons and joints.

In lymphatic massage, the intent is to stimulate the lymphatic system, release toxins, reduce swelling and improve the function of the immune system. The work takes skill in being able to feel the lymph flow and know the pathways.

The client experiences a totally different sensation than during massage, in that there is no pain in tender areas and the touch is exceptionally light. Clients who are used to massage, may feel like you are not really doing anything

Taking lymphatic massage to the next level means learning how to care for clients with an impaired lymphatic system, which can occur after breast, prostate or uterine cancer or after surgery or trauma that damages lymph nodes or vessels.

This technique called Complex Decongestive Physiotherapy. The technique includes manual lymph drainage (lymphatic massage for the healthy and impaired system); compression bandaging; skin care; and patient education. It requires 135 hours of continuing education to become a lymphedema therapist, which will include understanding of anatomy and pathology of the lymph system, including pathways to redirect the lymph fluid to; bandaging using short stretch bandages; and what to teach patients for self-care, as there is no cure for lymphedema and other chronic swellings.

Being a lymphedema specialist is rewarding. There are too few practitioners, and many patients who have lymphedema and chronic swelling.

Renee Romero R.N., C.L.T.–LANA is a registered nurse, licensed massage therapist and Certified Lymphedema Therapist. She actively treats patients at the Lymphedema institute of America and is a consultant for Bandages Plus (, where she fits for compression stockings and assists patients and health care professionals regarding compression products.