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We often recommend dry brushing to our patients with swelling or edema, but really it's a great practice for anyone to add to his or her daily health and beauty routine! It's a simple and quick way to help the body do what it does naturally, and our patients who dry brush regularly notice improvements in their skin as well as their circulation. More specifically, dry brushing helps the body by:
- Increasing circulation: In addition to veins, arteries, and capillaries, the body has a system of lymphatic vessels that circulate fluid, immune cells, and small particles. Lymph vessels respond to very light and gentle touch - think Swedish massage instead of deep tissue - and dry brushing is one way to help with their circulation.
- Exfoliating skin: Cells in the body are constantly regenerating, and when it comes to skin, sometimes old cells hang on and clog pores. Most people think of the face when they think of this happening - most facials consist of either chemical (i.e. glycolic acid) or physical (i.e. a scrub with beads, sugar, or salt) exfoliation - but gently brushing off dead cells will lead to soft, glowing skin all over.
- Reducing swelling: Chronic edema is often a result of pooled lymph, so by aiding in its circulation, you may also see a decrease in swelling. Keep in mind that elevation will also help circulation by taking away the body's need to fight against gravity, and compression may be a good option for you as well. If you have acute swelling, say from an injury, you can also try dry brushing, but be very, very careful near the injured area or opt to only brush around it instead of directly over it. (As an example, if you've sprained your ankle, prop it up on pillows and brush the lower leg instead of over the ankle itself to start.)
- Benefiting immunity: Have you ever had a lymph node in your neck swell when you were fighting an infection in your head? Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system and immune cells hang out in lymphatic fluid. Dry brushing pushes them along to better circulate throughout the body, so they can get where they're most needed in the fight against pathogens.
- Aiding detoxification: In addition to taking in excess fluid, lymph vessels also collect some of the body's trash, for a lack of a better analogy. Lymph transports waste and toxic molecules to eventually be rejoined with blood and filtered by detoxification organs like the liver, so helping its circulation would also ensure that all of the garbage makes it to its processing plant efficiently.
- Breaking up cellulite: On the more cosmetic side, cellulite is usually due to an accumulation of toxins within fat, and by dry brushing over areas with cellulite, you can loosen them up to reduce appearance of dimples.
Excited to start dry brushing? With so many health benefits, it's hard not to be! While other healthy habits like exercise, staying hydrated, and eating nutritious foods can also produce similar results, dry brushing has a spa-like element to it when it's integrated into a self-care routine. To get started, just follow these steps:
- Buy a brush
- Start brushing
It's almost crazy how easy it is, but to be fair, there are a few more tips that you can keep in mind. First of all, use a natural brush like one with boar's hair if you can, and choose one with a longer handle attachment for difficult-to-reach areas like the back. Second, it's best to brush in long, fluid strokes toward your trunk as the goal is to circulate lymph on its natural route within the body. Finally, some people recommend dry brushing before taking a shower, but honestly if the only time you'll remember to do it is in front of your TV after work, do what fits into your normal routine. As with everything, aim to make dry brushing a sustainable habit instead of a rushed fad, and evaluate changes in your health over a few weeks.
Kathleen Ellerie is a Licensed Acupuncturist and the owner of Beachside Community Acupuncture. She loves providing affordable acupuncture to the residents of Addison, Dallas, and Farmers Branch, Texas, and educating the general public on how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can treat everything from pain to infertility to stress and beyond. Click "Book Now" at the top of this page to book an appointment or feel free to contact her at (214) 417-2260.