The lymphatic system is one of the most important systems in the body and often overlooked.
It is a silent system that works alongside the circulatory system. The lymphatic system can remove excess water from body tissues and absorb fatty acids and waste products for disposal.
It has a major role in the immune system by producing and carrying immune cells as well as storing and eliminating foreign substances collected in the tissues, such as bacteria or viruses.
Without a healthy functioning lymphatic system, our bodies could swell up like balloons by filling our tissues with stagnant fluid with nowhere to drain. This condition is called oedema. Fatigue, feelings of heaviness, chronic aches and pains, and susceptibility to colds and other illnesses may be caused by a congested lymphatic system.
A lymphatic drainage massage is a gentle massage technique that stimulates the lymphatic system, promoting a natural increase in lymph flow and fluid circulation. The increase in lymph flow consequently raises metabolism and improves immune function. This light pressured technique flushes potentially harmful substances from the tissues for removal and promotes flow of clean fresh lymph fluid.
Manual lymph drainage can be useful with sport injuries by supporting healing of torn ligaments, bone fractures and strained muscles. It can reduce healing time by lessening the swelling after the initial trauma, removing damaged tissue debris and easing pain.
Lymphatic massage can also be applied after deep massage to reduce any minor oedema that can sometimes occur. Further, lymphatic treatment is beneficial after most surgeries to decrease pain, promote healing and reduce the appearance of scars.
Lymphatic drainage can be an important component of treatment for long term conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis or sinusitis. As this massage technique is so gentle, it is well tolerated by those who are sensitive to touch or experience tender trigger points. By promoting lymph flow and improving circulation, this technique can improve energy and immune response.
Not only is lymphatic drainage useful for all of this, it is also used for those with significantly compromised lymph systems, such as women who have had lymph nodes removed or damaged during breast cancer treatment. Oedema in the affected arm may cause it to swell, and feel heavy and uncomfortable. A trained lymphatic drainage therapist working with medical supervision can significantly reduce oedema.
Treatments are deeply relaxing and cleansing. It can be integrated into a detox program by decongesting the tissues, reducing water retention and aiding digestion. It can also help mobilise cellulite and improve skin tone as well as reduce the appearance of tired puffy eyes, swollen ankles or abdominal bloating.
It can help decrease stress and increase energy level and alertness.
With multiple benefits for people with varying conditions you may want to consider lymphatic drainage massage. If you have a sports injury, chronic condition, or feel your immune system needs a boost, lymph massage can help you reach optimum health.
Claire Critchley, MScPT, is a physiotherapist based in the Cayman Islands.