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Home : Studio : Lymphatic Drainage

Manual Lymphatic Drainage


What is the lymphatic System?

The lymphatic system is a part of the circulatory system. Most people are aware of their cardiovascular system but less commonly aware that the cardiovascular system is only a part of their overall circulatory system.

The Cardiovascular system, with the help of red blood cells (RBC), carries and distributes nutrients, oxygen, neurotransmitters, chemicals and hormones to distal parts of the body through arteries and arterioles. The RBCs and their cargo are dropped off in the tissues for cell use.

The target cells use these substances and create waste products in return. The Capillaries pick up these RBCs and wastes and carries them in veins to filter the blood through the kidneys and liver before returning to the heart and lungs to do it all over again.

The Lymphatics are a series of veins that run from distal parts of the body toward the heart but don’t have a set of arteries leaving the heart. It is a one-way system. The Lymphatic system houses a high concentration of white blood cells and T-cells that are responsible for our immune response. When wastes such as large proteins, fat cells and pathogens are unable to move back into the smaller capillaries of the cardiovascular system the lymphatic system picks them up and moves them through progressively larger lymphatic vessels to lymph nodes. The human body has between 400-700 lymph nodes depending on the person. The lymph nodes are the functional part of the lymphatic system where the wastes are churned up inside the nodes and attacked with the WBCs. Phagocytosis (cell eating) takes place and the large wastes products and pathogens are disarmed and crushed up before being returned to the blood stream for disposal.

The veins pick up 80-98% of the fluids that leak from the arteries and there in only a percentage of the cellular waste products from the area. Imagine a bath tub with a drain that will pass 90 gallons in a day and a faucet that lets in 100 gallons in a day. Without an over flow drain, that tub will spill over onto the floor by the end of the day. The spill over of fluids in our hands or feet is exactly like that bath tub. Edemas can form anywhere in the body but are most common in the limbs.

In addition to edemas, cancers form where cells are forced to mutate to survive in toxic environments. Remember, our cells are eating and excreting in the same pool of fluids. Too many toxins surrounding a cell prevent nutrients from moving in and toxins from moving out. Cells reprogram and mutate to survive. Our bodies are designed to fight off these cancer cells but sometimes lose that fight.

With less emphasis on life threatening pathologies, the most coming illness that we face daily are also combated by the lymphatic system. Opportunistic pathogens can over grow in our bodies if our immune systems are unable to mount an appropriate defense. The outcome could be the common cold, yeast infections, sinus infections, urinary tract infections, infectious skin infections, staph infections and more. The list is endless.

The lymphatic system has the task of picking up the left over 2 – 20% of fluids preventing edemas and illness. If 2 – 20% doesn’t sound like much, know that a cup of coffee is only 4% coffee and 96% water. There’s a big difference between a cup of coffee and a glass of water. In fact, without our lymphatic system, we wouldn’t survive more that 2-3 days.

Since the Lymphatic system is only a one-way system moving toward the heart, it doesn’t have the muscular contractions of the heart to propel the fluids and wastes forward. It relies on the rhythmic pressures created from body movement. 70% of the lymphatics are superficial and moveable through manual lymphatic drainage techniques. 30% of the body’s lymphatics are deep and only moveable through kinesthetic movements of the body.If the lymphatic system is overloaded or sluggish from a lack of movement (as common in bed ridden patients) the body’s ability to fight off these common pathogens is reduced.

What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)?

 Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) techniques closely mimic the body’s natural rhythms. The lymphangions (lymphatic vessels) are anchored to the body’s soft tissues. The body’s movements pull on these anchoring filaments opening the lyphangions to suck in fluids from their environment. Once in the lymphatic vessels, the system can do it’s job. The light touch and rhythmic movements of Manual Lymphatic Drainage pull the skin and associated anchoring filaments to increase the fluids moved into the vessels.

The ordering of MLD stokes is as important as the quality in the technique touch. It is a very specialized hand technique beginning at the clavicle where the lymph moves into the cardiovascular system and the moving to the more distal chains. Lymph nodes are located all over the body but most concentrated in the neck and behind the ears (cervical nodes), under the chin (sub-mandibular), under the arms (axillary), deep in the abdomen and at the inguinal region where the legs meet the trunk.

Who needs MLD?

MLD is safe and indicated for most people with a few notable exceptions. For the most part, if you are frequently ill or just sluggish, MLD can help overcome this burden if the primary cause is an overtaxed lymphatic system. Minor edemas can be helped with basic lymphatic techniques. More extreme edemas need specialized care and additional training. Check with your MLD care provider for credentials and training levels if lymphodemas are present. The bigger question is who doesn’t need MLD. Your practitioner should screen your health history (if he/she doesn’t, look for another practitioner). Do not receive Lymphatic Drainage if you are currently running a fever over 100°F. Cardiovascular and Kidney disorders are high on the list of concerns. Also, anyone who has or recently has had an active cancer needs to be considered carefully before treatment. This doesn’t mean that MLD cannot be preformed on this population, but rather special considerations need to be weighed including a recommendation from their treating physician. The same pathology in different people produces different responses and carries a variety of different secondary disorders.

How should I prepare?

Eat light and healthy for a few days before and after a lymphatic drainage session. Drinking plenty of water and limiting waste and fatty intake will help your body to heal itself. You will be less likely to feel ill due to a healing crisis if you treat your body with respect as a matter of habit but especially when you are knowingly going in for a detoxification style treatment.

What should I wear?

Dress comfortably for your session. You will be asked to disrobe and lay face up under a sheet. You will be covered at all times so your warmth and modesty will not be compromised. No lotions or oils are used during this session so stickiness during redressing after the session is not a concern.

What should I expect from a MLD session?

MLD does not feel like a massage but it is very relaxing. The touch is extremely gentle and rhythmic so most clients fall asleep during the session. We recommend no conversation or questions limited to the treatment only if necessary. Questions can be asked in advance but feel free to ask your question at any point during the session. The quiet time is enhances relaxation and healing but your knowledge in the process also offers a necessary comfort. Your therapist will begin with an gentle cervical pull and Myofascial compression over the sternum while she/he asks you to take a few cleansing breaths. Once you’ve begun to relax your practitioner will begin rhythmic movements behind your clavicle and then up your neck. This stroke will not glide over the skin but rather move the superficial layers a short distance under her/his hands. This begins the movement of lymph. This process will cover the full front side of the body and occasionally parts of the posterior torso.

I’ve heard I might get sick from a MLD session, is this true?

If your system is highly toxic or you are fighting a rather nasty batch of pathogens, it is possible for you to feel ill following a lymphatic drainage session or possibly during the session. This process is known as a healing crisis. The healing crisis response does not happen often but don’t be alarmed if it happens to you. You have not been injured. It is your body’s natural and necessary response to the pathogens that were laying wait in your body. MLD speeds up lymphatic filtration and makes your body process a higher concentrations of pathogens more rapidly. The good news is that it will pass more quickly as well, frequently in a matter of hours. Resist treating the symptoms with fever reducers or other medications unless necessary. Your body burns a fever to increase acidity of the system to kill pathogens. Bringing the fever down or suppressing the mucus doesn’t make the cause of the fever or mucus go away, rather it drives it back into your system. Be patient and let your immune system do its job. You will be healthier for it. Use your best judgment. If the symptoms are extreme or do not subside in a reasonable manner you may want to see a health care physician as more deeply rooted problems may be present. Also be aware that your body may be more ill than you are aware.

Less common but also possible, emotional injury or illnesses can surface during a healing crisis as well. Emotions need to be recognized, honored and allowed to run a natural course as they can be just as responsible for disease as more commonly recognized pathogens. Wellness is much more than just the absence of physical disease. Health involves the union of body, mind and spirit. If you display an emotional trauma as a part of lymphatic drainage we also recommend Myofascial Release as an adjunct therapy.

Now that I’ve told you about the feel bad stuff, let me comfort you by saying that you should feel better than you have in a long time following your first lymphatic session and even better with subsequent sessions. Typically you will experience a greater level of energy and endurance and a clear sense of self being.

How often should I get Lymphatic drainage?

Lymphatic Drainage is most productive in a series of treatment, usually 3 sessions. A session usually lasts between 45 - 60 minutes. The first session begins the movement and is much like a squeegee pushing mud slug down a drain. The second session picks up the remaining debris after the initial draining has occurred and should follow the initial session within 3 days. Three or four days later another session should be received to make sure the new momentum is maintained. Occasionally the practitioner may find that additional sessions are necessary or that after the first or second session there is no need to return immediately. Once you have completed the first series of sessions you should return to maintain as you feel necessary. If you wait until you feel positively horrible before you return you’ll have to start all over again. It is easier to maintain health than it is to regain it.

Remember that healing is a process not an event. You begin peeling the layers of dysfunction away like the layers of an onion. Be committed to health and a clear simple path. Healing doesn’t always feel good but health does once you’ve arrived.

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2528 Merriman Street Port Neches, Texas 77651 409.626.1811