The benefits of lymphatic drainage
Lymph is a fluid that transports white blood cells, oxygen, and nutrients to tissues throughout the body and plays an important part in the good function of your immune system. Working with the lymphatic system can benefit a variety of conditions and is also a great way of proactively maintaining good health. Lymphatic drainage or massage differs from a soft tissue or sports massage. It is gentler, and involves repetitive circular and pumping movements as it aims to shift the lymph fluid around the body.
Lymphatic drainage was first developed in the 1930 by the Danish physical therapists Emil and Estri Vodder to treat lymphoedema - a condition of localized swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system. This can lead to limb heaviness, weakness or pain and is often a result of injury, cancer treatment, surgery, or also genetic disorders. Lymphatic drainage can also be beneficial when dealing with swelling associated with menopause, arthritis, orthopaedic injuries, knee or hip surgery, and chronic venous insufficiency. New scientific studies also indicate that lymphatic drainage might be helpful in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Manual lymphatic drainage was found helpful in reducing stiffness, and improving quality of life, more so than connective tissue massage. (See reference)
More commonly, lymphatic drainage is a great treatment to help athletes prepare for, and recover from, a peak of athletic performance like a marathon or triathlon. We use it very regularly and effectively with our sports patients.
Although Lymphatic drainage feels quite gentle, is can be very powerful in stimulating fluid circulation including blood flow. Therefore lymphatic drainage may not be suitable for individuals experiencing congestive heart failure, inflammation or infection of the lymphatic vessels, risk of blood clotting, or skin infections. If you have symptoms of lymphoedema, it is important to identify the cause. Please consult your health care provider or contact an osteopath at Bridge to Health to clarify what treatment may be suitable for you.
Since I have been working at Bridge to Health, I have regularly carried out lymphatic drainage treatment, often integrated as part of a general osteopathic treatment. In several cases it was part of the recommended recovery program after a successful course of liposuction. Patients almost invariably report great benefits from this treatment. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org .
Yuan S.L., et al. (2015) Effectiveness of Different Styles of Massage Therapy in Fibromyalgia: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Manual Therapy, 20/2: pp.257-264
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