Definitions / Q & A's
- It is one of your primary defense systems – it fights against any foreign invaders and materials that enter our body. In other words, it is your front line of soldiers, always on the alert and ready to attack - it protects you against sickness and disease therefore playing an extremely important and invaluable role in our bodies.
- These foreign materials and invader can be: viruses, bacteria, dyes, chemicals, spores, toxins, splinters, insect stingers/venom... – all of which can penetrate trough the skin, be inhaled or ingested or cross the mucous membranes (membranes of any orifices of your body - ie: eyes, ears, nostrils, etc...).
- The lymphatic system consists of lymphatic fluid (lymph), lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes (which you may have heard some people refer to as "glands"), lymphatic tissue (tonsils, appendix), lymphatic organs (spleen, thymus), special immune cells and other special structures.
- In a nut shell - The lymphatic fluid carries substances in the lymphatic vessels, the lymph nodes act as storage units and filter stations, the immune cells either kill invaders or create antibodies.
- No two people have identical lymphatic systems – we are all different. Some of us have more or less of the above components.
- There are large groupings of lymph nodes in our body +/- :
• groin (50 each side),
• armpits (50 each side),
• neck (150)**.
Because the neck has so many lymph nodes it becomes a very important part of lymphatic drainage treatment.
- A very large number of lymphatic vessels are located in the skin and just beneath the skin. The advantage of being in the skin is it’s quick immune reaction to invaders and the ability to directly affect it with manual lymphatic drainage.
- The disadvantage is that it can be easily damaged.
- The lymphatic system does not rely on the heart to pump the lymphatic fluid around the body – for the lymph to be pumped along, it strongly relies on:
• muscle contractions,
• joint movement,
• deep breathing.
Lymphatic Drainage (Manual Lymphatic Drainage, MLD)
Definition - It is a gentle, non-invasive manual therapy that has powerful effects on the body.
- Its techniques are aimed to encourage the natural circulation of lymph flow through the body.
When performed correctly this can greatly enhance recovery, healing and facilitate drainage
of excess fluid from the tissues.
History - This technique was created and developed by a Danish physiotherapist Dr. Emil Vodder
and his wife, Estrid, in the 1930's..
Performed by? - It is a specialized manual technique for treatment of specific conditions.
(Please see "What can be treated" under both the cancer rehab tab and other conditions tab)
- It is performed exclusively by a certified MLD therapist who has undergone 160 hours of extensive
training (above and beyond the training for becoming an RMT).
What areas of the body can be treated?
- Any area that is covered with skin can be treated with lymphatic drainage.
- Some individuals want key areas targeted. Others want an overall body treatment.
How long does a treatment last?
- The amount of time spent in a treatment greatly depends on the size of an individual as well
as the total “surface area of skin” to be treated.
Lymphedema is a chronic condition that can be successfully managed with Combined Decongestive Therapy.
Definition - an excess accumulation of lymphatic fluid (lymph) in the tissue which causes swelling.
Location - this swelling can be anywhere in the body.
Cause - can be due to an insufficient or abnormal lymphatic vessels which is called a Primary
Lymphedema (can be inherited or can be present at birth - usually more commonly
between birth and age 35 years.)
- can be due to dammaged or blocked lymphatic vessels due to an external cause (i.e.: trauma,
surgery, radiation, burns, any other injury to skin, etc..) which is called Secondary Lymphedema
Appears when? - Secondary Lymphedema can appear months or years after the surgery and/or radiation
or may never manifest itself. Any individual who has had any dammage to their
Lymphatic system is at risk for lymphedema.
- There is no known cure for lymphedema at this time.
- On your initial visit, you will be asked to fill out a health history form outlining details about the condition your are coming in to have treated. It will also ask details about your current and past health status.
- During the treatment, we will review your health history information. The therapist will then ask you more specific questions.
- Then there is an assessment portion - physical and visual assessment and examination, various other assessment tests.
(The time it takes for the whole assessment and health history review varies greatly and also depends on the findings and on the individual's condition.)
- Relevant hand-outs and information is given out.
- The rest of the time is reserved for hands-on treatment.
- At the end of the treatment - a few minutes are reserved to review treatment goals and address any other questions. Depending on the situation, a special self-care program and a home-exercise program is given out.
The overall posture of an individual has to be examined. Proper posture ensures that no area of the lymphatic system is being impinged/interfered with. This involves addressing tight muscles, fascia and misalignments.
If there are any scars present that seem to be also affecting things, then they have to be treated with special scar tissue massage techniques.
All the above are treated with special massage techniques aimed in loosening and realigning structures, which then in turn will release it’s hold on the lymphatic system thereby increasing it’s circulation. Much of this can be maintained at home by the individual with lots of education and the proper home-care programs (stretches, heat, cold, specific exercise, self lymphatic drainage….).
During a treatment some individuals have reported:
♦ feeling the lymphatic fluid moving or trickling sensation within area being treated,
♦ increase post-nasal drip,
♦ increase warmth in either area being worked or in the overall body,
♦ increase sensation/feeling in the area being worked.
♦ increased energy,
♦ decrease swelling,
♦ decrease congested/pressure feeling,
♦ decrease pain
The following MAY happen to a small number of individuals***:
♦ increase thirst,
(**some of these may seem a "negative" results, but when understanding how the lymphatic system works and the potential levels of toxicity in the body - if someone is very toxic, these toxins have been lying low in the lymphatic system - with drainage, the toxins are again re-circulated however this time they are being carried away to the organs that will be eliminating them out of the body (ie: kidneys) - therefore some of these symptoms may appear after a treatment however they will be short-lived as the body eliminates them)