On Lymphatic Massage / Manual Lymphatic Drainage how it can benefit!

On Lymphatic Massage / Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage

by Holistic Health Therapies in Mill Valley (4/2022)


In my Massage Therapy and Wellness practice I offer a type of manual therapy called Lymphatic Massage or Manual Lymphatic Drainage for post-surgical procedures including plastic surgeries, during injury recovery or in the treatment of lymphedema. Also I often get requests for lymphatic massage for improved immune function and detoxification.


Here is some information on what Lymphatic Massage is, how it works and what its benefits are and what to expect during treatment.


Lymphatic Massage or Manual Lymphatic Drainage is a gentle form of manual therapy used to relieve swelling including swelling that occurs after surgery and a specific type of swelling caused by the accumulation of lymph fluid as is the case with lymphedema. Lymphatic massage is also used as a means to improve immune function and speed the detoxification process.


Lymphedema refers to tissue swelling caused by an accumulation of protein-rich fluid that's usually naturally drains through the body's lymphatic system. It most commonly affects extremities, but can also occur any other part of the body including the torso, abdomen, neck and groin area.


Severe cases of lymphedema can affect the ability to move the affected limb, increase the risks of skin infections and sepsis, and can lead to skin changes as well as damage to blood vessels.


Lymphedema often affects people recovering from surgeries where lymph nodes are affected or removed as in breast cancer surgery or also in plastic surgeries where structures and fluids are repositioned as occurs for example, in a liposuction procedure or a face lift.


However, any type of problem that blocks the drainage of lymph fluid can cause lymphedema and there are a variety of other non-surgical causes of lymphedema as well.


The Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system, is an organ system that is part of the immune system, and complementary to the circulatory system. It comprises of a large network of lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, lymphatic organs, and lymphoid tissues. The lymph vessels carry a clear fluid called lymph back towards the heart, for re-circulation.


Unlike the circulatory system, that circulates blood which is a closed system, the lymphatic system is an open system. One of the main functions of the lymphatic system is to provide an accessory return route to the blood en route to the heart.


The other main function is that of immune defense. Lymph is very similar to blood plasma, in that it contains waste products and cellular debris, together with bacteria and proteins.


Fluid from circulating blood leaks into the tissues of the body by capillary action, carrying nutrients to the cells. The fluid bathes the tissues as interstitial fluid, collecting waste products, bacteria, and damaged cells, and then drains as lymph into the lymphatic capillaries and lymphatic vessels.


These vessels carry the lymph throughout the body, passing through numerous lymph nodes which filter out unwanted materials such as bacteria and damaged cells.


How Lymphatic Massage works

Since the lymphatic system is its own unique system, different from the circulatory system moving blood, Lymphatic Massage, moving lymph, requires specialty training and skills to execute it properly.


During treatment the massage therapist uses lymphatic massage techniques to move lymph from tissues to the lymph nodes where filteration occurs. This not only eases swelling in tissues, but also aids the lymph system in its function of filtering waste materials which aids immune function.


In cases where the lymphatic system is damaged and lymphedema is present lymphatic massage helps to manually evacuate fluids which otherwise are not evacuating properly.

Otherwise with a sluggish lymphatic system, lymphatic massage may simply stimulate or speed this process of filteration and evacuation of waste fluids which is why it is considered detoxifying.


The lymph system follows a different pathway than the circulatory system to evacuate fluid so while a treatment is gentle, the direction of fluid movement will be different than a traditional Swedish massage. The therapist will focus on moving lymph fluid thru the lymphatic system rather than moving blood or muscle tissue.


Is Lymphatic Massage Detoxifying

Well.... yes! though more research is needed. Most clinical research is geared exclusively to MLD as a decongestive therapy that literally means reducing lymph swelling versus as a detoxification process.


However when you understand a little more about the purpose of the lymphatic system in immune function and the way the lymph system works we can generally conclude that yes… the evacuation of metabolic waste fluids is beneficial as is the stimulating effect it may have on the immune system and the circulatory system.


What are some conditions that can benefit from lymphatic drainage massage?

  • Lymphatic drainage massages are often used to relieve lymphedema following breast cancer surgery especially when it involves missing lymph nodes.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis which is ongoing arthritis affecting joints and causing joint pain, swelling and stiffness.

  • Fibromyalgia: a condition causing chronic muscle and joint pain.

  • Chronic venous insufficiency: Which happens when leg veins aren't working effectively, making it hard for your blood to return to your heart from your legs.

  • Lipedema: Which happens when excess fat accumulates in your lower body, blocking your lymphatic pathway and causing lymphedema.


Are there any risks associated with lymphatic drainage massage?

Generally speaking, lymphatic drainage massage is a safe treatment to relieve lymphedema as well as lymph stagnation. However, there are some conditions and circumstances where lymphatic drainage massage is not recommended:

  • If the client has a heart condition.

  • If the client has kidney disease or failure.

  • If the client has blood clots.

  • If the client has an infection.

  • If the client has an active cancer diagnosis it is advised to avoid lymphatic massage in the affected region.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re concerned your physical health might be affected by lymphatic drainage massage.


I look forward to learning more about how I may be able to assist you with Lymphatic Massage / Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage Therapy.


In Health


Janet



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