Manual Lymph Drainage- What is it?
Not going to lie, I was struggling to come up with a blog post this week. And then I got asked about lymph drainage THREE times this week and suddenly, I knew what I needed to write about.
Let’s start at the very beginning *cue the Sound of Music soundtrack*, what is lymph? and why do we care?
Lymph is a fluid that has it’s own highway system in our body, but is connected to the cardiovascular system. Without getting to science-y, it is a fluid that “lives” outside of the cells, and it carries things such as proteins, fats and even bacteria and it helps regulate the fluid pressure in our body. The proteins and fats are transported back to the cardiovascular system and the bacteria is transported to the lymph nodes to be destroyed (Take that bacteria ! ).
Okay, so lymph is j a type of fluid in your body that transports stuff and eventually returns back to the cardiovascular system. Got that?
Then, there’s inflammatory response that occurs in the body. Because lymph is a fluid, it has a job of maintaining fluid pressure ( hydrostatic pressure) and making sure your body is at homeostasis. Bet you didn’t think there was physics going on in your body eh? So, the lymph has an extremely crucial role in regulating the inflammatory response by influencing the drainage of all the fluid that’s outside of the cell and all the chemicals that cause inflammation. Therefore, the lymph comes in to take the garbage out. One of the mechanisms that actually occurs during an inflammatory response is the increase in the lymphatic vessels to help maintain consistent pressure. Cool!
Sometimes, if you have an acute injury, such as a sprained ankle, you’re going to find there is swelling in that area. Manual lymph drainage is going to come into play by the therapist helping move the lymph towards the heart and decrease that swelling and hopefully speed up the recovery.
There are other times when the lymphatic system becomes faulty and not draining properly. This can lead to an accumulation of fluid or swelling of certain tissues, usually found in the limbs. This is known as lymphedema. Two mechanisms can cause lymphedema; scar tissue blocking blocking the flow of lymph back to the heart OR the removal of lymph nodes. Because the lymph no longer has their regular hangout to head to.
Now that we know the science behind everything, we can get to manual lymph drainage (MLD)! MLD helps the lymph get moving again. It’s going to help decrease swelling and help your body regulate that fluid homeostasis in your body.
I’m finding a lot of things in the media that talk about MLD and fat together. MLD is NOT going to get rid of your body fat! It’s going to help decrease any inflammation and swelling that might be occurring in your body! If you find you are constantly dealing with swelling, it may be the foods you are eating causing an inflammatory response and changing up your nutrition will be a better long-term action then consistently getting MLD done.
So when should you come see your Massage Therapist for MLD?
- If you have an acute injury with a lot of swelling and it’s limiting your range of motion of that joint
- If you have a physiological impairment that causes swelling of certain areas of your body
- If you have lymphedema.
MLD is not a simple technique, there is a LOT of science that goes on behind it, I honestly didn’t even break the surface. If you want to learn more, feel free to reach out!