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Are There Side Effects of Lymphatic Massage?

author image Casey Holley
Casey Holley is a medical writer who began working in the health and fitness industries in 1995, while still in high school. She has worked as a nutrition consultant and has written numerous health and wellness articles for various online publications. She has also served in the Navy and is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in health administration from the University of Phoenix.
Are There Side Effects of Lymphatic Massage?
Are There Side Effects of Lymphatic Massage? Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

Lymphatic massage works by encouraging the colorless lymph fluid to move about the body to fight infection and disease. This treatment is commonly performed after certain surgeries, including mastectomies. According to Embody Health and Beauty Guide, a lymphatic massage can last around 30 minutes for a single area or as long as two hours for a full-body lymphatic massage. As with any procedure, side effects during and after a lymphatic massage are possible.

Minimize the Risk of Side Effects

Lymphatic massage should only be performed by a massage therapist certified in the procedure. One such certification through the North American Vodder Association of Lymphedema Therapists involves completing 500 hours of massage or physical therapy training and a four-week training course.

Absence of Side Effects

Massage is generally pain-free and side effect-free, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). When pain or other side effects are noticed after a lymphatic massage, the cause is usually vigorous massage technique, which generally isn't used in lymphatic massage.

When Side Effects Do Occur

Nausea and vomiting are two side effects that may occur after a lymphatic massage. In some cases, bruising may occur in the location where firm pressure is applied. Diabetics, however, have an increased rate of side effects, as lymphatic massage may affect blood sugar. In fact, UMMC recommends that diabetics test their blood sugar after each lymphatic massage. If you are a diabetic and have regular lymphatic massages, chart your blood sugar to determine if the massages are affecting it.


Because of the risk of rare side effects of massage which include heart arrhythmias, damage to tissues and blood flow changes, people with a history of heart failure, contagious skin diseases, bleeding disorders, kidney failure, blood clots or phlebitis shouldn't have lymphatic massages. In some cases, however, a doctor may prescribe the massage. If this is the case, you should have the massage in a licensed facility that can provide adequate medical care in the event of serious side effects.


People with arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, goiter, eczema, those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy and anyone who is running a fever should use extreme caution when having lymphatic massages. Bruising at the massage areas may occur in people with these conditions. While the side effects that are possible during this condition aren't fatal, they can be uncomfortable.

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