About Lymph Drainage

Our lymphatic system is complex. It consists of lymph vessels and nodes working to maintain a healthy immune system and to detoxify the body.  The lymphatic system is responsible for slowly and deliberately moving toxins away from healthy cells and carrying germ-fighting materials to cells when they are under attack. Lymphatic effectiveness can be temporarily seriously hindered in cases of surgery, trauma, infection, burns, fatigue, stress and age. 

 Lymph drainage therapy is a very specific, precise stimulation of lymph nodes and vessels by a hands on technique similar to massage but more specific to the exact anatomy of the lymphatic system.  Lymphatic drainage  primarily focuses on specific lymph nodes, as well as the direction and quality of the flow of the lymphatic system.

When the lymphatic system becomes blocked, the system is slowed and lymph nodes may become swollen. Blockages cause the system to falter and move even more slowly to remove the body’s toxins and can affect white blood cell counts. Lymphatic drainage clears blockages, which promotes health in the lymphatic system as well as other bodily systems such as the circulatory, respiratory, muscular and endocrine systems. Lymphatic drainage therapy is a prescribed therapy for lymphedema and edemas. It is the only therapy that can safely help in reducing heavy limbs. It is used effectively pre and post surgically. Burns, chronic pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia and inactivity are all indications for lymph drainage. It can reduce allergies, menstrual cramps, colds and other viral or bacterial infections.

 While lymphatic drainage is both a preventative and a prescribed health care and is considered totally safe, physical symptoms, such as edemas of the abdomen, face, ankles, or swollen glands, can indicate a problem that should be evaluated by a physician. In addition to lymphatic drainage therapy, for lymph systems that are viable, research indicates additional measures to promote a free-flowing lymphatic system are as simple as avoiding tight-fitting undergarments such as bras, underwear and pantyhose, and other restrictive clothing. Reducing stress can also help promote a healthy lymphatic system as well as regular exercise and a healthy diet.

In cases of lymphedema all these measures and more are very important for quality of life. In cases of potential, latent or fully activated  lymphedema, compression garments and special care in many activities of daily living are essential. Most importantly avoiding infections and maintaining good skin care(hydrating skin and treating wounds, bruises and bites promptly). Monitoring exercise, it has to be done with moderation and be non aggressive and non sustained poses. Continuouis and smooth movements are ideal with incremental exertion, moderately paced, non-compromising to joints of affected areas helps the lymph flow. It is very important to avoid prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures especially heat. Prolonged standing or sitting can cause problems for lower etremity lymphedma and limb constriction is also a problem for any limb with the potential of aquiring lymphedema.  Air travel, high altitudes, casinos and cruise ships put a lymphedema client at risk because of change in air pressure can effect the limb. Massage done to an at risk area, blood pressure taken on the affected limb or blood dawn which punctures the skin put the person at risk. Perscribed diuretics are not a solution for lymphedema because they can't be taken forever and though they move water out they do not move the protiens which cause the water accumulation so when the person stops the diuretics the fluid comes back with a vengence.

Improperly prescribed compression garments or devises such as pumps exasterbate lymphedema. Pumps can be ok for distal lymphedema like a hand or foot but the pump doesn't move protiens out of the tissue and that is ultimately the cause of the fluid collection so the fluid returns quickly. Pumps can also easily damage the residual healthy superficial lymphatic vessels especially when too much pressure is exerted on the limb(more than 60 mmHg). Pumps can further congest lymph vessels close to the area they are applying pressure to, drain lymph from a congested area to a more congested one, such as the chest or abdomen. They sometimes create a new lymphedema in a different area; for example, use of a pump on a leg can cause a secondary genital lymphedema. Pumps have sometimes caused scar tissue, restrictions, fibrosclerotic ring and infections; lymphangitis and cellulitis. Pumps are contraindicated for bilateral edemas -- be especially cautious with leg edema because of the chance of edema in the genitalia.

A well fitted compression garment can prevent lymphedema in potential or latent cases and be a great comfort to someone with an active case of lymphedema. The garment acts as an extra skin helping the lymph system to function optimally. They are designed with a gradient pressure. Ted hose are not designed for the lymph system they are for the venous system and are not to be considered an effective source of compression for a lymphedema patient.