Articles

Self Massage to Boost the Immune System - By: Jessica McLaughlin, LMT

Tai Chi Acupuncture and Wellness Center

Self Massage to Boost the Immune System

By: Jessica McLaughlin, LMT

Massage has been used for holistic healing for tens of thousands of years. Not only has it proven to help with muscle tension, stress, anxiety and depression (as discussed in my previous article), but it can also actually help boost the immune system. The effects of massage on the immune system is just recently being studied and the findings are astounding!

The Acupuncture and Massage College cites recent studies have shown “people receiving Swedish massage experience significant changes in lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that plays a large role defending the body from disease. White blood cells help fight off viruses. Massage has also been shown to improve immune function in HIV positive adolescents. The therapy has also shown to improve immunity among women with stage 1 and 2 breast cancer.” I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg of what we will find regarding the benefits of massage for our immune system.

Jeff Smoot, 2015 president of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), stated “Researchers working with patients with compromised immune systems have found massage therapy can improve how the immune system functions. Those same benefits can translate to people seeking to fight off the common cold, flu and other seasonal illnesses.”

In this time of a global pandemic as a result of COVID-19, it is more important than ever that we do all we can to boost our immune system and keep ourselves healthy. Self massage is always a good idea! Lymphatic massage is particularly helpful to rid the body of toxins to support the immune system. It is a gentle technique, meant to stimulate the lymph nodes and move fluid through the body. (*If you have any issues with congestive heart failure, history of blood clots or stroke, current infection, liver or kidney problems, please consult your doctor before trying it at home.)

The lymphatic system runs through our whole body, but major lymph nodes can be found under the jaw, in the armpits (axillary lymph nodes) and in the groin area (inguinal lymph nodes). You really just need the light pressure of your fingertips, just enough to move the skin, not deep into the muscle tissue. The idea is to “clear” the area around the major lymph nodes and then move lymph fluid from more distal areas to the lymph nodes.

For example, you can start by lightly massaging from your sternum to your axillary lymph nodes (going across your chest or upper pectoral muscles, under your collar bone) and then from the top of your arm (including underneath) to your axillary lymph nodes, moving lymph fluid toward the area. Then massage from the elbow up toward the axillary lymph nodes, then from fingertips all the way up. On your legs, start at the top of your legs toward the inguinal lymph nodes, then from knee up, then from toes up. This is particularly beneficial to people that have mild swelling in their ankles, including pregnant women. Under your jaw, you can find your lymph nodes and gently pump them with your fingertips. Follow your lymphatic massage with plenty of water. Water with lemon will give your body an extra detoxifying boost to your lymph fluid and your overall immune system.

Stay well and hope to see you for your massage soon!