Manual Lymphatic Drainage for Lymphoedema
What is the Lymphatic System?
The lymphatic system is a one-way system, which runs parallel to the venous part of the cardiovascular system of our body (the system which transports blood from our heart to the tissues). The lymphatic system consists of a network of small lymph vessels and glands, the lymph nodes.
The smallest units of the lymphatic system are the lymph capillaries, which are present in nearly all tissues of our body. By entering the lymph capillaries, small amounts of fluid from the spaces between body tissues enter the lymphatic system. This fluid continues to flow into bigger lymphatic vessels and then becomes what we refer to as lymph fluid. Once it has entered the larger lymphatic vessels, the lymph can only flow in one direction as those larger vessels contain valves.
In addition to the valves, the vessels have smooth muscles, which start contracting when they are being stretched. Consequently, once full of lymph fluid, the vessel starts pumping and the lymph flows towards the direction of the entrance point to the cardiovascular system (located in your upper chest). The entrance is located just behind the collar bones are is a very important part of the whole lymphatic system.
The task of the lymphatic system is to filter the fluid, which escapes during the normal exchange of substances between the bloodstream and body tissues. This exchange of substances is an important process as this is the way our cells are provided with nutrients and accumulated waste products are being removed. However, not all of the fluid can re-enter the bloodstream but has to go via the lymphatic system to get back into the cardiovascular system.
Whilst traveling through the lymphatic system, the fluid passes through lymph nodes, which can be found in high amounts in our groin, axilla, or the neck region. Amongst others, one of the tasks of the lymph nodes is to filter the lymph fluid, remove anything harmful such as viruses and bacteria and remove large amounts of water from the fluid.
What can cause a lymphoedema?
The lymphatic system can be impaired due to several reasons. Some common reasons include trauma or sports injuries, burns, surgical interventions, or the removal of lymph nodes. In those cases, there is an accumulation of excessive fluid or a blockage in the lymphatic system and the body cannot keep up with removing the increased amount of fluid in the spaces between the body tissues. Consequently, swelling occurs and the healing process is slowed down. To treat oedema it is important to support the body by administrating manual lymphatic drainage. There are not really any other ways to reduce the swelling related to injury if it is severe.
What is lymph fluid?
Body fluids are named according to their location. Fluid drained from tissues that have entered the lymphatic system is called lymph fluid.
What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage?
Manual lymphatic drainage is a very gentle type of massage through which the lymphatic system of your body is stimulated. By applying light touch and circular movements to your skin over the underlying tissues, the pumping action of the lymphatic vessels is activated. In this way, Manual Lymphatic Drainage supports the drainage of the lymphatic system, improves the immune system, and helps your body to get rid of accumulated fluid and thus reduce swelling. The specialised massage helps your body to remove excess fluid in a more efficient way.
The treatment is pain-free, helps to reduce your pain levels, and has an overall relaxing effect and reduces the swelling associated with lymphatic congestion.
For what conditions can MLD help? Who could benefit from MLD?
Manual lymph drainage can help with a variety of conditions. The prime indication for it includes lymphoedema of the extremities (swollen hands and legs). Those lymph oedemas can be of primary or secondary origin including after the removal of lymph nodes or in the event lymph nodes have been damaged after radiotherapy.
Manual lymph drainage is also beneficial after trauma, e.g. when swelling occurs after muscle strains, fracture, or after surgical procedures.
The treatment can improve the healing process of scar tissues and helps with the mobility of the scar tissue. In the event of rheumatic conditions, manual lymph drainage therapy can help improve your range of movement by reducing the swelling.
Also if you suffer from a chronic condition such as sinusitis, the therapy may be beneficial for you. Any condition where there is chronic swelling can be associated with congestion of the lymphatic vessels and ducts, therefore you will benefit from manual lymphatic drainage.
Who can receive MLD and how long is a treatment session?
When is MLD not an option?
Manual Lymphatic Drainage cannot be administered when
Untreated or recurring tumorous/cancerous diseases.
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