Lymphatic Massage is a specialized form of Massage Therapy that focuses on restoring normal flow within the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system drains the extracellular fluid of toxins which are to large to reenter the venous system. Toxins build up in the extracellular fluid constantly even when we are sleeping. Things such as prolonger muscle contractions, fighting an infection, repairing tissue in a damaged area and even thinking create toxins. Many of the toxins are related to energy production within our cells. When cells are efficiently working they produce very little toxic byproducts but if they are being worked hard such as during exercise, prolonged poor postures, excessive mental stress, or healing an injury or infection the output of toxins increase. If our lymphatic system is working properly it can remove these toxins and get them to the liver and kidneys to be eliminated. If our burden is to high or we have blockage of flow in our lymphatic system we start to build up toxic backup in our extracellular fluid. This back up makes delivery of fresh nutrients to our cells harder not to mention a chronic inflammatory situation begins.
What is our Lymphatic System
Our Lymphatic system is composed of primary lymph organs and secondary organs. The primary lymph organs are the thymus and bone marrow. The primary lymph organs produce and mature blood cells, most importantly relating to the lymphatic system they produce white blood cells. The secondary lymph organs are the spleen and lymph nodes. The spleen acts as a sort of filter dealing with dead red blood cells, maturing and storing white blood cells. The lymph nodes which number 800 in total also house white blood cells where they clean up the extracellular fluid on its way back to the venous system. The lymph nodes are also junction spots where lymphatic channels drain into. Please note that all of the lymph channels eventually drain into the subclavian veins in the chest at the base of the neck just under our collar bones. From their they are back into the regular circulation to be processed by our liver our our kidneys for elimination. Not all of our lymphatic fluids are toxins, this system also transports fats from our intestines and somatic fat reserves. Only certain sized fats are absorbed by our intestines directly into our blood flow, we call these types of fats small and medium chain triglycerides. Remember that the lymphatic system transports molecule’s which are to big to be absorbed in the capillary junctions. I believe this is because our body is protective about what goes directly into the blood without a thorough vetting by our immune system. The brain has an even more sensitive protective barrier called the blood brain barrier which excludes larger molecules from getting into its sensitive environment. Although the brain and spinal chord have no lymph nodes or vessels within the subdural (inside the dural covering of the brain and spinal chord.) space it has its own system of transport of extracellular toxins via specialized cells within the neurons that direct extracellular fluid into channels within the dura matter (covering of the brain and spinal chord) draining into deep cervical neck lymph nodes and into the the part of the nasal cavity following olfactory nerves in the upper nose. The spinal chord drains into dural lymph channels which empty into lymph nodes at the front of the vertebra.
The head and neck contain 300 of the 800 lymph nodes to deal with drainage from the brain and the exposure to the outside world in our nose and mouth. Just imagine the effect congestion of these nodes can have on the functioning of our brains.
What are the symptoms of Lymphatic Dysfunctions
Many symptom’s can arise and many of them overlap with chronic inflammation. They can very local such as a stiff neck or low back pain as a muscle is being overworked and drainage from the area is insufficient. They can be in just one extremity such as lymph edema after lymph nodes are removed during cancer treatment. They can also be systemic effecting many areas. We see this in chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and chronic lymes disease. Lymphatic massage will benefit all of these symptoms.
- Swelling in your fingers/rings fitting more tightly
- Brain fog
- Digestive issues
- Sinus infections
- Skin problems/dry and or itchy skin
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Chronic fatigue
- Feeling sore or stiff when you wake up in the morning
- Unexplained injuries
- Excess weight
- Cold hands and feet
- Worsened allergies
- Food sensitivities
- Increased colds and flu
What is done during a Lymphatic Massage?
During a lymphatic massage the pressure is applied first in the areas of the lymph nodes in a slow sweeping motion. Then the massage is shifted upstream of the lymph nodes and pressure is applied in the direction of the lymph channels towards the lymph note that was just drained. This sequence is repeated multiple times in the same area and the progresses to the next part of the body. The lymph node clusters are located behind the knee, the front of the thigh near the groin, behind the elbow, the armpit, and in multiple areas around the neck. The techniques are painless while being performed and many times the patient will be instructed on how to perform self massage at home. In our office we also incorporate drainage of the central nervous system cerebrospinal fluid by doing cranial sacral therapy. Cranial Sacral Therapy is a method which restores the normal rhythmic movements that occur during breathing which facilitate cerebrospinal spinal fluid flow and lymphatic drainage of the central nervous system. During a cranial sacral treatment gentle tugging and pressing procedures are done on the head and sacrum to optimizes normal motion during breathing.