The lymphatic system is the secondary system of circulation in the body with the major task of cleaning and nourishing the cells. Sounds simple enough, but without it, we wouldn’t survive long. The lymphatic system is a sort of go-between from the blood circulation to the individual cells. Lymph is a clear fluid containing nutrients and oxygen similar to blood but without the red and white corpuscles. It comes from the general circulation and is deposited around the cells to keep them nourished. The cells are able to discard waste and toxic materials into this fluid. The lymphatic vessels pick up this waste and any excess fluid from around cells and transport it, via the lymph nodes, back into the general circulation. It’s a one-way shuttle, so lymph should only ever flow in one direction – away from the cells and towards the heart.
Though lymph vessels are found throughout the body, about 70 percent of them are located just below the skin. These fragile vessels work to pick up fluids between the cell spaces when gentle pressure is applied to them from increased fluid build-up, muscle contractions, or the pressure of a therapist's hands. By using very light pressures in a rhythmic, circular motion, a massage therapist can stimulate the lymph system to work more efficiently and help it move the lymph fluids back to the heart. Furthermore, by freeing vessel pathways, lymphatic massage can help retrain the lymph system to work better for more long-term health benefits.
When the lymph system works well, we feel healthy and have a strong defense against illness. When it's sluggish or blocked - say after surgery or an injury -we can have swelling, feel tired, and be more susceptible to colds and infections.
When the lymphatic system doesn’t work efficiently, the tell-tale signs of oedema or tight swollen tissue appear. A common instance is seen after a long-distance air travel: ankles and legs become tight and puffy. It’s due to lack of movement, pressure on lymph vessels from sitting, and the hanging position of the legs. Medical conditions can also be the cause of oedema. Poor lifestyle choices are the commonest causes of an inefficient lymphatic system, though they are certainly not the only ones.
• Lack of exercise - lymphatic fluid needs muscle power to push it round the body
• Poor diet – may increase congestion and produce more waste for the lymph to pick up and dispose of
• Pollutants – environmental and dietary
• Surgery and trauma
Massage therapists versed in lymphatic drainage therapy, an advanced form of lymphatic massage, can identify the rhythm, direction, and quality of the lymphatic flow and remap drainage pathways.
Lymph massage can benefit just about everyone. If you're feeling tired and low on energy, or if you've been sick and feeling like your body is fighting to get back on track, lymph massage would likely serve you well. In addition, athletes, surgical patients, fibromyaliga and chronic fatigue sufferers may want to consider lymphatic massage.
After a sports injury or surgery, lymph vessels can become overwhelmed with the demand placed on them. When tissues are swollen, deep tissue techniques may actually cause damage to the lymph vessels and surrounding structures. Lymphatic massage is often the treatment of choice, because it helps the body remove proteins and waste products from the affected area and reduce the swelling. This helps reduce pressure on cells and allows them to reproduce faster to heal the body.
Surgical procedures involving lymph node removal--such as breast cancer surgery--can cause limbs to swell. Severe limb swelling needs the attention of a medical team, but in milder cases, lymphatic massage alone may be enough to prevent or even treat the swelling. It's important that your doctor be involved in your care. Let your doctor know you'd like to see a massage therapist and make sure you have medical approval.
Lymph massage can also be part of a care program for chronic fatigue syndrome. Because it's so gentle, it is well tolerated by these patients, who often experience sore trigger points throughout the body. By encouraging lymph flow, this gentle form of bodywork can help restore immune function and improve vitality.
Major Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage
Skin care: For a clearer complexion and to lessen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in facial tissue, as well as reducing puffiness around the eyes. Old scar tissue can be reduced while the appearance of new scars can be minimized. It’s commonly used before and after cosmetic surgery.
Detox: At the end of winter, or after a period of high stress, the body will really benefit from lymphatic drainage, to reduce the sluggishness brought on by too many starchy, high fat foods and too little exercise.
Headache: Most headaches including sinusitis have a component of congestion that responds well to lymphatic drainage. Once tissue is decongested, blocked fluid and blood flow improve, reducing pain and discomfort.
Promote healing: After surgery or injury, the tissue may be swollen and sore. Lymphatic drainage is a gentle treatment that will help drain the tissue, reduce inflammation and improve healing.
Pregnancy and after: There is often fluid retention in pregnant women and lymphatic drainage can improve comfort especially in legs and feet. Breast feeding will be enhanced by this treatment, especially when there are problems with blocked ducts and sore tight breasts.
Reduce swelling: After long periods of immobility such as air travel or lessened mobility, fluid tends to stagnate in the tissue making it puffy and tender. Conditions such as arthritis often have joints that are congested with fluid. All of these respond well when fluid is reduced with lymphatic drainage.
Relaxation: Because it is such a gentle treatment, it is one of the most relaxing. And the relaxation is enhanced as the cleansing and rejuvenating effects relieve stress.