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The lymphatic system filters the body’s toxins and waste through lymph vessels. It also circulates infection-fighting white blood cells, encouraging a more resilient immune response. A sluggish lymph system, however, can lead to fluid retention, swollen glands, and chronic sinusitis; seasonal allergies often exacerbate these conditions.

A professional lymphatic-drainage massage effectively supports your lymph system, but if that’s not in your budget, this DIY technique is a good alternative. It mimics the action of your lymph vessels by gently moving fluid from your face and neck downward toward your collarbone, where it will empty into the blood vessels near your heart.

Stimulating this process at bedtime can help drain the sinuses, relieve congestion, and reduce fluid retention,  so you’ll wake up with a clear head.

Directions: 

Use light pressure — just enough to move the skin without pressing more deeply — at a rate of about one movement per second.*

1. Place your ring fingers on the notch where your clavicle meets your breastbone, then slide them up slightly until you reach soft tissue. Press in and down toward your collarbone. Repeat 50 times.

Woman with hands placed at bottom of her neck.

2. Place your fingers and tops of your palms on the sides of your neck, with pinkies at a 45-degree angle under your ears. Pull down at a 45-degree angle toward your collarbone. Repeat 50 times.

A woman with her hands placed on her neck near her ears.

3. Bring your hands together so your middle fingers are touching. Place your joined hands on the back of your neck and pull straight down on the back of your neck. Repeat 50 times.

Woman with hands placed on her neck behind her head.

4. Arrange your fingers on either side of each ear, with your pinkies and ring fingers close to your face and your middle and index fingers behind your ears. Pull straight down toward your collarbone. Repeat 50 times.

Woman with her fingers on both sides of her ear.

5. Then perform the steps in reverse, ending at step one, to help drain the fluid from your head and neck.

*This technique isn’t for everybody. If you have an active fever, serious circulatory or cardiac issues, or any malignant ailments, check with your physician before proceeding.

This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Experience LifeLife Time’s whole-life health and fitness magazine. 

Photography by Terry Brennan; Styling by Pam Brand
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