The lymphatic system addresses the waters of the body. It is its own system. Just like we have a cardiovascular system and a nervous system, we have a lymphatic system. It is made up of lymph nodes and lymph capillaries and channels. The lymph has two main functions, to take up anything the cells do not use, such as toxins and inflammation, and to process the larger proteins the red blood capillaries cannot handle. It is these proteins that cause the thickening and hardening of the tissues and why it is so important to use compression to reduce the protein-enriched fluids. In explaining the function, then you can see that lymph therapy can be used in many different ways to handle edema and inflammation in the body.
Being a massage therapist that is lymphedema certified, is so rewarding. I consider my role as the maintenance person. In addition to helping those with lymphedema, I also address multiple issues dealing with lymph that are not diagnosed as lymphedema.
First of all, when you have a chronic condition such as fibromyalgia or arthritis, the body experiences increased inflammation. When the lymph system is overloaded and unable to take on the capacity, then it becomes toxic. By doing lymph drainage of the whole body, you can detoxify the body and greatly improve the lymph system resulting in less pain and fatigue.
A second way to use lymph without having lymphedema is post surgery. Many of my clients have knee replacements, plastic surgery or dental work and experience excessive swelling. In order for the surgery site to heal quickly, lymph drainage is required to move out the excess fluids and improve lymph flow. This will also help with range of motion and better use of the muscles.
Third is primary lymphedema. These people have already had their wrapping and are maintaining their lymphedema very well. Sometimes due to weather or travel or unforeseen circumstances, this client needs only lymph drainage therapy to get things back under control. This is where a massage therapist can help. We can open the pathways and massage the tissues to help the client regain soft, pliable, and flowing lymph vessels. By getting regular lymph therapies, there is less wound care and infection.
A fourth way to use lymph drainage therapy is with cancer survivors. Not only is it great for the immune function, but it can also prevent the onset of lymphedema after node removal. A trained therapist can open pathways for the lymph to reroute and lessen the load on the affected lymph nodes. Due to the fact the patient is heavily medicated and exposed to toxins, it helps a great deal to assist the body to rid itself of such toxins through lymph drainage. These clients experience less fatigue and increased stamina.
A fifth way to use lymph therapies is when a client has sinus issues. You can help move the lymph around the eyes and nose and this will alleviate sinus pressure. The nodes behind the ear and the neck are usually extremely congested when having sinus congestion so draining these nodes opens up pathways and relieves pressure, headaches and sinus pain.
The sixth way to use lymph drainage is with secondary lymphedema. This would be lymphedema caused by the removal of lymph nodes or damaged by radiation. There is very little long term care available for this type of lymphedema. It can come on years after surgery and treatment. Helping the client maintain and manage their bodies is quite rewarding.