WTF is a diaphragmatic massage and do you need one?

This alternative technique aims to boost your next full-body massage by flushing toxins, speeding up your digestion and improving your breathing.

Spas and clinics across the country are welcoming a new category of specialty massage to their menus. In addition to the traditional hot rock, shiatsu, deep tissue or gentle drift-off-to-sleep kind, now lymphatic drainage and diaphragmatic massage techniques are getting some attention.

These “alternative” massages focus on detoxifying your body by manually moving fluid around and boosting circulation, while at the same time sculpting and slimming – no needles or machinery required. Often hard to find, tucked away in “woo-woo” wellness spots for those in the know, these techniques aren’t new, but the surge in popularity now means they’re heading to a local spa near you.

What’s the go with lymphatic drainage massage?

You may have heard about it (or read about it) before, performed with the palms of the hands, lymphatic drainage aims to encourage the liquid to flow towards the main lymph chains to help the system function and circulate and promote detoxification.“They’re popular for both the face and body, and complement immunity, weight-loss, detoxing and body contouring treatments perfectly,” explains Adie Robertson, owner of Sydney’s To Wonderland Wellness Spa.

“The benefits include working to correct and affect the function of the immune system, decrease swelling, inflammation and fluid retention, and may even help with headaches, migraines and digestive disorders. Aesthetically, it aims to help combat wrinkles, under-eye bags, hair loss, heavy legs, cellulite or deep clean the skin,” she adds.

Comma in Melbourne and Byron Bay offers The Vessel ($150 for 60 minutes, at Comma), a full-body lymphatic massage to stimulate flow and re-tune the body clock, while Queensland’s One Wybelenna and Sydney’s Self by The Parlour Room both offer Sodashi’s Summer Sculpt body therapy (from $210, at One Wybelenna and Self by The Parlour Room), which incorporates dry body brushing, a body mask and skin-firming contouring gel.

So, what’s diaphragmatic massage?

Robertson’s spa offers something a little different, blending lymphatic drainage with diaphragmatic massage.

It’s said to help improve blood-oxygen levels, reduce stress, boost digestion and even improve back pain, core functions and fast-track exercise recovery. “When the diaphragm is affected by excessive internal tension, it may become rigid, restricting the movement of the rib cage, which may cause oxygen levels in the body to decrease and lead to shortness of breath.

It can also affect your posture, digestive function and contribute to pelvic-floor imbalance and lower-back pain,” she explains. “The massage consists of releasing the fascia by traversing the rib edges, along with mobilising movements to help improve stiffness.”

How does it work and what does it feel like?

This is a totally new experience that blurs traditional deep-tissue massage with lymphatic drainage techniques and diaphragm-opening movements. (Sounds strange, I know.) I’m massaged with strong pressure from the soles of my feet to my temples and under my skull (perfect if you’re prone to migraines) before the pressure moves into longer strokes across my thighs, bum and stomach to sculpt and contour.

The treatment finishes with my masseuse Saila, focusing on my diaphragm – hence the name. Using her fingers she slowly lifts and pulls my rib cage apart, using my breath as a guide to flow with each movement. She gently places her fingers underneath each rib working her way down from the top the bottom slowly. It feels weird but I can tell my chest is opening and I feel like I can breathe deeper. As I get off the bed I exhale deeply, and immediately feel lighter and more limber.

The next day I’m a bit sore and tender – but that’s always a sign of a good massage.

Lymphatic and Diaphragmatic Massage ($150 for 60 minutes, at To Wonderland).