The Lymphatic System and the health benefits of Lymphatic Drainage Massage
But there is a third component to our circulatory system, vital but largely overlooked: the lymphatic system. It is composed of an impressive complex of organs including the spleen, tonsils and thymus, and a network of lymph nodes and ducts running roughly in parallel to the body’s venous system.
The key functions of the lymphatic system are to:
· Channel fluids escaped from body cells and tissues back to the blood flow whilst removing metabolic waste and foreign toxins
· Absorb and transport fats and fatty acids from the digestive tract
· Act as the power-house of the body’s immune system by storing defence cells called lymphocytes in its lymph nodes and transporting white blood cells to and from these nodes into the bones
If the lymphatic system is in any way compromised, symptoms of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling will rapidly develop, and this conditions is known as lymphoedema.
Causes of lymphoedema may include:
· Infection and the body’s immune response – think of swelling in the neck or groin when the body is fighting ‘flu or a bad cold
· Injury to lymph tissue or the removal of such tissue – which may occur with cancer surgery
· Cancer and cancer treatment such as radiotherapy
· More prosaically and most frequently, lack of limb movement
Lymphatic circulation is naturally facilitated in an active body by the contractions of the lymphatic ducts and muscular contraction.
However, here is the rub for most of us: our modern sedentary lifestyle generates long periods of immobility causing the lymphatic system to underperform, resulting in a weakened immune system, in the build-up of toxic waste in body tissues, and in “oedema” or tissue swelling. Typically, you can expect that sort of response if you spend long hours at a desk or in meetings, use air transport on a regular basis or spend long hours every week in a car – and that describes a large proportion of the population!
Many of us try to counter the effects of immobility by organising one or two very active exercise sessions in the week such as five a side football or body pump, but this may not have much of an positive impact on lymphatic drainage, as what may be gained in movement is largely cancelled out by the need to address a sudden peak in body waste elimination – signalled to you by aching muscles, the dreaded “DOMS”!
A very helpful adjunct to weekly exercise would be to receive regular manual lymphatic drainage treatment. Performed by a trained therapist, this gentle form of rhythmic tissue massage and “pumping” circular motion is usually highly effective in managing and reducing affected limb swelling, and also enhancing general body circulation and energy levels. Depending on the person’s health and requirements, lymphatic drainage may form the mainstay of the treatment, or may be integrated into broader osteopathic or therapeutic massage treatment. On some rare occasions, such as in instances of acute cardiovascular or hypertensive symptoms, this treatment may need to be ruled out or delayed.
Many of our sedentary patients resort to receiving such treatment on a monthly basis or more often still as the main antidote to immobility.
At the other end of the scale, more intensive use of lymphatic drainage may also be very productive amongst people seriously ramping up their physical training routine in preparation of a marathon or triathlon; used in such instances in conjunction with regular sports massage, lymphatic drainage with enable you to draw the very best from your body “on the day”.
Interested or wishing to discuss some specifics relative to lymphatic drainage? Contact us on our clinic line 020 3757 6544 (Ealing) or 01895 2000 50 (Uxbridge)
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