This is a great question, one which we receive often, and it requires us to take a few steps back to understand the larger picture. The Lymphatic System is a foundational part of the Immune System, in fact, it’s arguably half; the other half is the cardiovascular system. So, quite literally, the Immune System = blood + lymph.
To oversimplify it, the blood is like Fed-X and the Lymphatic System can be likened to waste management. Almost everything we eat, drink, breathe in or put on our skin is absorbed by the blood stream and delivered throughout the body – the good and the bad! At the capillary level of the blood stream, the ‘leftovers’ are released…the cells, fluid, toxins and other matter including proteins, plasma, hormones as well as dead, damaged or harmful cells. Hence, once that matter enters the Lymphatic vessel, it is now called Lymph. It’s the job of the Lymphatic System to filter out the bad stuff (through the Lymph Nodes and other Lymphatic organs) and return the good stuff to the blood stream.
Here's the kicker: the Lymphatic System is a vascular system, like the blood stream, but it has no pump, no heart or any other such mechanism to move the fluid through the vessels. So, how does the Lymphatic fluid move and get filtered? It requires YOU! Movement, deep breathing and gravity are the three methods that the body must employ to effectively keep the lymph moving through the vessels so that it can be filtered and ultimately return the good stuff back to the blood stream.
But what happens when we’re unwilling (too tired, don’t see the need, etc.) or unable (injuries, surgeries, mental/emotional conditions, etc.) to move, deep breath or elevate our limbs over our heads? Or, what if we have an immune deficiency? Quite obviously, the Lymphatic System slows down, toxins are retained, fluid builds up and we can become slightly ill – sluggish, tired, skin afflictions – or we can become very ill – autoimmune can develop or worsen, edema in limbs, breathing can become labored, etc.
So, back to the question: What Does Lymphatic Therapy Do? Quite simply, Lymphatic Therapy, i.e., Lymphatic Massage, Lymphatic Drainage, is a very gentle, very slow method of hands-on treatment that helps wake-up the Lymphatic vessels & nodes and assists the movement of the Lymphatic fluid in the proper direction (towards the heart) so it can be filtered and ultimately eliminated by the body.
There are various methods of Lymphatic work – Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is typically performed with the Vodder or Chickly methods. Enhanced or Assisted Lymphatic Therapy (ELT, ALT) or Lymphatic Enhancement Therapy (LET) are performed with a medical device. At Professional Lymphatic Therapy, we utilize the Vodder method of MLD and we also utilize medical devices like the Lymphstar Pro Fusion and the Lymph Drainage XP devices, which incorporate gentle, painless audio waves to help ‘wake-up’ congested lymph.
Bottom line is that Lymphatic Therapy is effective when our Lymphatic System becomes clogged, sluggish and/or if edema is present. We can all use a little help sometimes, and Lymphatic Therapy may be one of the best things you can do to improve or maintain your good health!
IMAGE SOURCE: Cornell, B. 2016. Referencing. [ONLINE] Available at: https://ib.bioninja.com.au/higher-level/topic-11-animal-physiology/111-antibody-production-and/lymphatic-system.html. [Accessed 10 November 2022]