From Women's Health
Lymphatic drainage massage feels like the treatment du jour among the Hollywood elite, right now. Shiny celebrities, from Selena Gomez to Hailey Baldwin Bieber, have been reported to indulge in the procedures, in order to attain their alleged benefit of reducing water weight and nixing bloating.
This, it's said, can result in a temporary toning effect. The A-list favour the work of Flávia Lanini, a Brazil native based in California, who honed the method.
Her Instagram is brimming with selfies with her glittery clientele, all happy to go public with rating her skills. Here in the UK, it's another Flavia, this one surnamed Morellato, who is the go-to woman for all things lymphatic drainage.
Her client roster includes model Sara Sampaio and singer Dua Lipa. Both Flavias routinely post before and after shots of their clients, which show bodies with greater definition than was previously there.
So, does this breed of massage really work in real life? In a pre-lockdown world and eager to find out, Women's Health deputy editor, Victoria Joy, went to visit Morellato, to find out for herself.
‘It’s called massage, but it isn’t really massage.’ Right. Had I heard this before removing all clothes bar my knickers and lying down on the bed set out in Flavia Morellato’s treatment room, I may not have been so willing. But Morellato was just kicking off her evangelical explanation of the practice she’s been performing for nearly eight years, first in her native Brazil as a physiotherapist, and later out of various clinics in London.
In other words, she’s earned the white coat she dons as she gets to work, lifting up one of my legs and dragging her fingers against my skin upwards from my ankle to knee before repeating on the other leg.
‘Yes, lymphatic drainage involves using the hands on the body in a gentle and rhythmic way, but the pressure is different from most massages because we’re targeting the lymphatic system, not tissue and muscle, which is more superficial and requires a lighter, more prescriptive touch.’
What is lymphatic drainage massage good for?
For the uninitiated, lymphatic drainage aims to help your body’s natural lymphatic system act more efficiently. You’ve got vessels that run throughout the body transporting lymph (a clear fluid) in the same way veins and capillaries transport blood.
Then there are nodes: glands that act to filter the lymph.The two work together to collect and drain metabolic waste (that is, free radicals, fatty deposits and toxins such as alcohol, nicotine and medication), destroy foreign bodies like bacteria, and – perhaps most noted outside of the medical world – flush excess water.
In an ideal world, the lymphatic system would tick along nicely as it was made todo, but there are certain situations in which its flushing mechanism becomes sluggish. Hormones, impacted by diet, alcohol, PMS and particularly pregnancy, can all slow the body’s natural drainage process, as can the inflammatory effects of surgery as it repairs.
My past massages fall into two camps:those that go hard on muscles and tissues, pummelling limbs like you would pizza dough and popping knots of built-up tension as if it’s bubble wrap, and those set to soft music and dimmed lighting with relaxing strokes set to transport you to a state of Zen-full bliss.
As much as I’d take either one over a punch in the face, neither really do it for me. But lymphatic drainage appealed to the science geek in me as a happy medium. It was clear from the noises emanating from my body – my stomach especially, which left me regretting snaffling a Pret Choc Bar en route to the session – that something was happening.
Does lymphatic drainage massage really work?
Morellato had me lift up each leg from the bed before and after the treatment and when I lifted them post-drainage, they truly felt about half the weight. There was a definite sense of being lighter and, dare I say it, cleaner, though I can’t really explain what I mean or why it’s the case. I didn’t feel particularly energised, nor lethargic, which Morellato explained can be common after-effects in clients.
What happens after a lymphatic drainage massage?
Having been instructed to drink a lot of water (to aid the flushing of waste out of the kidneys) and avoid processed, sugary foods, I’d say lymphatic drainage made me more mindful of my general health than any other massage I’ve ever had. They don’t come cheap (Morellato charges £150 per 60 min session), but I’m seriously considering booking in monthly.
I feel like my body will thank me, even more than it might after a deep tissue pounding or a blissed-out spa hour. One to think about when the whole 'human touch' thing is back in business? Perhaps.
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