Drain your Head and Breathe!

Want to be able to breathe again?  At the end of a cold, or a day full of allergies, it would feel better if there were just less stuff in your head.  Here’s a way to do that yourself.

It’s that time of year, again, and clients are canceling appointments from colds, dust and mold allergies and all the recurring sinus stuff that kicks up in the fall and early winter.  I spend much of my time performing Lymphatic Drainage Massage (LDM) during sessions to try and clear out the congestion and stuffiness in the head.  But this massage is very easy and simple to perform on yourself.

When I feel that tickle start in my throat or my nose starts to feel dry and sneezy, I take about 4-5 minutes to perform a quick version of this on myself.  The two most important keys to keep in mind are to go very, very slow and use very, very light pressure.

Contraindications for Lymphatic Drainage Massage

While it doesn’t feel invasive or deep, LDM can have a profound effect on the body because of its function within the immune system and its use of the circulatory system. If you have any of these conditions or problems, consult your physician before performing this on yourself:

  1. Fever, acute infection, early onset inlammatory disease. You need to wait until the acute phase is over and the fever is broken.
  2. Circulatory system problems, especially thrombosis. If there is any risk of embolism of phlebitis, do not use LDM and see your physician immediately
  3. Cardiac issues such as heart disease, acute angina pectoris or coronary thrombosis (heart attack). Using LDM increases the fluid load on the heart, and compromised cardiac systems should not be subjected to LDM.
  4. Active bleeding, internal or external.
  5. Active malignant cancers, undiagnosed lumps, or tumors whose origins have not been determined by your physician.
  6. High risk pregnancy or late term pregnancy with complications

What to Expect

While you may start feeling the fluid move relatively quickly, this may not remove all of your congestion and it may take several sessions to get things moving.   Some signs that it’s moving the fluid: feeling a change in pressure in your head, ears draining, nose starting to run, tickle in the back of your throat, needing to swallow as drainage starts to flow, ears popping or sound changes volume.   This method helps about 75% of the people who come into my office with congestion from allergies or colds.  Try it out and see if it works for you.

This excellent post from the Association of Bodywork and Massage Professionals site gives a good foundation for understanding more about the lymph system and Lymphatic Drainage Massage.

Enjoy the video!


  1. Pink Friday said,

    November 21, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Good read … headline catchy … good points, some of which I have learned along the way as well (humility, grace, layoff the controversial stuff). Will share with my colleagues at work as we begin blogging from a corporate perspective. Thanks!

  2. ~n said,

    April 1, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Heather, I want to thank you for the head/ear congestion video. I have had a very bad case of tinnitus for some 8 years and every time I ate, it would become worse and painful. The massage of the ears seems to be helping with the tinnitus and I cannot tell you what a wonderful relief that is. I will do a search on your archives to see if there are other head massages that may help.

  3. Dottie said,

    August 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    This is very interesting, I just saw it posted on FB on “Dr. Tenpenny on Vaccines.” The previous comment about tinnitus gives me reason to hope, as I have had constant ringing for probably decades.
    Back in the mid-80′s, I was shown another technique for draining the head/sinuses by an inhalation therapist. She had me place a couple of fingers on four different places on the face, press gently and hold for about 5-10 seconds, and then repeat once or twice all of the places in order. She started with the ‘third eye’ in the middle of the forehead, then (using the pads of the thumbs this time) just under the inside of each eyebrow, where you can feel the bones come together. (BTW – she said to be careful with this one and not press too hard!) Third, use 2 or 3 fingers to press gently on the temples and lastly place 2 fingers on the top inside of each cheek, about the same distance (about 1/4″) from the eye as from the nose. You can fudge this last a bit and also move down the side of the nose for a 5th spot – you will know by how it feels. Just stay on the inside of the main cheekbone and it will work.
    The thing that has always intrigued me about this is that (more often than not) you do NOT feel anything in the back of your throat – the congestion goes away but exactly WHERE it goes is a mystery!
    Thanks for the information!!!

  4. Heather Wibbels said,

    August 8, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Hi Dottie – I think the points she had you working with are acupoints – used in acupuncture and acupressure – to release congestion and pull fluid from the head down into the torso. Those points are an excellent addition to the lymphatic drainage technique on the head and neck. Thank you for sharing this! Sounds like I need to do an additional acupressure for sinus drainage video!

  5. Louisville Massage Therapy Blog by MassageByHeather.com » Massage Yourself: Self Lymphatic Drainage for the Legs said,

    August 17, 2011 at 11:35 am

    [...] to perform this drainage technique on yourself, you’ll need to work on the neck first, then the lymphatic breathing, then abdomen/torso, and finally this leg routine. If you have severe [...]

  6. Pam said,

    August 31, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    Heather!!!!!! I could NEVER thank you enough!!!!! I’ve been in misery, absolute misery for an entire month! Been to ER once, Docs twice and all I’ve gotten are meds, which make me sicker and dizzier! How often can I do this? More than once daily?

  7. Heather Wibbels said,

    September 3, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    I have some clients who do this several times a day during periods when allergies or sinusitis are really bothering them. Most people are fine with doing this more than once a day, but you should always clear something like this through your primary care physician if you’re using it to treat a long-standing problem. It’s good to keep your PCP involved and updated on anything that changes your condition! That being said, I’m so glad it’s helping!!!!

  8. Louisville Massage Therapy Blog by MassageByHeather.com » Like Pink in October? Reduce Swelling with this Arm Lymphatic Drainage Video said,

    October 21, 2011 at 8:09 am

    [...] Contraindications for Lymphatic Drainage Massage and more information about the lymphatic system is available at my previous blog post here: http://blog.massagebyheather.com/self-lymph-drainage-massage/ [...]

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