Friend-Assisted Lymph Flush Exercises

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Muscular contraction moves the lymph, so in the early days of recovery you need to enlist a friend, nurse, or massage therapist to help you with the exercises at least twice a day. The end result of your scar greatly depends on early-stage healing, and we want to move the lymph to help the immune system capture and destroy any bad bacteria in the body—as well as increase circulation and nutrient exchange.

Move and activate the non-injured limbs at first. Let the stronger parts of the body do the bulk of the work in the beginning. A high concentration of lymph nodes are located in the armpits and groin, and these are the areas we aim to stimulate. Avoid pulling or stretching the wound area or incision.

Do not perform the lymph exercises if you have an active infection, fever, bleeding, extreme lymphedema, or swelling. Instead, call your doctor. If you are experiencing cording in your arm after having lymph nodes removed, a professional lymph specialist or massage therapist may be needed for a short time. Cording is the term used for axillary web syndrome (AWS), which may develop after a lymph node dissection, removal of lymph nodes in the underarm, or from scar tissue after surgery to the chest. You can often see the “cords,” which are thick, ropelike structures running under the skin down the arm. They are painful and tight, and they may restrict your ability to raise your arm to the shoulder or above your head. Cording can happen days, weeks, or months after surgery. It is unknown why some people get cording, but stretching and massage are imperative for treating it and keeping the connective tissues supple and flexible.

There are four, possibly five, ways to have a friend help you in the hospital, and you may want to try out some exercises together before you are in recovery at home. If you can do all the movements that follow while you’re in the hospital, terrific! If not, just do what you can, and add in the other movements when possible.

Friend-Assisted Exercises to help a friend stuck in bed

How and why to help your friend recover by moving their lymph for them through targeted exercises.

Upper Body

Learn how to help a friend move the lymphatic fluid in the head and neck.

Head Lymph Flush

1. While you are lying down, a friend sits behind you and cradles the base of your head in both hands. If there is no room at the head of the bed, she sits next to it and places one hand under the base of the skull and the other on the forehead.

2. As you inhale, your friend squeezes lightly at the base of your skull. Hold your breath while she holds the gentle pressure for a count of three. Release your breath as she releases the gentle squeeze.

3. Your friend moves her hand about an inch lower, and you repeat the breath as she squeezes. Every time you inhale, she holds the pressure while you hold your breath, and then as you exhale, she releases the hold. Work slowly down your neck.

4. Repeat three to five times.


This exercise helps move the lymph in the chest area. Excellent for all torso injuries and scars.

Chest Lymph Flush

1. Your friend uses the flat of her fingers to gently press (feather-light) on your chest, starting in the middle on the breastbone, moving out toward the armpit.

2. Inhale as she presses, and exhale as she releases.

3. Your friend moves her fingers along your chest in one-inch increments while you take deep breaths in time with her pressing.

4. Repeat both sides twice.


A friend assisted exercise to move lymphatic fluid through the arm and chest. Excellent in cases of lymphedema and cording.

Arm Sway

1. Your friend holds your upper arm while you bend your elbow and go floppy, letting your forearm rest on his.

2. As you exhale, your friend moves your arm as far back as is comfortable. Pause at the top of the stretch and inhale.

3. Exhale as your friend brings your arm back to neutral or to 90 degrees. Inhale.

4. Exhale as he moves your arm overhead again with the hopes of stretching a tiny bit further with each breath.

5. Inhale slowly while he holds the stretch. Exhale back to start.

6. Repeat ten times and do the other side.


Lower Body

Activate the large concentration of lymph nodes in the groin.

Leg Pumps

1. Lying flat, have your friend sit close to you on the bed next to your hip or upper thigh. Bend the leg closest to her and rest your ankle on her shoulder. She can put her hands around your thigh for support or hold one hand at the ankle and use the forearm of the other arm to push into the back of your lower thigh.

2. Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, your friend leans in, bending your leg slowly toward your chest. Hold for a slow count of three while you inhale. She sits up again slowly as you exhale.

3. Take a slow breath in, and as you exhale she leans in again. Repeat five times for each leg.


Legs Up the Wall

If it's possible to do, lie flat on your back with your legs up the wall. Have your friend maneuver you into position. Breath. Chill. Heal. 

Once you are stronger, thank your friend for helping you flush your lymph and promise to take them out for dinner when you're on your feet again. Move on to the Love Your Lymph Moves to continue boosting your healing.