This very important system is known as the body’s drainage system. The lymphatic system is comprised of a network of vessels and small structures called lymph nodes. Fluid is collected from all over the body and then returns back into the blood circulation. Harmful organisms are trapped and destroyed by lymphocytes that are present in the nodes.
Lymph edema is the swelling of a body part, primarily an arm or a leg. This happens in the body due to the accumulation of lymphatic fluid. Other areas that can also be affected are the neck, chest wall, breast, groin or even the abdomen.
Lymphatic drainage massage is a technique to help increase lymph flow. With an increase of lymph flow immune function is increased. Harmful substances are removed from the tissues and neutralized in the nodes. It has also been shown that an increase in lymph flow stimulates an increased production of lymphocyte, which means an enhanced immune function.
Lymphatic drainage can be applied to clients who are suffering from a lack of energy, or a sluggish immune system.
This type of massage is also very helpful during pregnancy when an increase in weight gain and fluids are seen. Lymphatic drainage techniques are used on the lower legs and ankles to help with swelling that occurs in the later months of pregnancy.
Lymphatic drainage massage is also useful when working with clients who have sports injuries. After the initial inflammatory stage has passed, lymphatic work will help to clear the tissue of debris, and help to reduce the minor swelling. Continued applications of lymphatic drainage while the client is healing can help to enhance the tissue regeneration process.
Another common use for lymph drainage massage is with women who have had breast cancer and had lymph nodes removed. Sometimes edema in their arm becomes present. If the swelling is minor, then lymphatic drainage work in conjunction with medical supervision can do a great amount of good.
This is a specialized type of massage that can stimulate the lymphatic system to improve lymphatic fluid flow, and re-direct the fluid to alternate (unaffected) lymphatic pathways, thereby reducing swelling.
The use of compression garment (longer-term) is effective in reducing and maintaining the size of leg an affected limb.
Patients are taught prevention and management skills including self-massage techniques, deep breathing exercises and the use and care of compression garments.
Exercise is an important aspect of lymphedema management, and safe guidelines are provided for exercising to make sure symptoms are not worsening.
Tara Woods RMT