Learn self breast massage for breast health

Self breast massage is simple to do, but a specific pattern must be followed to promote proper lymphatic flow.

by Maria G. Troia — 

The human female breast is a collection of glandular and adipose tissue connected by a network of connective tissue, also known as fascia. While monthly self breast exams are important to maintaining breast health, also important (but not discussed as often), is regular self breast care.

Why do self breast massage?

Women of all ages should learn to do regular self breast massage. Not only is doing it important to maintaining breast health, it also helps women become more familiar with their breasts and any subtle changes in the tissue. (Any unusual changes should be evaluated by a physician.)

The lymphatic system is your body’s disposal system and is responsible for clearing out toxic buildup from the tissue. Unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system does not have a pump. Lymph is moved via muscle contraction and exercise; however, most women wear bras during exercise, as well as throughout much of their day, which impedes lymphatic flow in the breasts. Thus, daily self breast massage is the best way to promote lymphatic movement in this area.

Self breast massage is simple to do, but a specific pattern must be followed to promote proper lymphatic flow. A good video to learn self breast massage can be found at:

A second method of moving lymph is lymphatic brushing or skin brushing. The following video provides information on this protocol:

Massage oils for self breast massage

A light massage oil will eliminate friction and make it easier to perform your self breast massage. We suggest using organic grapeseed oil. It is important to choose products carefully. Any products containing parabens (a preservative) should be avoided, as they mimic estrogenic activity in the body. Research is inconclusive about the effects of parabens on breast tissue, but we do know that they accumulate in the body over time. In 2004, the Journal of Applied Toxicology reported that parabens were found in all 20 samples of breast tumors examined in a single study.It is important to note that parabens also are used in deodorants and most cosmetic products to prolong shelf life. The skin is the largest organ in your body and absorbs everything that is put on it. It is said that you should never put anything on your skin that is not safe enough to put in your mouth.

Benign breast cysts

Benign breast cysts are fluid-filled sacs that swell with the rhythm of menstrual cycle, hormonal shifts and even dietary changes. Many times these cysts become painful, particularly around the time of menstruation. If your doctor has diagnosed benign breast cysts or fibrocystic breasts, certain things should become part of your regular self-care routine, in addition to regular self breast massage.

Diet is very important if you have cystic breasts. In Chinese traditional medicine, it is said that a “damp” environment in the body will allow for the formation of cysts. Damp foods include dairy products, sugar, sweets and refined carbohydrates — all of which should be avoided. Caffeine, alcohol and a high-fat diet are also responsible for the formation of cysts and should be avoided. It is important to eat foods high in fiber, particularly cruciferous vegetables such as kale, cabbage, broccoli or bok choy.

Frankincense oil and castor oil packs

Therapeutic-grade frankincense oil has properties that reduce cysts and tumors, and also can support those with fibrocystic breasts. It is important to note that this oil should be of the highest therapeutic grade. There is no regulation for essential oils in this country, so many oils are merely perfume grade, while others are adulterated or contain pesticides. When using frankincense oil, you should seek an essential oil wherein the label clearly states the product is safe enough to ingest. If it is not food grade or GRAS (generally regarded as safe) and does not have a nutritional label on it, you should abstain from using it for this purpose.

Chinese medicine regards frankincense oil as having a slightly cooling and drying nature, which is why it is used to dry up phlegm in the body (cysts are regarded as a collection of dampness that has turned into a dense state of “phlegm”). Frankincense also clears heat, an imbalance also associated with breast cysts.

Frankincense stimulates the limbic system, the emotional center of the brain, and is said to have antidepressant qualities. Using it for this purpose promotes greater relaxation and calm.

Castor oil packs are beneficial for lymphatic congestion, thereby promoting lymphatic circulation. They can be particularly helpful in cases of benign breast cysts. Castor oil packs should be applied 3 to 5 times per week for one hour. After one to three months, the pack may be used once a week.

How myofascial release can help

Releasing the supporting tissue around the breast with the John Barnes Approach to Myofascial Release is another important component in maintaining breast health and reducing breast pain. This is true for breast cysts that are caught in the fascial matrix, or surgical scar tissue from breast reduction surgery or a mastectomy. It is important to release connective tissue in the area to improve flow around the breasts.

Fascia holds up to 2,000 pounds of tensile strength and can certainly impede lymphatic flow, sometimes creating pain and dysfunction. Myofascial release can restore these restricted pathways, allowing for better lymphatic movement. Releasing the pectoralis muscles and lymph nodes is important for creating space in this region to support greater function of the lymphatic system.

Bras and breast health

Consider the bra you wear. A bra that is too tight, does not provide enough support or has an underwire, which impedes circulation, does not promote breast health. If in doubt about the size of bra you are wearing, get fitted. Many department stores now offer this service in their lingerie departments. Also be aware of the number of hours you wear your bra.

The book Dressed to Kill cites that three out of four women wearing a bra longer than 24 hours developed breast cancer. One out of seven wearing a bra longer than 12 hours but not to bed developed breast cancer. Only one out of 168 women who wore bras rarely or not at all acquired breast cancer. Clearly there is a connection to lymphatic movement in this area and how a woman’s bra affects this flow.

A final note

The female breast is a symbol of nourishment and giving, but too often women forget to nourish themselves. Take the time to nourish your breasts, and use that time consciously for body, mind and spirit.

Please note that it is important not to self-diagnose. All breast lumps or irregularities should always be checked by your doctor.


Maria Troia, MSEd, LMT, NCTMB, CH, is trained in the John Barnes Approach to Myofascial Release and AMMA Therapy®. She is a NCBTMB continuing education provider and owner of East-West Holistic Healing Arts in Old Town Scottsdale, Ariz. 480-313-6260 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 6, Dec 2010/Jan 2011.

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