If you’ve read my blog before, you know that massage has incredible effects on all areas of your body, and can be a complimentary treatment for just about all medical conditions. Massage provides positive outcomes for each of the twelve systems of the body. In order to understand how massage can help you and any illnesses you may have, it is important that you understand how the systems of your body work and what effects massage has on them. Check back on my blog weekly for a series of entries on each body system. This week: Your lymphatic system.
HOW DOES THE LYMPHATIC SYSTEM WORK?
The lymphatic (or lymph) system is a vast network of tissues and organs throughout your entire body. This system includes the tonsils, adenoids, spleen, thymus and lymph nodes. The function of the lymph system is to clear toxins, waste products, and other material such as dead cells or excess proteins from the body.
You have hundreds of lymph nodes in your body that filter lymph fluid into lymphatic vessels, which are pathways similar to the veins and capillaries of the circulatory system. . Lymph fluid is a clear, colorless substance that contains white blood cells, a vital component in fighting off infection and disease.
How is lymph fluid created? Plasma from the cells of the body leaves the cell once it has done its job of delivering nutrients to the body. Most of this plasma will return to the veins and continue as the extracellular matrix of your blood. The rest of it will turn into lymph fluid. Unlike the blood of your circulatory system which flows in all directions through your body, lymph fluid only travels upward toward your neck and is then re-deposited into your circulatory system.
WHAT DOES MASSAGE DO FOR YOUR LYMPHATIC SYSTEM?
The functions of the lymph system are best facilitated and enhanced through a type of massage known as lymphatic drainage. This type of massage is deserving of its own blog post, which will be next week’s topic. For now, just know that the goal of lymph drainage is to promote the movement of lymph fluid through the body. The therapist needs special training to perform this kind of massage, as it is much different from Swedish or deep tissue massage. I’ll go more in depth in next week’s blog post.
Lymph drainage has a vast impact on the body. It helps the body to increase the production of white blood cells (also called lymphocytes) and increases the flow of lymph through the lymph nodes, which are responsible for filtering waste and other unwanted substances from the body.
This type of massage also allows your lymph system to process up to ten times more lymph fluid than it normally would without massage. Through doing this, it has a immense impact on the recipients overall well being and health.
Lymph drainage can be used to treat edema (swelling in the body) or lymphedema (swelling in extremities caused by damage or removal of lymph nodes). When your body sustains an injury or infection, your lymph fluid rushes white blood cells to the area as a means to protect your body from further damage. This is what causes edema, so yes, swelling can be a good thing. If the swelling doesn’t go away within a reasonable amount of time, occurs in excess, or if it occurs on a joint where it can put pressure on the structures and cause pain, it’s best to help facilitate the removal of this swelling. While touching the swollen area is contraindicated, just performing lymph drainage on the rest of your body can allow the fluid built up in the area to move on.
Besides treating edema, this modality can be used to treat skin conditions, increase energy, and give you a more restful sleep. These are things that massage in general can help you with, but they have also been shown to be improved with regular lymph drainage. Some people seek this type of massage for sinusitis as well.
Your lymph system is greatly impacted by massage, as are the other systems of your body. If your not convinced yet, keep an eye out for future blogs on other systems of the body, and make sure to read about the ones I’ve already posted!
Body Systems Series