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The lymphatic system is key to good health; how lymphatic massage can invite healing

For this month’s wellness column I interview licensed medical massage therapist Kaitlyn Mariah on the importance of the lymphatic system. Kaitlyn is a licensed medical massage therapist and a certified holistic health coach with a focus on chronic pain and MindBody medicine. Kaitlyn is a lifelong, passionate student of the body and the psyche that began with her own journey through chronic pain. She is also trained in Nutrition, Yin Yoga and Reformer Pilates and works as a massage therapist in Fort Thomas.

ND:: What is the lymphatic system? and why is it important?

KM:The lymphatic system is a large network of vessels, nodes, organs and tissues responsible for cleaning out the body, like a sewage system. It collects toxins, viruses, bacteria and moves them out of the body. Picture an aquarium, the lymph system is just like the filtration system that keeps the water clear and the fish healthy. It runs alongside the circulatory system, but unlike the circulatory system, it does not have its own pump (like the heart). The lymph system is one of the most important systems and unfortunately the most overlooked. Without this system our organs would be exposed to these harmful substances or we would accumulate more fat to store the toxins.

ND: What are the symptoms or impact of an unhealthy lymphatic system?

KM:Lymph issues show up in many ways, including allergies, autoimmunity, lymphedema, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, holding onto excess weight/obesity, just to name a few. It can also show up in less serious ways such as poor sleep, brain fog, plateau in workout performance, and acne. However, it’s safe to say that with the toxin burden of the world at this time, we could all greatly benefit from regular lymphatic work.

ND: What are the benefits of lymphatic massage?

KM:Moving your lymph regularly is so important to heal or maintain a healthy body. Because it does not have its own pump, regular lymphatic massage treatments are the key to opening up all of the channels to detox properly. If you are struggling with chronic health issues, this work can greatly decrease symptoms and move your body into a state of healing. You may notice less puffiness, fluid retention, decreased inflammation and better sleep in as little as one treatment! If you are generally healthy, you could expect to feel less tension throughout the body, a clearer mind, a healthy glow and lighter overall. ND: What are some techniques someone can do on their own to invite a lymphatic release?

KM:There are many things you can do at home to start moving your lymph! The first and most important is clearing the space directly above and below your collarbone. This is the place that all lymph leaves your body. If you do nothing else, make this a morning habit. This can be done by just rubbing in any direction (up/down, side-to-side or in circles). Starting out pretty light and slowly going deeper. Spending about 30 seconds in each spot. Try this for a few days to see how you feel, then add in 10 slaps to each side.

Exercise and walking are also great for moving your lymph! Make sure to open up the collarbone first. Breathwork or just intentional diaphragmatic breathing is so important for moving the deep lymph that lies around your organs. You can do this by breathing in your nose, letting it fill down to the bottom of your belly, and slowly exhaling out through your nose. Do this a few times each morning and a few times throughout the day, and it will become a habit!

For more information on how to move your lymph, Kaitlyn offers a free guide on her website,, that goes into more detail about the 6 spots that are key to opening your system and getting things flowing. You can also book with her for a lymphatic massage through that website as well.

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