Lymph vessels cover our entire body and are quite superficial, thus requiring very light pressure. The therapist moves the lymph along its vessels increasing its speed up to 20 times the normal rate, which allows the body to do what it should be doing, and that is healing. The only difference is that now it’s doing it in less time than usual. (Photo scanned from "The Anatomy Coloring Book", by Kapit and Elson--red arrows with explanations were added by us)
Our bodies have many other nodes that aid in the filtering of our lymph, and some of those are usually where we have a joint, behind and below the ears, also below the jawbone, along with many others that get flushed by the massage therapist in a Lymphatic massage.
To read more on the subject...scroll on down. (the following information can be found in most Biology or Microbiology textbooks)
An amazing amount of fluid passes from the blood capillaries into the interstitial spaces. It is said that about 30 liters makes its way out into those spaces, but only 3 liters actually seeps into the lymph vessels to become lymph. This lymph is carrying antigens (bacteria, viruses, etc.) that will be travelling through our lymph vessels to the lymph nodes, where they will get phagocytized (in other words...destroyed) by macrophages and B, T, or null lymphocyte cells.
Each of the above-mentioned cells have a specific duty in our immune system.
The nodes are encapsulated and have incoming and outgoing vessels for lymph to pass through. Inside the nodes we have some important features that aid in the filtering process. In the sinuses there is a network of reticular fibers that slows the lymph down enough to allow the phagocytic cells, that line the sinuses, to attach to the proper antigen and destroy it before it leaves the node. Within the node we also have lymph nodules that join to form germinal centers, which are lymphocyte (cells discussed above) creators.
In a lymphatic massage and manual lymph drainage these nodes get flushed out to make sure that no blockages remain and to clear the way for all the incoming lymph that is about to be rushed in. At the same time with the added stimulus from increased lymph flow, germinal centers produce more lymphocytes, thus making sure the lymph is all nice and clean when exiting the nodes.
The cool part is that this is something intrinsic that happens in our bodies on a day to day basis, but we are not aware of it. Since the flow of lymph is quite slow as it depends on external forces (mucsle contractions, deep breathing) to drive it, things can get a little backed up in the nodes and their function is decreased tremendously. However, the good news is that with a lymphatic massage, all the blockages and clogs get cleared to ensure a proper functioning lymphatic system that will keep our bodies in the state they want to be...homeostasis, or in other words, balanced.
So how does this massage help us heal a tear, sprain, strain, and the like?
Any one of the above mentioned issues will have inflammation...well when you think about inflammation, think about what is going on there. It is your body's response to try to heal the wound. Therefore, it sends lymphocytes, monocytes, and leukocytes, and so on, to repair the damage and get the body back in balance. So the lymphatic massage helps clear that site of stagnating cells and brings fresh, new cells to continue repairing the damage. The reason the redness and swelling won't go away for a few days is because our lymph system is not moving quickly, but with a massage that all changes and the speed is now 20 times that of the norm, if not more.
The same issue is going on in a carpal tunnel syndrome case. The person is getting a build-up of toxins and gunk that eventually presses down on the radial nerve causing the syndrome to flare up. With lymphatic massage you can get that build-up cleared away in most cases.
For more in-depth info and related content, follow the links below.
1. How Lymph and Lymphedema work (simple explanation in layman's terms)
2. In-depth info on Lymphatic System (this site is quite medically inclinded)
3. Mesothelioma awareness (check out this site if you want to learn about this cancer)
Note: Body in Alignment does not endorse any of these websites, but we do think they have some insightful information to share.