Articles & Education

The Therapeutic Effects of Manual Lymphatic Drainage
Marty Austin MS, certified in Manual Lymphatic Drainage

The bodyís circulatory systems: When we think of circulation we tend to think of blood and blood vessels. The body has another circulatory system that works in conjunction with the blood system. This is the Lymphatic System. It is a mechanism for removing excess fluid protein and water from the spaces around the cells then returning this protein and water to the blood system..

Understanding body fluids: The main constituent in the human body is water averaging approximately 60% of the body weight for men and 55% for women. The fluids in the body contain solutes which are dissolved solid substances known as electrolytes and non-electrolytes.
Electrolytes are mineral compounds that carry an electrical charge.image from nihThese include sodium, potassium, chloride and phosphate. Non-electrolytes include glucose (simple sugar) and urea (metabolism of amino acids). Fluids are found in two compartments through the body, the intracellular (fluid found within cells) and extracellular (fluid found outside of individual cells). Approximately two-thirds of the bodyís fluid is intracellular while one-third is extracellular. The fluid compartments in the body are separated by semi-permeable membranes that allow the movement of water and solutes by osmosis. While water and some small molecules can move easily between compartments, proteins Do Not cross the membrane with ease.

Edema is the swelling of tissue, due to an accumulation of fluid. Ordinarily Edema usually indicates an expanded volume of interstitial fluid. This results from an obstruction in the veins, heart failure, inflammation or increased retention of sodium and water. The symptoms may include swelling of the ankles, legs, fingers and puffiness around the eyes. Treatment can include restriction of sodium fluids, use of support hose, diuretic therapy, Manual Lymphatic Drainage and in extreme cases the use of dialysis.

Lymphedema arises when the Lymphatic Vessels or Lymph Nodes are damaged and cannot transport Lymph back to the blood circulation, causing swelling. When this happens large protein and fat molecules collect in the interstitial spaces resulting in chronic inflammation and scar tissue development. Since the normal flow is impeded the Lymphatic fluid backs up causing the swelling called Lymphedema. Lymphatic Vessels and Lymph Nodes are found throughout the body but tend to be concentrated in certain areas. A large number of Lymph Vessels are located in hands, breast, head, neck, armpits and groin.

If the Lymphatic System is damaged, itís normal functions are compromised. If the Nodes are injured they cannot filter toxins from the system or produce Lymphocytes that fight infection. If the Nodes are removed this leaves the body fewer Nodes to fight disease. If the Vessels are damaged they can no longer transport Lymph through the system as they should. A limb or body cavity experiencing these problems is very prone to infection and cellulitis (inflammation of cellular or connective tissue).The filtering mechanism of the Lymph Nodes and the Lymphatic Vessels may be injured as a result of surgery, injury, infection, invading cancer cells, a congenital or acquired malformation, obstruction of the veins and damage due to radiation therapy. A common scenario that can lead to damage is cancer surgery. If there is cancer in the body its cells may enter the draining Lymphatic Vessels and be carried to other parts of the body. For the purpose of determining if cancer is present or has spread, Lymph Nodes are often removed for examination to determine if they are cancerous or not.

Compression Garments: One treatment for Lymphedema is using a compression garment. This is a daily life necessity for anyone with Lymphedema. Lymphatic Drainage is one part of effective and long lasting maintenance. Wearing a compression garment is necessary for maximum success in reducing swelling and making sure that it stays reduced.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage is a gentle type of light touch massage applied to the skin surface. This gentle massage prevents damage to the skin and tissues, thus aiding in the flow of Lymph through the superficial Lymphatic Vessels beneath the skin into areas of the circulatory system that drain normally. It is important to seek out a certified therapist in Manual Lymphatic Drainage to assist proper Lymph movement out of the affected limb. It is a excellent therapy for any post surgical procedure because it promotes detoxification from drugs, anesthesia and reduces swelling, thus promoting the healing process of the body.

It is very important that the limb suffering Lymphedema should not experience needles or blood pressure cuffs as this could promote further swelling and damage to the tissue. Risks like simple paper cuts, a burn from the oven or the iron, insect bites, sunbathing or an infection, should all receive immediate medical treatment. Additional considerations that need immediate medical attention include: pain or tenderness in any part of the affected limb, redness in any area of the arm, underarm, chest for upper limb Lymphedema, leg or genital area for lower limb Lymphedema, warmth to the touch of any area of your arm or leg, blotchiness of the skin, general malaise or a flulike feeling, any elevated temperature, a feeling of achiness, heaviness, and a strained feeling in the affected limb.

For further information on Lymphedema, Edema and Detoxification Treatment, please contact Marty Austin MS, certified in Manual Lymphatic Drainage, at (865) 691-1565.

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