Lymph drainage massage is a unique technique first developed in Europe as a physical therapy modality for the treatment of lymphedema disease. Experience has shown that it is not only for ill patients; lymph drainage massage is also a perfect technique for helping clients to maintain health and improve the beauty of the skin.

The functioning of the lymphatic system is closely related to that of the circulatory system.

Many factors contribute to a sluggish or stagnant lymph flow. Common to many of us are a lack of adequate exercise, fatigue, a stressful lifestyle and age. Even emotional shock, the physical shock of a minor car accident, the stress on one’s system from cold temperatures and, of course, infections can cause swelling from slight to significant-an indication that the lymph is not properly moving.

Lymph originates as blood plasma. The plasma of arterial blood is rich in “groceries” for the cells. In the capillary beds throughout the body the flow of blood is slowed so that plasma can leave and become tissue fluid. Tissue fluid is also known as intercellular fluid or interstitial fluid.

  • Tissue fluid delivers the nutrients, oxygen, and hormones required by the cells.
  • Tissue fluid collects and carries away some cellular waste products.
  • 90 percent of the tissue fluid returns to the capillary bed. Here it again becomes plasma and continues its journey throughout the body as part of the venous circulation.
  • Lymph is the 10 percent of the tissue fluid that is left behind. Normally the amount of lymph circulating in the body is one to two quarts and it makes up one to three percent of the body weight.

The Role of Lymph

The role of tissue fluid is to deliver the groceries to the cells. The role of lymph is to take out the trash that is left behind and to dispose of it.

As lymph continues to circulate between the cells it collects waste products that were left behind including dead blood cells, pathogens, and cancer cells. This clear fluid also becomes protein-rich as it absorbs dissolved protein from between the cells.

Lymphatic Capillaries

The lymphatic capillaries form a mesh-like network of tiny tubes that are distributed throughout the tissue spaces and are located just under the skin. These capillaries branch and interconnect freely so that they extend into almost all tissues.

Lymph capillaries are blind-ended tubes with no opening to allow the lymph easy access. The end of the capillary is only one-cell in thickness and these cells are arranged in a slightly overlapping pattern.

Pressure from the fluid surrounding the capillary forces these cells to separate for a moment. This allows fluid to enter, but not to leave, the capillary.

There are one-way valves within the lymphatic capillaries. These valves ensure the continued flow of the lymph away from the tissues.

A very specialised type of massage called manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is an important part of the treatment of lymphoedema. To be effective in treating lymphoedema, it is important to use the correct technique. The aim of the massage is to stimulate or move the excess fluid away from the swollen area so that it can drain away normally. Massage also encourages and improves drainage in the healthy lymphatics (which helps keep fluid away from swollen areas).

Manual lymphatic drainage differs from ordinary masaje – it is very gentle and aims to encourage movement of lymph away from swollen areas. MLD is particularly useful if there is swelling in the face, breast, abdomen, genitals or elsewhere on the trunk.

Therapists work with flat hands, using all the fingers to simulate gentle, specific wave-like movements. These subtle manual maneuvers activate lymph and interstitial fluid circulation as well as stimulate the functioning of the immune and parasympathetic nervous systems. It is shown that when these actions are accomplished, the results can be:

  • Reduction in edemas (swelling) and lymphedemas of various origins.
  • Detoxification of the body.
  • Regeneration of tissue, including burns, wounds and wrinkles.
  • Anti-aging effects.
  • Relief of numerous chronic and subacute inflammations, including sinusitis, bronchitis and otitis.
  • Relief of chronic pain.
  • Reduction in the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
  • Antispastic actions to relieve conditions such as muscle hypertonus and some forms of constipation.
  • Deep relaxation to aid insomnia, stress, loss of vitality and loss of memory.
  • Alleviation of adiposis and cellulite tissue.

Health benefits can include reduced tissue swelling caused by soft tissue damage (for example, sprained or swollen ankles), sports injury, car accidents (like whiplash), reactions to medications, some headaches, radiation and surgery.

Lymphatic work has been, for many women instrumental for their proper breast care. It may work as a cancer preventative; clearing stagnation and increasing lymph flow; reducing cysts and swelling caused by biopsy, node removal and mastectomy.

Also can stimulate the immune system by increasing the production of antibodies, thereby increasing cellular and humoral immunity. Cellular immunity lasts from 30 minutes to 20 hours. Humoral immunity can last six to 20 years. This helps with a decreased sensitivity to allergies, more rapid recovery and prevention of colds and the flu, sinusitis and ear and eye problems.

Because the autonomic nervous system is affected, lymphatic work has an anti-spasmodic effect on stressed musculature, reducing chronic pain and increasing range of motion. Constipation, insomnia, lethargy, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue symptoms can also be improved. Cosmetically, lymphatic work helps alleviate scars, burns, stretch marks, wrinkles, cellulitis and adipose tissue.

How does it work?

The lymphatic system is responsible for helping fluid and waste leave the body and for regulating the immune system. When the lymphatic system becomes blocked, fluid builds up and stagnates, causing the entire system to become toxic, making us feel sluggish and more susceptible to viral or contagious diseases.

By stimulating this system through massage, it works more efficiently, which in turn boosts the immune system, clears blockages, eliminates toxins, transports nutrients to cells and increases the metabolism.

What is it good for?

Lymphatic drainage massage is especially useful for individuals who seem to suffer regularly from common illnesses like colds and flu. It is also recommended for people who lead sedentary lifestyles, or those who want to reduce puffiness or swelling. It has been cited as having a positive effect on problem skin, cellulite, dysfunctional respiratory systems and people with low energy.

The Benefits

Lymphatic drainage massage boosts the immune system so, as well as helping the body ward off illness, treatment can facilitate general feelings of health and vitality. It also has a positive physical effect, improving the appearance of the skin and reducing puffiness caused by water retention, poor circulation or pregnancy. As with other massage, it can help with pain from fractures and sprains and rheumatism, and it promotes the body’s own healing mechanisms. Lymphatic drainage massage utilises very light pressure

  • is deeply relaxing.
  • promotes the healing of fractures, torn ligaments, sprains and lessens the pain.
  • can improve many chronic conditions: sinusitis, rheumatoid arthritis,scleroderma, acne and other skin conditions.
  • may strengthen the immune system.
  • relieves fluid congestion: swollen ankles, tired puffy eyes and swollen legs due to pregnancy.
  • is an effective component of the treatment and control of lymphoedema and assists in conditions arising from venous insufficiency.
  • promotes healing of wounds and burns and improves the appearance of old scars.
  • minimises or reduces stretch marks.

Sources: Body for You, Lymph Notes

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