The lymphatic system is critical to the body’s overall health and wellbeing. It’s a huge, complex network of vessels similar to the blood vessels of the circulatory system – but with a few key differences. Instead of carrying blood, the lymphatic system circulates crucial disease-fighting white blood cells, proteins, and fats through a clear fluid called lymph. In addition to functioning as a delivery system, lymph also helps carry waste away from cells.
When the lymphatic system works well, patients feel energized and their bodies have an easier time fighting off diseases. When there is a problem with the lymph system, patients are more likely to become sick and may suffer from:
• Decreased immune function
A staple of massage college curriculum, lymphatic massage is a very gentle treatment that uses soft strokes to stimulate lymph vessels and promote circulation. The RMT gently strokes the patient in the direction that lymph naturally circulates throughout the body. By stimulating the flow of lymph towards the neck, lymphatic massage helps to drain the lymph system of excess fluid and accumulated waste.
While everyone can benefit from increased lymph function, there are certain groups of patients for whom lymphatic massage is particularly helpful.
After a vigorous workout, athletes experience a buildup of lactic and carbonic acid in their muscles. In order to drain muscles of waste quickly and speed-up recovery time between work-outs, they often seek out the expertise of an RMT. While range of motion (ROM) exercises and deep tissue massage help athletes find relief from tension and stiffness, lymphatic massage may help them get back on the track, field or court more quickly with the restorative benefits of improved lymph circulation.
If you’re planning to work with a sports team or with amateur local athletes following your massage therapy training, lymphatic massage will likely play an important role in your patient treatment plans.
Lymphedema develops when removed or damaged lymph nodes create a blockage in the lymph system, resulting in swollen feet, arms, legs, or other parts of the body. While the condition is sometimes inherited, most patients suffering from lymphedema are battling cancer.
Cancer patients – especially those suffering from breast cancer – may endure damage to their lymphatic system because of surgery or radiation therapy.
Although there is no cure for lymphedema, a professional with massage therapist training can use lymphatic massage to help alleviate some of its painful symptoms, such as aching, swelling, and the uncomfortable sensation of constricted tissue.
Patients with fibromyalgia typically suffer from chronic fatigue, widespread pain, and joint stiffness. Lymphatic massage is particularly well-suited to these patients because its gentle application is less likely to aggravate their sensitivity to pressure and pain. Also, stimulating the lymph system can help boost energy levels and combat the fatigue and depression that often accompany this debilitating condition.
Do you know of other applications and benefits of Lymphatic massage?