Spotlight on Techniques – Lymphatic Drain Massage.
Lymphatic Drainage Massage – or LDM – would seem to be quite enigmatic to many people … we have all heard about it, but do many of us really understand much about it? Clients are frequently asking us in clinic “What is lymphatic drainage massage, and why would I need one?” For some people the question seems to come from previous advice given to them by their Nutritionist or GP suggesting it might be a good consideration for them, while for others it might be something they heard talked about in the gym or seen on social media. It is apparent to us in clinic that while people have heard of LDM, when it comes to understanding or knowing anything about it most people are unsure.
While every Professional Remedial Therapist has training in MLD Treatment – Kate has a special interest in this Modality, and she is our in-clinic MLD Specialist. To help our clients (and the general community) gain a greater understanding of MLD, she has written an article to explain what MLD is and how it works … So, if you’ve ever been curious, please read on!
What is the Lymphatic System?
The Lymphatic System is a network of tissues and organs throughout our bodies – some of the organs are located with the other viscera in the thoracic cavity, but the network of vessels & nodes that an LDM will focus on lies only a few millimetres under the skin. The fluid that flows through this system (Lymph) is clear and colourless and made up of infection-fighting white blood cells and Plasma cells suspended in extra-cellular fluid. The primary function of the Lymphatic System is transport metabolic waste products and other unwanted materials into the body’s evacuation systems, as well as supporting our Immune System to keep our bodies healthy and functional.
Lymph nodes are clustered in areas like our groin and armpits, and range in size from a pin head to an olive. If you sliced a lymph node open, you’d see a series of channels, a little like a kidney, and these nodes contain cells that carry out an immune function, destroying foreign bodies, bacteria and viruses that can make us unwell.
Unlike the Circulation System, the Lymphatic System is not ‘pumped’ around the body, it simply flows … and that flow moves in only one direction – from the extremities to the core. The flow is stimulated by Respiration and Skeletal Muscle Contraction – so if you are breathing and moving, your lymph should be flowing!
What can stop lymph from flowing?
The Lymphatic System is generally robust and as we said above, if you keep breathing and moving you should not experience lymphatic concerns. However, there are a few things that can cause a sluggish flow or in some cases completely block lymphatic flow, and they include:
• Removal or enlargement of lymph nodes;
• Infections and/or parasites;
• Injuries; or
• Open surgeries.
Please be aware that if you are experiencing or living with long term and persistent lymphatic flow blockage – particularly after lymph node removal surgery (commonly associated with Breast Cancer) you should consult a Lymphedema Specialist for more specific LDM treatments that will likely include compressive bandaging.
How is LDM performed?
As lymph only flows in one direction, LDM is carried out in a very specific way.
• Techniques are very light to target the superficial lymphatic channels, and because these channels are designed to access every cell in our bodies an LDM covers most of the skin’s surface.
• As lymph is not pushed by a pump (like the heart pumps blood) an LDM works to create ripples in lymphatic flow, encouraging increased movement of fluid towards the organs in your torso. To do this effectively, an LDM is performed slowly and repetitively.
One of the biggest benefits to anyone receiving LDM is that it really, really relaxes you! In fact, here in clinic it’s the closest thing to a relaxation massage you can get. Treatments can be targeted at a specific area, or include the whole body, depending on your specific needs.
Will an LDM help you lose weight or detox your system?
These are two questions that I get asked most frequently …
Regarding weight loss – Clients occasionally say that they have been told by someone else that having an LDM will speed-up their weight loss gains, but as a Professional Remedial Therapist I can’t recognise any direct correlation between the two. Weight loss is related to your metabolic rate and not your lymphatic flow … Creating a lifestyle where your Caloric Intake is less than your Energy Expenditure, that is more like a weight loss solution.
Regarding detoxing your body – I can see more benefit here. We have already discussed how your lymphatic system transports unwanted materials into the body’s evacuation systems, and how LDM stimulates lymphatic flow … so it follows that if you are detoxing your digestive system there is a good likelihood there will be more ‘unwanted materials’ available for transporting to your bodies evacuation systems, and the increased levels of waste could possibly get useful assistance from an LDM treatment.
Of course, if you are increasing your exercise rate to lose weight then you are probably generating more metabolic waste too, and that can be flushed away more effectively with an LDM treatment similarly to the detox scenario.
So, why get an LDM?
Anyone can benefit from an LDM treatment, but not everyone needs an LDM treatment … sometimes just incorporating some LDM techniques into a regular Remedial Massage might be all you need. Remember that breathing & movement are your bodies natural stimulus for lymphatic flow, external assistance by way of LDM may not bring noticeable difference for you if your lymphatic system is functioning well enough by itself. Having said that, I often see clients with conditions like fibromyalgia, skin disorders (like acne & eczema), fatigue, insomnia, stress, digestive problems, arthritis and migraines – most of who report great results. The great thing about LDM is it’s non-invasive and has a direct impact on the immune system. What’s not to love about that?
Lastly – Please always remember …
It is always important to ensure you rehydrate following a treatment, LDM especially … this can help avoid things like headaches and nausea that can sometimes be associated following a treatment. Because our bodies are made up mostly of water it is really important to drink as much water as you feel you need to get the most benefit from any treatment you get in clinic.