Since the pandemic, we are seeing a rise in inflammatory conditions and autoimmune disorders as well as skin rashes that are also impacted by the lymphatic system. 

When the lymphatic system slows down, it can become stagnant, contributing to lymph infections. One modality that can be very beneficial is lymphatic drainage.

Manual lymphatic drainage techniques manipulate the skin and muscles to gently pump fluid along the lymph vessels to the lymph nodes.

It is a specialised technique that can be used when treating the face, neck, and shoulders, or even the whole body. For those who have received professional training in this technique, it is highly recommended that you consider ways of introducing it systematically within your treatment protocols.

Here are just some of the benefits of lymphatic drainage:

  • Regulating fluid levels in the body
  • Filtering harmful bacteria and toxins
  • Absorbing fats from our diets 
  • Improving circulation
  • Increasing immunity
  • Improving metabolic rate

How does the lymphatic system keep the skin and body healthy?

Let’s take a closer look at how optimising lymphatic flow can help support immunity and better health.

Lymphatic vessels are the third part of our circulatory system, next to arteries and veins.  Like blood vessels, they transport fluid — though only in one direction, from your cells back to your heart.

Here is what they achieve:

The blood circuits

  • Large vessels leave the heart (“arteries”) and divide into smaller and smaller vessels until they are so tiny that the vessel wall is only one cell thick that we know as capillaries.
  • Nutrients and oxygen can move easily out into extracellular fluid and into cells where they are taken up and used.  By-products of cell metabolism can also return easily into blood capillaries.
  • Capillaries converge into larger and larger blood vessels (“veins”) to return blood to the heart. 
  • Your heart as a pump/vortex keeps blood moving and maintains blood pressure.  

The Lymph’s one way backup function

Blood needs a backup drainage system.  This is because 95% of what needs to leave the cells and tissues is taken up directly into the blood. 

The other 5% is taken up by the open-ended one-way lymph vessel system — a bit like a microscopic vacuum. 

Lymph capillaries tend to take up more of large proteins, bacteria, viruses and junk than blood capillaries.  Lymph fluid is otherwise a lot like blood with almost no red blood cells.

Lymph vessels also merge into larger and larger vessels and return towards the heart, though not quite all the way. 

Just behind the inner ⅓ of your collar bones, they make a T-junction with large veins just before they meet your heart.  

Lymph is a major player in your immune system

Aside from having almost no red blood cells, another important difference between blood and lymph is that lymph contains many more lymphocytes than blood. 

Lymphocytes are the white blood cells that give you “acquired immunity.” 

They either destroy pathogens (disease causing organisms, bacteria, viruses etc) directly, or tag them for destruction by other immune cells.

Lymph nodes also contain many lymphocytes and other immune cells. Your body has between 400 and 700 lymph nodes, distributed in line at strategic places along your lymph vessels. 

As lymph travels through these nodes, lymphocytes and other immune cells do their work – tagging, destroying and dismantling “invading pathogens”.  This way, by the time lymph re-mixes with your blood, pathogens are reduced or eliminated.

There are large collections of lymph nodes around your neck and throat, deep in your chest and abdomen, and in your armpits and groin, this is why learning to perform lymphatic drainage technique to the upper part of the body can be so valuable in improve immune function to the skin and brain.

The misconception of what keeps my lymph moving

There is a common misconception that the lymphatic system has no propulsion system of its own that allows the lymph to circulate and that it relied entirely on our muscle activity to squeeze it along.  However, this is not true.

While lymph flow does benefit from your movement through the compression action of your muscles, however, this is only part of what keeps your lymph flowing. 

Here is a closer look of how lymph movement is supported:

  • Like veins, medium and larger vessels have valves to prevent reverse lymph flow. 
  • Lymph vessels also have a muscular layer.  As lymph fills an individual segment between valves, the muscular wall contracts — squeezing that lymph towards your heart.  This muscular pump is called a “lymphangion” or “lymph heart”.  The combined effect of all the lymphangions is a co-ordinated and rhythmic flow of lymph towards your heart.
  • Activity and exercise also stimulate lymphangion activity.
  • Lymphatic Drainage Therapy targets specific areas where your lymphatic system is not flowing well.

How can I encourage my clients to support their lymphatic system?

Apart from performing lymphatic drainage massage as part of your practice, there are simple strategies you can recommend to your clients that will help them remain healthy and benefit your Lymphatic System.  These include:

  • Be active: activity stimulates blood and lymph flow, directly and indirectly.  
  • Eat well: Lean towards fresh, local, seasonal, organic/spray free.  
  • Be well hydrated: in general, one litre of water per 30kg body weight is ideal.
  • Be well rested: sleep is a time for regeneration.
  • Dry body brushing: this is also beneficial when performed in the direction of the lymphatic flow.

If you have not been skilled in this technique, seek professional training as it is very different from standard massage movements.

You can learn to perform facial lymphatic drainage or full body lymphatic drainage. 

If you are only working on the face, gaining training in facial lymphatic drainage can be a valuable tool when treating several skin conditions from acne, rosacea, sensitive and reactive skin conditions.

Lymphatic drainage is also excellent for cellulite as well as lymphedema. You can also provide full body lymphatic drainage through pressor technology equipment.

One of the best is the SORISA Presor-03. 

You can contact APAN on +61 (07) 5593 0360 if you wish to access a supplier.  Other techniques that support lymphatic drainage are dry brushing in the direction of lymphatic flow.