What is The Lymphatic SystemThe extraordinary workings of the lymphatic system make blood circulation look simple by comparison. Made up of fine vessels and lymph nodes, this little-known circulation is an important part of the immune system. It quietly goes about its business, filtering out waste and debris, and carrying nutrients to cells.
The lymph nodes do the collection and filtering of waste material from cell fluid, while the lymph vessels return the fluid back to the general circulation. It clears the entire body, stopping excess fluid from lying around in the tissues. It always heads towards the heart.
Unlike the heart, lymph doesn’t have a pump to push it round the body. It relies mainly on our muscular action and body movement to keep the fluid moving. As well, it needs all areas of the body to be in good condition; that means adequate fluid intake, excellent nutrition and high level well-being.
What Goes WrongWhen the lymphatic system doesn’t work efficiently, the tell-tale signs of oedema or tight swollen tissue appear. A common instance is seen after a long-distance air travel: ankles and legs become tight and puffy. It’s due to lack of movement, pressure on lymph vessels from sitting, and the hanging position of the legs. Medical conditions can also be the cause of oedema. But as well, by the end of winter, after too little exercise, too much starchy food, and far too many hot chocolates, our bodies may be pretty sluggish and longing for a fresh start to get that fluid moving.
What is Lymphatic Drainage?When you intervene and encourage the fluid to drain properly, it’s known as lymphatic drainage. You can jazz up your whole system with a treatment, whether or not you have fluid retention. It can be a stand-alone procedure, or it can be incorporated into a massage treatment. You can even do it yourself.
All treatments are not the same; it depends on the condition being treated, but the aim is always to get the fluid moving out of the tissue and towards the heart.
A surprising number of conditions respond to lymphatic drainage. If a medical condition is involved, you should consult your practitioner first:
What Can It Be Used For?
- Swollen ankles and legs after air travel
- Tight sore breasts – PMT or fibrocystic disease
- Medical conditions – after removal of lymph nodes
- Following cosmetic surgery – liposuction, scar tissue
How To Do Lymphatic DrainageLymphatic vessels are generally fine and close to the skin, so it’s never a deep treatment.
Stimulate the closest lymph nodes first, so they’re ready to drain the fluid that you send to them. The main groups are found in the groins, armpits and under the jaw, just below the ears. For swollen ankles, you massage the groin first. Then you clear the fluid closest to the nodes, and gradually work down the leg, always moving the fluid towards the heart. The last part to be massaged will be the ankle and foot itself, having cleared the fluid backlog between it and the nodes.
One technique is to use a flat hand on the tissue, and move the tissue under it just a few millimeters in the direction of the nodes. Gently stroking the tissue will also work. Each area of tissue is worked for a minute or two, before moving down to the next area. When the whole section has been worked, you re-do the nodes, and repeat the procedure.
It feels very gentle, but it’s extremely effective. Make sure you are always directing the fluid towards the heart.
Additional Help For Lymphatic Tune-up
- Exercise, especially yoga, will really improve the way your lymphatic system works
- Extra water will help to keep your body well hydrated
- Add fennel and celery and parsley to other fruits and vegetables, for their diuretic ability.
- Essential oils such as geranium, juniper, lemon and rosemary are all stimulating and cleansing. They can all be used in baths and massage. Take care that they are diluted well, and that there is no sun exposure 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.