Lymphatic Massage & Manual Lymphatic Drain
What is the lymph system?
Your lymph system is made up of organs (thymus, tonsils, spleen, adenoids), hundreds of lymph nodes (mostly in your neck, armpits and groin) and numerous vessels that circulate lymph fluid around your body in a similar fashion to your blood. In fact, your blood and lymph often interact and exchange materials. The purpose of lymph is to absorb waste products, dead cells, pathogens, fats and proteins from the tissues, while transporting the white blood cells of your immune system. The lymph organs and nodes filter the lymph fluid, removing material and killing infectious microorganisms. This is why lymph nodes become inflamed and swollen with infections and cancers.
What is a lymphatic massage?
Lymph massage, also called manual lymphatic drainage or lymph drainage therapy, is a type of massage that is thought to help your lymphatic system circulate better, stimulate immunity and improve the health of your tissue. According to massage philosophy, ill health, infection, lack of exercise, dehydration or malnourishment, cause your lymphatic fluid moves sluggishly, so a light directional massage in areas that contain lymph vessels and nodes can be very helpful.
Which autoimmune symptoms might respond with this type of massage, especially if done infrequently (a few times per year)?
Lymphatic massage is probably most effective for inflammation, swellings and pain if the symptoms are related to “sluggish flow” or “back-up” of lymph fluid. Proponents of massage believe that with better lymph flow, your fatigue and stress levels may diminish and you may notice a slight loss of weight. On the other hand, it is thought that if your autoimmune condition is caused by infection, you may notice a slight exasperation of symptoms, especially headaches, shortly after a lymphatic massage. If you only get a few massages per year, you may not be able to gauge the effectiveness of the treatment.
Can lymphatic massage help for issues unrelated to inflammation or pain, such as diabetes or Crohn’s disease?
There’s no scientific evidence that lymphatic massage can make a significant impact on the standard disease markers for diabetes or Crohn’s, but there are anecdotal reports of a wide variety of diseases improving or going into remission by the “laying on of hands.” Many people experience that treatments involving touch, such as lymphatic massage, chiropractic or Reiki, have the potential to heal due to the positive energy and intent from the practitioner; certainly the wide and growing use of these types of modalities supports the idea that they are beneficial at some level.
As with many complementary therapies, medical doctors spend very little, if any, time learning about massage therapy. It is best to seek advice on massage from an experienced practitioner and inform your doctor that you are pursuing alternative therapies.
Questions for your massage therapist:
- Is lymphatic massage safe during pregnancy?
- If I feel worse after the first session, should I return for another?
- Is drinking water important with lymphatic massage?
- If lymphatic massage really improves my symptoms, then does that help narrow down a cause of my autoimmune condition?
This blog post was originally published by AutoimmuneMom.com and first published on Sep 2, 2012.
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