Lymphatic drainage is an ancient technique designed to stimulate the lymphatic flow through your body, a process that carries white blood cells, oxygen and nutrients throughout your entire body. Also called “lymphatic drainage” or simply “medial lymph drainage”, lymphatic drainage generally involves light, gentle, circular motions. As lymph flows along your lymphatic system, it picks up broken down red blood cells and other toxins that might be in your body’s tissues. These broken red blood cells float along your lymphatic fluid pathway and eventually make their way out of your body in your lymphatic fluids. The lymphatic drainage also moves away waste products from your lymphatic system, carrying them away in your feces.
Lymphatic drainage helps to keep your immune system strong and healthy. When you are sick, your immune system becomes overly active, working to fight infection instead of healing your body. This causes swelling, which makes it difficult for your immune system to perform its proper function. Lymphatic drainage can help relieve swelling, speeding up the healing process so you can get back to being you again.
A special part of lymphatic drainage that is less known is the benefits of lymphatic drainage for those with chronic illness or swelling. Chronic illnesses include arthritis, sickle-cell anemia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and lymphedema. Arthritis and lymphedema require the lymphatic fluid to be kept constantly moving, as the two conditions are caused by the wear and tear of bones and connective tissue. Through lymphatic drainage, the lymphatic fluid is directed away from your joints, reducing the swelling and allowing the painful tissues to heal faster. In addition, lymphatic drainage also helps lymph vessels be relaxed, reducing pain caused by swelling in the extremities.
As previously mentioned, lymphatic drainage doesn’t happen only when you’re sick, as you’re usually carrying a small amount of lymphatic drainage throughout your body. However, at-home lymphatic drainage has several health benefits as well. For example, if you’re trying to find relief from dry brushing, you’ll naturally want to remove any build-up of lymphatic drainage from your hands, which can be done in a couple of different ways.
One way you can do this is by putting your palms on top of your hands and gently pressing down on them. You should feel some resistance, as the massage therapist will be using gentle pressure on your lymphatic drainage. Be sure to keep your hands steady, so the massage therapist doesn’t accidentally pinch your skin. Another way is by taking a quarter-sized block of cheesecloth and wrapping it around your upper palm, while pressing down gently. If your lymphatic drainage gets blocked, you may need to repeat the steps until you can pass out all the excess waste without any help.
You can also help to relieve the swelling caused by lymphedema by taking a shower. Just take a short warm shower, making sure to rinse your hair and the showerhead at the same time. This will relax your lymphatic drainage, as well as clear away any built-up stress in the lymphatic system. In addition to helping relieve the discomfort of lymphedema, taking a warm shower can help to increase blood flow in the area. Increased blood flow is one of the main treatments for lymphedema, due to the increased pressure that the swollen limbs cause in the circulatory system.
It’s important to mention that lymphedema may not be caused by lymphatic drainage massage at all! Some people experience an increase in lymphatic drainage after receiving breast or cervical cancer treatment. In these cases, there is an increased reabsorption of lymph fluid. Because lymphatic drainage massage decreases the amount of lymph fluid that passes through the lymphatic system, people suffering from lymphedema may need to increase their fluid intake to make up for the loss.
Many women suffering from lymphedema have experienced relief from the swelling and pain of lymphedema by engaging in regular lymphatic drainage massage. While it has been known for centuries that massage is beneficial for the body’s health and wellness, less is known about the lymphatic drainage and its role in stimulating the immune system. The lymphatic system filters out toxins from the cells of the body, including those suffering from lymphedema. If the lymphatic system is able to remove toxins, then the lymphatic system is able to maintain the proper balance of chemicals and fluids in the skin and in the cells of the lymphatic system. Over time, if the lymphatic drainage is diminished because of disease or injury, it may impair the immune system and allow toxins to pass through the lymphatic system with more force, causing an increased risk of infection.