What Is The Lymphatic System?

In the human body we have 600-700 lymph nodes. The tonsils, adenoids, spleen and thymus are all part of the lymphatic system. It is the front-line in our body’s ability to fight disease and infection by filtering and localizing foreign bodies.

Illustration of human lymphatic system with skeleton.

This system is like a built-in waste disposal unit, as it helps remove metabolic by-products, foreign bodies, cell debris and similar detritus. Things such as stress, fatigue, emotional shock, infections, food preservatives, just to name a few can impact greatly impair the passage of lymph.

This system on it’s own can circulate 1.5-2 litres of fluid a day, whereas the stimulation of lymphatic circulation by manual pressure can increase this figure to 15-30 litres a day. This results in more fluid flow, which assists with waste removal.

How Does The Technique Work?

A Remedial Massage Therapist helps to stimulate the circulation of the lymph fluid around the body.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage is a very specific drainage technique. Which helps stimulate the flow of lymph, thereby increasing throughput to the lymph nodes where the filtration occurs. It is not a deep, structural massage but more superficial, and involves slow, gliding pressure of the therapists hands. The skin organ contains a huge excess of blood vessels and blood volume (much greater than needed for it’s own nutrition and waste functions) which means gliding pressure above the muscle tissue can effective “squeeze” the accompanying lymphatic vessels. If our lymphatic flow is increased, our immune function is also increased.

therapist using lymphatic drainage on swollen legs

Here are a few conditions for which lymphatic drainage might be beneficial:

  • Swollen legs or arms due to fluid retention (high salt diet, cardiac failure)
  • Lymphoedema due to Cancer / Removal of Nodes / Infection
  • Post surgery MLD can assist in reducing oedema, which in turn reduces the hydrostatic pressure on the surgical site. Given that invasive bacterium and virus tend to multiply in nutrient rich oedema, if this can be minimised at the surgical site then these nasty bugs are less likely to colonise
  • Sinusitis/Hayfever
  • Post Breast Cancer- Once in remission and have clearance from the doctor, MLD can help stimulate the fluid in the affected area

(Please Note: The duration for manual lymphatic drainage consultation is 60 minutes)

Written by Meg Despotidis, Adv Dip Rem Mass (Myotherapy)