By Dana Wyrick
Illustrations by Ted Garcia
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, June/July 2001. Copyright 2003. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.
Breast massage is most effective when beginning with neighboring areas first. With both hands, start at the top of the neck and stroke down into the hollow of the neck, behind the collarbone (Fig. 1). Follow by opening the terminal area of lymphatics behind the collarbone. With the first three fingers of the right hand, lightly stretch the skin from the shoulder toward the neck. Gentle pumping of the clavicle area also is effective at stimulating regional lymph nodes. Another approach is to begin at the sternum and outline the breast in a circular motion, hitting the upper pectoral (pectoralis major), the crest of the armpit and the lower breast bone (distal ribcage) in turn. Switch directions.
Mobilizing the shoulder and armpit area (axilla) also can stimulate lymph nodes. Using either the palm of the hand or the broad underside of the fingers, stretch the skin of the armpit upward, as illustrated in Fig. 2. (The armpit also may be massaged in circles.)
Using a flat right hand, lightly stroke from the breast bone to the armpit. Perform this above, over and below the breast. This movement also can be done with one hand above the breast and one below, simultaneously moving both toward the armpit (Fig. 3).
Intermittently, massage the armpit as in Step 2. Particular attention should be paid to the upper outer quadrant of the breast; 50% of all cancers develop here. Another approach that can be used in combination is to lift the breast and apply compressive movements, creating a pumping motion. Slight kneading with the thumbs also can be done, as well as “jiggling” with a shaking action while simultaneously positioning the hands around the outer aspect of the breast.
Lastly, drain the side of the body toward the armpit, again using the flat of the hand. Lightly stroke from your waist up to your armpit.
*Remember to perform the self-massage with a lubricant (water, oil or lotion).
Stimulation Maintains Tissue Health
Stimulation of the breasts may be one of the easiest and most successful means of maintaining healthy breasts and possibly even preventing breast cancer disease. Increasing circulation and stimulating lymph drainage through stroking can be effective in removing toxins from cells, where they can then be transported to lymph nodes and rendered harmless. How you approach breast massage is your choice. However, it is advised it be performed 2–3 times per week for about 5–15 minutes.