What is Lymphatic Drainage?

a gentle, rhythmic skin treatment

Lymphatic drainage is not massage. There are no oils or creams, and it is done skin-on-skin. Manual Lymphatic Drainage, or MLD, as I was taught by the Dr. Vodder School, is a gentle, rhythmic treatment that is designed to move the skin, which is where most of your lymphatic vessels reside.

Manual lymphatic drainage supports your lymphatic system by guiding the excess fluid into the lymph vessels to reduce that swelling. Often, damage to the lymphatic system results in a permanent inability of those lymphatic pathways and nodes to absorb excess fluid and someone suffering from edema, or a sense of sluggishness, will always need some kind of external help for their lymphatic system in the form of manual lymphatic drainage, compression wear, or other mechanical process. This isn't always the case; sometimes the remaining lymph nodes are able to pick up the extra load eventually. On the other hand, a person who had surgery five years ago may suddenly start having edema in their arm or leg, and this is because the remaining lymph nodes are no longer able to sustain the extra fluid intake.

What is the lymphatic system?

the lymphatic system absorbs excess fluid

Your body has what is called interstitial fluid, or tissue fluid. This fluid surrounds your tissues and cells and is similar in makeup to blood plasma, containing oxygen, carbon dioxide, salt, sugar, fatty acids and other compounds. Due to normal body processes the pressure in your capillaries and the interstitial fluid is constantly changing in an effort to stay in equilibrium. Fluid from the capillaries gets pushed into the interstitial fluid, and interstitial fluid enters the capillaries and the cells of your body's tissues. This exchange of fluids between the two environments (your capillaries and your cells) allows for movement of nutrients into and out of them. 

It is the lymphatic system that picks up any excess interstitial fluid and returns it, eventually, back to the venous system. When the lymphatic system is compromised, or isn't working properly, this is when you get swelling, or edema, most commonly in the feet and ankles but also the entire leg or arm or neck.



What is MLD good for?

Lymphatic drainage is important for several reasons: 

If you suffer from edema, manual lymphatic drainage, or MLD, can support your lymph system by guiding the fluid to lymph nodes that can process that fluid and return it to the venous system. The lymph nodes are where your immunity lies and it is there that this fluid will be further processed and contaminants removed.

If you are on a cleanse, receiving MLD during your cleansing process will help your body rid itself of waste in the above-mentioned manner. MLD can greatly support a cleanse as it is itself the body's way of filtering waste and unneeded material out of the body's system.

Swelling resulting from a surgical procedure can be reduced with MLD as well, and can decrease the amount of time that the swelling sticks around.

Feeling that your tissues are sluggish is also a good reason to look into regular MLD treatments. If you have swelling in the feet, ankles, or the arms that never seems to resolve, first go see your doctor to determine if there are other underlying issues and if there aren't, consider MLD as part of a maintenance program to help your lymph system absorb that excess fluid.

What is the lymph system good for?

your immunity depends upon it

The lymphatic system is an important player in your body's immunity. Your lymph nodes store material - like glass particles, metals, etc - that your body cannot process, and they produce and store cells that fight infection and disease. Lymph nodes are your body's first line of defense, once a virus or bacteria has entered your body.

Your lymphatic system also picks up any excess fluid in your interstitial spaces, further cleanses it, and returns it to your venous system, so the lymph system is essential for maintaining a balance of the fluid surrounding your tissues and organs, thus preventing swelling in your limbs and neck and preventing buildup of waste materials.

That is a very simplified and abbreviated version of why your lymphatic system is important.