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What is Lymphatic Drainage?

Health & Wellness
Last Updated Aug 21, 2020

Feeling light and energetic, or still sluggish after winter? Spring has arrived so a lymphatic system tune-up might be in order.  

What is The Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system is a network of organs and tissues that help eliminate toxins, waste, and other unwanted materials from the body. A part of the body’s immune system, it is responsible for transporting lymph, a fluid that contains infection-fighting white blood cells, to the cells throughout the body.

It primarily consists of lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes. The lymph nodes perform the collection and filtration of waste materials from the cell fluid while the lymph vessels transport the fluid back to the general body circulation. It clears the entire body of toxins, stopping excess fluid from being sent to the tissues. The direction of the circulation is always head towards the heart.

Unlike the heart, the lymph does not have a pump to push it throughout the body. It mainly relies on muscular action and body movement to keep the fluid moving. Moreover, it requires all areas of the body to be in good condition; meaning adequate fluid intake, excellent nutrition, and high well-being.

What Goes Wrong?

Whenever the lymphatic system does not work efficiently, signs of oedema or tight swollen tissue appear. A common example is seen after a long-distance air travel: when ankles and legs have become tight and puffy. This is due to the lack of movement, pressure on the lymph vessels from sitting, and the hanging position of the legs. Also, medical conditions can be the cause of oedema. Conditions such as long winter, too little exercise, excessively starchy food, and too many chocolates can result to a sluggish movement of the body and wanting for a fresh start to keep the fluid moving.

What is Lymphatic Drainage?

Lymphatic drainage, also known as lymphatic massage, is a gentle, rhythmical massage treatment that helps in the stimulation of the lymph fluid circulation throughout the body. It helps to hasten the removal of toxins and waste materials from a sluggish lymphatic system. It also helps in preventing swellness after an injury or surgery. It is also known to provide a major boost in the immune system.

All treatments are not the same; it will depend on the condition to be treated, but the goal is to always get the fluid moving out of the tissue and towards the heart.

What Can It Be Used For?

A number of medical conditions respond to lymphatic drainage. If a condition is involved, it is best to consult first a practitioner to receive proper advice:

  • Swollen ankles and legs after a long-distance air travel
  • Tight sore breasts – Post Menstrual syndrome (PMT) or fibrocystic disease
  • Headaches
  • Medical conditions – after removing lymph nodes
  • Following cosmetic surgery – liposuction, scar tissue

How To Do Lymphatic Drainage

Since the lymphatic vessels are generally fine and close to the skin, it is never a deep treatment.

First, stimulate the closest lymph nodes so they are ready to drain the fluid sent to them. The main groups of closest lymph nodes are found in the groins, armpits, and under the jaw, just below the ear. If you have a swollen ankle, you can massage the groin first. After clearing the fluid closest to the nodes, you can gradually work down the leg, remember to always move the fluid towards the heart. Lastly, massage the ankle and foot itself, after having cleared the fluid that backlogged between it and the nodes.

A technique is to use a flat hand on the tissue, and start moving the tissue under it for a few millimeters towards the direction of the nodes. It will also work by gently stroking the tissue. Each area of tissues is worked for about a minute or two, before moving down to the next area. After the whole section has been worked, then you can re-do the nodes, and repeat the procedure again.

Lymphatic drainage feels very gentle, but it is extremely effective. Always ensure that you are directing the fluid towards the heart.

What is Lymphatic Drainage?

Additional Help For Tuning Up the Lymphatic System

  • Exercise, especially yoga, will greatly improve the way your lymphatic system is working
  • Drinking extra water will help in keeping the body well hydrated
  • Adding fennel or celery or parsley to other fruits and vegetables, for their diuretic effect
  • Essential oils like geranium, juniper, lemon, and rosemary are helpful for stimulating and cleansing. They can all be used in massages and baths. Make sure that they are well-dilutes, and that there is no exposure to the sun for at least 12 hours after using lemon or any other citrus oils 

And now you’re ready to step into spring full of vitality. If traces of sluggishness remain, find a lymphatic drainage practitioner in your local area.

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Originally published on Sep 15, 2011

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