Lymphatic Drainage Therapy
Stimulates the lymphatic system to activate fluid circulation, detoxify tissues and strengthen the body’s natural defences.
What is Lymphatic Drainage Therapy?
Lymphatic Drainage Therapy is a well-documented method of stimulating the immune system to help fight off chronic infection while removing excess inflammation to improve the body’s ability to naturally heal.
The Lymphatic system is the sewer system of the body. It is comprised of vessels and nodes that transport, filter and absorb fluid and other unwanted matter in the body. There are nodes and vessels all through the body, but the largest groups are in the underarms, groin and abdomen. 70% of the lymphatic vessels are right beneath the skin, and the majority of our 700plus nodes are found in the abdomen.
Lymphatic treatments are performed face up, laying between sheets, without oil. You will be asked to remove as much clothing as you are comfortable with, ideally only the underpants remaining on. Treatments can be done through clothing or sheets, depending on your preference. Women will have their breasts covered with a pillowcase when accessing the abdomen. For those who have had mastectomies, direct work to scars sites is very beneficial and can be done on skin or through sheets at your comfort.
Since the majority of lymphatic pathways and node groups are on the soft pale areas of the body, work is mainly done to the front of neck, underarms, insides of arms, chest wall/ribcage, abdomen, crease of the groin, inner thighs and back of knees. Depending on your area of complaint, some areas may get more attention than others. The lymphatic system reconnects with the circulatory system at the collar bones, so we start there and move down the body. All fluid from the lower body must pass through the abdomen and chest, so it is important to clear these areas first so that fluid has a clear pathway back to the heart.
Most people find LDT work very soothing and relaxing. The slow rhythmic motions help calm the nervous system and decrease the sensation of pain. Many people fall asleep during treatment. Stimulating the lymphatic system helps to circulate the immune cells of the body, move inflammation out of spaces between cells, muscles or joints, and detoxify the body as a whole.
Receiving lymphatic care after cancer treatments, especially after node removal and radiation help to prevent lymphedema. It can improve the look and feel of scar tissue, also helping decrease adhesions that may be impacting nearby joints, (ie – shoulder problems after mastectomy)
If you have heart, liver or kidney issues LDT may not be for you. Increasing the amount of fluid the heart has to pump, the liver has to filter and the kidneys have to turn into urine can overload a weak organ. If you have had a heart bypass or decreased kidney function, please consult your doctor first before making an appointment.
While LDT improves the circulation of the immune cells, it is best to wait until you are feeling better if you are currently sick or have an active fever. Your body will be busy fighting off an invader and we want to give it time to do its job properly. Low grade or chronic infections can be reaggravated with LDT as the immune cells start circulating. You may feel worse after your first session, depending on what your body finds to fight. It is important to drink lots of clear fluids to keep hydrated and flush unwanted wastes from your body. The other main side effect you may experience would be increased urination or sweating as your body processes and removes unnecessary fluid.
LYMPHEDEMA & POST-CANCER CARE
Lymphedema is when a compromised lymphatic system is overwhelmed and cannot keep up with the amount of fluid trapped in the tissue after surgery or radiation. Receiving lymphatic drainage care along with exercises and self-care will help prevent lymphedema from happening, or help keep it manageable.
The circulatory system brings fluid and nutrients to tissue. It is the lymph nodes job to filter and absorb a great portion of the fluid the lymphatic vessels pick up and bring to them. If nodes have been removed after cancer treatment, your body will be missing these vital structures needed to process fluid. The amount of fluid brought in by the circulatory system does not change, but the lymphatic system now has to work overtime to make up for the missing nodes. Swelling can occur, creating pain, range of motion restrictions and other problems as this fluid pools waiting to be processed.
Radiation creates tissue changes at the cellular level. Tissue becomes dry while the natural slide and glide between levels become sticky and scarred. This makes it difficult for lymphatic flaps to open and vessels to contract, propelling fluid up the chain. Receiving radiation therapy is a large risk factor for developing lymphedema.
Complex Decongestive Therapy helps move swelling to healthy node areas. This encourages drainage, improve tissue health and supports the affected lymphatic zone. Lymphatic taping, bandaging and compression garments are other techniques that may be used to support the lymphatic system. Active movements such as 20 minutes of walking help to activate the lymphatic system. Swimming or aquafit classes are one of the top self-care tools as well.