What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage?
Manual Lymphatic drainage massage – or more formally referred to as oedema massage in clinical circles – is a specific massage technique that assists in the reduction/elimination of this lymphatic fluid build-up.
What does the Lymphatic system do?
The lymphatic system nourishes cells and removes wastes and toxins. Lymph is a clear fluid containing nutrients and oxygen similar to blood but without the red and white corpuscles, and is deposited around cells to keep them nourished.
Removes waste and toxins
The cells discard waste and toxins into the lymphatic fluid which is then moved away via the lymphatic vessels to lymph nodes. These then filter the lymph fluid and release it back into the lymphatic circulatory system. Notably lymphatic fluid only ever flows in one direction, which is away from the cells and towards the heart.
What goes wrong with lymphatic circulation?
Because the lymphatic system does not have a heart, it is dependant on muscle & body movements to circulate lymphatic fluid. The lymphatic system also relies on the body to be in good condition with sufficient fluid intake and good nutrition to function correctly. When there is a lack of movement, or the body is not in optimal health, lymphatic circulation is impeded leading to congested, swollen and often painful limbs.
Also referred to as ‘Lymphodema‘, this painful and disabling condition is due to a congested lymphatic circulatory system.
The image shows a person suffering from an enlarged right leg due to lymphoedema. Apart from the obvious inconvenience, this is a very painful condition.
Although lymphoedema can not be cured, it can be effectively treated. Treatment is individualised as everyone is different, and may consist of one or more of the following: manual lymphatic drainage massage, bandaging, compression garments, laser, scar tissue release, elevation, skin care, education, taping ,for reasonably prompt and drug-free relief.
Lymphoedema symptoms may also include:
- Swelling of the affected limb or area
- A feeling of tension or heaviness in the affected area
- Restricted range of motion
- Aching or discomfort
- Recurring infections
- Hardening and thickening of the skin (fibrosis)
Lymphatic drainage massage gently coaxes movement of the lymph reducing the swelling and providing relief from the pain. Massage strokes direct congested lymphatic areas into the correct direction to reduce the localised pressure or oedema. In some cases complex lymphatic therapy is required, and this may involve bandaging and compression garments.
A number of conditions typically respond well to a lymphatic drainage massage.
- During and after chemotherapy
- After removal of lymph nodes
If there is a medical condition involved you should always consult your Doctor first
Lymphatic Self Help
- Exercise assists lymphatic circulation
- Keep yourself well hydrated and your skin protected
- Speak to your qualified therapist to see what you can do for your specific condition