The lymphatic system is the body’s secondary system of circulation and has the major task of cleaning and nourishing cells. Without the lymphatic system, you would not survive for long. You can think of the lymphatic system as the body’s drainage system, working to carry clear fluid (lymph) from tissues around the body into the blood and vice versa. Both movement and lymphatic massages work to facilitate this process.
Lymph is similar to blood in that it contains oxygen and other nutrients, only it doesn’t have red and white corpuscles. Lymphatic vessels pick up waste and excess fluid from cells and transport it via lymph nodes back into general circulation. Lymph should only ever flow in one direction: away from cells and towards the heart. Roughly 70% of lymph vessels exist just beneath the skin and gentle pressure from a therapist’s hands can help them pick up fluids between cell spaces. Ideally, light pressure in rhythmic, circular motion can stimulate the lymphatic system to work more efficiently.
What Is A Lymphatic Drainage Massage?
Unlike a deep tissue or sports massage, a lymphatic drainage massage is very gentle and helps to move lymph away from swollen lymph nodes. The massage needs to be done in a particular fashion in order for it to be effective and beneficial. A specialist will apply strokes to the skin in slow motions, targeting the neck, groin, belly, chest, and armpits. These are the areas where you can find lymph nodes. Because lymph traps harmful substances, you have to work to drain lymph to avoid build-up. This helps white blood cells and other substances get where they need to go in the body.
Decrease Lymph Congestion
As we mentioned, a lymphatic massage is a manual way to promote lymphatic drainage. Think of it as a way of promoting decongestion in the lymphatic system. In addition to massage, you can decrease lymph congestion via movement because the lymphatic system is stimulated by muscle movement. Muscle contractions pump fluid around the body, helping lymphatic flow. Massage is simply another way to avoid build-up.
Helping Certain Health Conditions
Lymphedema involves swelling in either the legs or arms. Other symptoms can include tissue swelling, weakness, heaviness in the limbs, general pain, or skin discoloration. Receiving lymphatic drainage massage is similar to someone with lymphedema wearing compression bandages or stockings. The main goal is to enhance lymphatic drainage so that you can help reduce symptoms. In addition to helping people with lymphedema, rheumatoid arthritis patients may also benefit, as they tend to have poor lymphatic flow. Draining lymphatic fluid may ease joint pain and improve joint function.
Nourishing Muscles And Joints
A health lymphatic system works to nourish joints, muscles, and other tissues in the body. This is because lymph vessels have small openings that allow gasses, water, and nutrients to travel through surrounding cells. After this process, the fluid drains back into lymph vessels and goes to lymph glands, where the fluid is filtered. Finally, the fluid goes to larger lymph vessels located at the base of the neck, the thoracic duct. Tissues in the thoracic duct and other bodily tissues become inflamed when circulation slows down because lymph accumulates.
Breast Cancer And Fibromyalgia
One review found that lymphatic massage may benefit people with fibromyalgia symptoms, including pain and stiffness. The review found that both connective tissue massage and Swedish massage were not as effective at reducing symptoms as lymphatic drainage massage. A 2015 review focused on adult breast cancer survivors with lymphedema. A combination of compression bandages and lymphatic drainage massage was more effective at reducing swelling and pain than compression alone.