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Gentle massage and stretching exercises for the face and neck

MarineE5's picture
Posts: 914
Joined: Dec 2005

In a post by Irishgypsie about Facial Swelling, I replied and said I would find a little information I posted about 1 1/2 years ago on another site. It is a gentle massage and stretch that a Physical Therapist taught me for the swelling of my face and neck.

A simple neck stretch exercise the Cancer Therapist taught me was to sit or stand and not move my shoulders. Keeping my mouth closed, look up at the ceiling as far as possible and hold for a count of 10. Return to facing forward and then look to the left and again count to 10, then the right. Next, look straight ahead and tilt your head to the left as if trying to get your left ear to touch your left shoulder, again count to 10, then the right side. That is the exercise she taught me and it has helped over the yrs. Try to do these 3 times during your day if you can.

Next, the massage for the Lymph system. It is a gentle massage starting at the front of your chin. Using 2-3 fingers,make small circular movements for 6-8 circles and then slowly move up in sections along your jaw on one side, working up toward the top of your ear and then slowly behind your ear and down toward the jugular vein and to your collar bone. Do both sides this way, either one side at a time or using both hands, do both sides at the same time. Then starting under your chin and by the Adam's apple, make circles again and work under your jaw bone and towards the ear area.

Next part is, place your right hand in the center of your chest so your hand can work from the center of your chest to your left shoulder just below the collar bone and push gently to the left shoulder 6-8 times and repeat on the right side with your left hand. After that, raise your left arm straight up towards the ceiling, place your right arm across the front of your body, reaching to touch your shoulder blade, slowly run your hand down along your side to your waist 6-8 times, repeat on the other side.

Next,we have a lymph system reservoir located in the general area of our belly button and to the left, but a few inches down near the left hip bone. Near this area, press alittle more firmly and make 6-8 circular motions. Work across the lower stomach area making a smiley face ( or a U shape) across to your right hip area and then back again. This stimulates the reservoir and helps move the lymphnode system.

We also have the benefit of gravity working on our side, after this stretching and massage, by walking for a short period, gravity takes over and the fluids start to move down towards the reservoir. Cutting down on salt helps and drinking roughly 64 ozs of fluid a day helps flush our bodies. If you do this properly, you will start to make more trips to the bathroom to urinate.

It took just a few visits for me to catch on and it started working for me in several weeks. I was swelling up in my face and neck, causing tightness and difficulty turning my neck and eating . Again, you will do this massage 2-3 times a day if needed. Sometimes, I only do it once a day and other days I don't need to. You will know when to do it.

Also, if we do any type of heavy lifting, picking something up that weighs more then 25 pounds, our blood and lymphnode fluid move to the area doing the work ( shoulders and neck ) which in turn causes us to swell. Sleeping flat will cause us to swell also. Once the Lymphnode system repairs itself. We will have to do less of this massage and stretching exercises. If the swelling flares up, we can do something about it.

If it continues, I would ask to be taught by a Cancer Physical Therapist, they can show you the proper technique. Hopefully, this will be helpful. My apologies for such a long post.

My Best to Everyone Here

Kimba1505's picture
Posts: 557
Joined: Apr 2010

Thanks Marine,
I think Mark will benefit from the stretching exercises now. One of his biggest complaints in how stiff his neck and jaw are. His skin is too raw to do the massage, and I think it is too early anyway, right?
Kim :)

MarineE5's picture
Posts: 914
Joined: Dec 2005

Hello Kim,

I am glad to hear that Mark and you are nearing the final stages of the treatments. Actually, Mark can do the gentle massage now if he wishes to. I used the Keri Lotion as it isn't a thick lotion and worked it in with the gentle massage. The massage is not much more than a light touch. The Lymphnode system actually lays just below our skin and not deep in the muscles, so hardly any pressure is needed to get things flowing.

So, he can do two things at once with the lotion and massage. Also, see if you can get him to stretch his mouth muscles by yawning several times a day. He might not have this problem, but my mouth wouldn't open wide after my radiation and neck disection. It took me a few months to get my mouth to work normal again to try and eat a jelly sandwich.

Try to have a relaxing weekend.

My Best to Both of You and Everyone Here

miccmill's picture
Posts: 248
Joined: May 2010

Thanks for posting this. Glenn is having some facial swelling on the side of the neck dissection and jaw stiffness also.

He's been yawning several times a day, on purpose, but it's getting tougher so I'll keep him going on that.

tonyanddenise's picture
Posts: 70
Joined: Jun 2010

I have area about 1.1/2" x 2" that "sticks out" beyond the rest. that area has strands that are beyond tight. stretching the neck is the only thing that helps. do you think the massage would help the skin? my ent said that h&n ca was just awful and that range of motion may never come back? yes that was 2 questions. I could have phrased that a bit differently...

davidgskinner's picture
Posts: 81
Joined: Dec 2009

Since my neck dissection a few weeks ago I have been having swelling and stiffness. Makes it tough to take a healthy bite of anything...although it's nice to take any size bites. I was just guessing on how to do the massage to ease that lymphatic fluid around and down. This is a big help.

D Lewis's picture
D Lewis
Posts: 1577
Joined: Jan 2010

This is really helpful. Thank you so much. I printed it out for reference.

I especially enjoyed the juxaposition of the description of "gentle massage" with the ruff tuff "Marine" source.


Posts: 190
Joined: Feb 2010

the massage is a different type... the lymph system is between the skin and muscles... so you must be very gentle when doing the circles. just move thet skin not muscles.. Help my husband a lot!.. still does!

Posts: 665
Joined: Apr 2010

Thank you for all of your suggestion's. I am defifnitly going to try to massage route. Hopefully the swelling in my neck shall go down!

Posts: 1
Joined: Sep 2010

Stretching is a form of physical exercise in which a specific skeletal muscle is deliberately elongated. The result is a feeling of increased muscle control, flexibility and range of motion. Stretching is used therapeutically to alleviate cramps. In its most basic form, stretching is a natural and instinctive activity; it is performed by humans and many animals. It can be accompanied by yawning.

sweetblood22's picture
Posts: 3228
Joined: Jan 2010

Thanks for posting this, my neck is so very stiff and I am always in pain.

Posts: 18
Joined: May 2017

My physical therapist has taugght me to do lymphedema exercises. There are lots of videos on line of people demonstrating them, too. Type in lymphedema and especially try any sites for the Mercy hospital folks. I still have swelling and (today) pain, but the exercises truly help.

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