Suffering from Edema? Try Massage Therapy

Edema, also known as hydroposy, is a medical condition in which an excessive amount of fluid accumulates beneath the skin. If you fall and hit your knee, for instance, fluid may fill the joint to the point where it causes severe pain, discomfort and limited mobility. While one option is to have the fluid surgically drained by a physician, an alternative, less invasive option is to seek massage therapy.

Areas Prone to Water Retention

It’s important to note that certain areas of the body are more prone to edema than others. This typically includes the feet, legs and kneecap. Many people who work on their feet for eight or more hours a day suffer from edema of the feet, due to the sheer stressed placed on their feet. This is particularly common among retail and restaurant workers, many of whom stand for long stretches of time without taking a break.

How Massage Works to Treat Edema

The good news is that massage therapy can treat or even eliminate edema, depending on its location and severity. Manual lymphatic drainage is a common technique used by massage therapists to help drain excess fluid from the person’s body. It involves the use of moderate-pressure strokes, performed upwards, that encourage greater movement of the lymphatic system. When the lymphatic system is stimulated, it forces fluid and waste out of the body; thus, reducing the severity of edema.

Massage works to treat edema by pushing the excess fluid from the body. Swelling, particularly when triggered by blunt-force trauma, causes fluid to “pool” and collect in cavities within the body. Massage therapy guides the fluid from its collection, allowing it to be flushed through the lymphatic system.

Tips on Receiving Massage for Edema:

  • Explain to your massage therapist beforehand that you are suffering from edema, and show him or her where the swelling is located.
  • Cut back on your intake of sodium in the days leading up to the massage, as excess sodium may promote further fluid retention.
  • Find a massage therapist who is experienced in lymphatic drainage.
  • Avoid stressing the area where the fluid has collected.
  • Minor forms of edema may be treated through self-massage, assuming you can reach the area.


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