Published: 07/16/2012 - Updated: 07/25/2016
A good lymphatic drainage is essential for a healthy life of the person. When the lymphatic drainage system is not working correctly can cause serious health problems because it is responsible for removing toxins and it improves and strengthens the immune system (defense) of the body.
Lymph is a fluid that flows through the lymphatic system of the body (considered as part of the circulatory system of the human body), and is composed of a substance similar to plasma, containing white blood cells in large quantities (which is related to the body's defense system) and triglycerides (fats).
Lymph is a clear liquid without pigment; it is considered part of the interstitial fluid (found between the cells of all body tissues). Blood distributes metabolic and nutrient components to the tissue’s cells and raises their waste. This activity requires an exchange of respective constituents between the blood and cells, which occurs with an intermediary called interstitial fluid (fluid surrounding the cells). This fluid becomes lymph fluid as it enters a lymphatic capillary getting out of a capillary blood. This cycle is known as lymphatic circulation and has several important functions in the body:
- Collects bacteria and viruses and guide them to the lymph nodes to be eliminated.
- Returns proteins and interstitial fluid excess to circulation.
- Collect the chyle (product high fat) of the intestine.
- Metastatic cancer cells are also transported into the circulation.
- Transports fats from the digestive system.
- Maintains osmolar balance between cells and blood.
- Guide white blood cells through the body; they are responsible for the body's defense mechanism, so it improves and actives immune system.
The lymphatic circulatory system is not closed as the cardiovascular system, which has a central pump (heart) that pushes and generates the necessary pressure in the blood for circulation. The lymphatic circulation is slow and sporadic, its motion is produced by the propulsion of lymph due to alternate contraction and relaxation of soft muscles, valves and compression during contraction of adjacent skeletal muscle (especially in lower limbs), and arterial pulsation.
Here are some symptoms or conditions that could show a deficient in the lymphatic system (stagnant lymph or not properly drained)
- Inflammation of the airways (sinusitis, rhinitis, pharyngitis, etc.).
- Facial edema
- Tired legs
- Swollen feet
- Cellulite (accumulated fat retains water like a sponge)
- Frequent infections
- Varicose veins
- Migraines, headaches, vertigo, dizziness, etc.
- Joint problems, inflammation of joints, etc.
- Cancer and tumors
- Nervousness, anxiety, irritability, etc.
Parts of the lymphatic system
The lymphatic system carries lymph to the heart, is considered part of the circulatory system. It consists of lymph, lymph vessels, lymph nodes, spleen and thymus (lymphoid organs) and lymphoid tissues (such as the amygdala, Peyer's patches and bone marrow). Having a good lymph draining is to have healthy vessels, tissues and organs as well.
There are many ways to keep healthy this important body system. The frequent practice of exercise is helpful, as well as techniques to help relaxation and emotional understanding, because too much stress and pressure can severely affect the functioning of the lymphatic system. Therapeutic massage to stimulate lymph are also helpful, as well as swimming and practice activities such as yoga, tai chi, etc.
Lymphatic drainage massage
Manual lymph drainage is one of many massage techniques, is associated with massage therapy, a massage prominent in the field of physiotherapy and therapeutic massage techniques focused on the activation of operation of the superficial lymph system, which usually improves the removal of interstitial fluid and large molecules, as well as optimize their evacuation. The objective of this massage is to activate lymph circulation, so it does not stay stagnant and start generating waste substances or germs.
This massage is done by movements of the hands, smooth and rhythmic, which are based on a detailed study of the anatomy and physiology of the lymphatic system. These manipulations are performed in order to move the stagnant or un-drained lymph (edema) to healthy lymph nodes for proper disposal into the veins.
The massage usually lasts about an hour, but varies depending on the person and their health.
People who have these conditions should avoid the massage (or consult a specialist):
- Dislocations or fractures
- Low blood pressure
- Thyroid disease
- Bronchial asthma
- Diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
- Sores or skin infections
- Heart problems