A strong immune system is vital to a healthy, active and happy life. It’s fascinating to think about how the body is constantly working to stave off illness and injuries, all while strengthening and repairing itself. The lymphatic system plays a central role in this process, and lymphatic drainage massage is a competency that students will develop during their massage therapy training.
Read on to discover more about the importance of the lymphatic system, and the many benefits lymphatic drainage massage can hold for a wide range of patients.
The lymphatic system is a complex network of vessels and organs including the tonsils, spleen and thymus. Its main function is to carry lymph, a fluid containing white blood cells and proteins, through the body. This process strengthens the immune system to help us fight disease, while also carrying waste and bacteria away from cells, helping to detoxify the body.
However, as you become a massage therapist, you begin to learn just how delicate this vital system is. Whereas the circulatory system relies on the heart to pump blood around the body, the lymphatic system is a dynamic fluid system, and relies on the body’s movements to function.
When the lymphatic system becomes blocked, it can lead to a wide range of problems, including:
In lymphatic massage, the therapist applies subtle pressure to damaged areas, in order to remove blockages and excess waste. They will then stimulate the flow of lymph through vessel pathways, using gentle sweeping motions on the surface of the skin.
Students pursuing massage therapy certification learn to approach each patient individually, assessing all contributing factors of the patient's condition and creating a treatment program that can systematically respond to their progress. When applying lymphatic massage therapy, each patient’s treatment program will be different, depending on their specific needs.
For example, a patient suffering from lymphedema might typically have a session where treatment focuses around the area under the collarbone, under the arms, and inside the elbows. Another experiencing swelling in their feet might require focus on the neck, abdomen and leg area.
Lymphatic drainage has proven to be effective in treating patients with various conditions. Patients who have undergone surgery which removes some of their lymph nodes – such as breast cancer surgery – often develop a condition known as lymphadema, a buildup of fluids caused by damage to the cells. Lymphatic drainage can help improve the lymphatic flow in this situation, reducing symptoms like swelling, aches and pains, and fatigue.
Lymphatic drainage is also commonly applied in cases of fibromyalgia, a musculoskeletal condition which causes chronic muscle and joint pain, and can lead to stress, sleep disorders and depression. Massage therapy college students who are planning to work in sport clinics will also find lymphatic drainage valuable, as it has been shown to help speed up the recovery times of athletes after workouts, thanks to its restorative benefits. Lymphatic massage can also have a positive effect on patients suffering from ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and arthritis. Even healthy patients can benefit from lymphatic drainage massage, which can lead to healthier skin, greater resilience to colds and flu, reduced fatigue and improvements in overall mood. With so many benefits to offer patients, lymphatic drainage massage is a method that registered massage therapists return to time and again throughout their careers.
Graduates of a Massage Therapy program have the opportunity to advance their skills in MLD by taking courses and programs of study offered by organizations such as the “Dr. Vodder School International”.
Are you interested in learning more about lymphatic massage therapy? Visit OVCMT for more information or to speak to an advisor.