Improve your detoxification pathways with a lymphatic drainage massage
(NaturalHealth365) The lymphatic system, an essential component of your body’s immune system, promotes the elimination of bodily waste. Yet, the mainstream media (and conventional medicine) remains quite about the value of lymphatic drainage massage.
You see, when blockages in the lymphatic system occur, the result is the accumulation of toxins and bacteria – which causes swelling of the arms or legs, a condition known as lymphedema. Generally triggered by removal of (or damage to) the lymph nodes, lymphedema is often a side effect of cancer – or cancer treatment.
Fortunately, studies are showing that manual lymphatic drainage massage (LDM) can help to alleviate lymphedema and promote detoxification.
The lymphatic system is directly connected to your disease risk
First, a bit of background. The lymphatic system carries body waste through the lymph vessels to the lymph nodes. The wastes are then neutralized by infection-fighting cells called lymphocytes – and flushed harmlessly from the body.
Of course, lymphedema can inhibit this beneficial process.
Lymphedema is manifested by swelling – usually in an arm or leg – that grows more pronounced over time. Other symptoms include aching, feelings of heaviness or tightness in the affected area, and restricted range of motion. Sometimes, fibrosis – a thickening of the skin over the affected area – occurs as well.
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Complications of lymphedema can include infection of the lymph vessels, as well as cellulitis – a serious bacterial skin infection. Western medicine treats lymphedema with pneumatic compression devices, special compression garments, and – in severe cases – surgery.
But, a properly-performed LDM is a valuable therapy that can help ease lymphedema naturally.
Powerful benefits: Lymphatic drainage massage reduces inflammation and boosts the immune system
By stimulating the circulation of blood and lymph, and helping lymph fluid to move into the lymph vessels from the tissues, LDM can reduce swelling (edema). In fact, natural health experts maintain that LDM can push close to 80 percent of “stagnant” lymph – lymph that is not moving properly into circulation.
But, that’s only the beginning of the benefits. By stimulating the circulation of white blood cells and increasing the production of antibodies, LDM can boost immunity and help protect against infection.
In addition, LDM triggers the parasympathetic nervous system – which relaxes muscles and slows heart rate and breathing. And, there is evidence that LDM benefits conditions other than lymphedema.
In a 2009 review published in Journal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy, the authors noted that manual LDM brought about “significant” improvements in severity of pain, pain pressure threshold, and health-related quality of life in women with primary fibromyalgia.
According to the Doctors Health Press, LDM can also reduce pain, depression, stress, fatigue and insomnia.
What is involved in lymphatic drainage massage?
There are two stages of LDM: clearing and reabsorption.
For the clearing, a combination of gentle scooping, lifting and pulling motions are used. Three different areas – the supraclavicular area under the collarbone, the axillary area under the armpits, and the inside of the elbow – are usually involved.
For the reabsorption process, the affected areas are massaged, using an assortment of gentle sweeping, stretching and stroking motions.
Most natural health experts, advise practicing LDM only under the supervision of a qualified professional – such as a nurse, doctor or physical therapist.
A natural healer might recommend having LDM once a day for a week – or, getting a weekly massages for 12 consecutive weeks. As individual needs vary, it’s best to consult your own integrative physician.
When is LDM indicated?
LDM may be performed before surgery to improve blood flow, speed the removal of stagnant tissue fluid and reduce stress and anxiety related to the procedure.
As a post-surgical technique, LDM promotes healing, reduces inflammation and even helps to protect against scarring. However, due to the risk of infection and blood clots, LDM should not be performed until six weeks after the surgery.
Because LDM stimulates circulation and removes toxins from skin cells, many natural healers advise it for skin conditions, including acne and rosacea. However, LDM is not recommended when skin is infected or inflamed.
And, people who suffer from frequent and recurring illnesses may benefit from regular LDM – as can those with chronic fatigue, anxiety, insomnia and stress. Digestive problems, arthritis and migraine headaches may also be eased by LDM.
Finally, LDM can benefit breastfeeding women by helping to relieve blocked ducts and reducing soreness and swelling of the nipples and breasts. But, keep in mind, LDM is not indicated for all ailments.
It can aggravate conditions – such as congestive heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver and kidney disease – in which edema is a symptom. Other conditions that could preclude LDM include bronchial asthma, thyroid problems, autoimmune disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and malignant tumors.
And, finally, experts say that people at risk for blood clots should rule out deep venous thrombosis before having LDM.
Use simple, natural techniques to prevent infection
Care must be taken to prevent the infected limb from becoming infected. For example, the Mayo Clinic advises protecting yourself from cuts, scrapes and burns by donning gloves before gardening or cooking, using a thimble when sewing, and generally taking extra care with sharp objects.
Try to avoid having blood draws, blood pressure readings and vaccinations in the affected limb, and avoid extremes of temperature. In other words, don’t use heating pads or ice packs on the affected limb.
Elevate the arm or leg above the level of your heart, whenever possible or practical.
And, be vigilant about cleanliness of skin and nails. Use a high-quality skin lotion to prevent dry skin, and inspect daily, watching for cuts or cracks that could serve as points of entry for bacteria.
Natural nutrients and supplements that can benefit lymphedema include elderberry extracts, hesperidin (a flavonoid found in grapefruit) rutin (a flavonoid found in green tea and apples) and the trace mineral selenium.
The herb known as cleavers (Gallium aparine), can also help relieve lymphedema – as can essential oils, such as lemon, grapefruit and rosemary, that may be used as part of a lymphatic drainage massage regimen.
Remember: a properly-administered lymphatic drainage massage can go a long way towards relieving lymphedema discomfort. Ask an integrative physician if this relaxing, natural technique is right for you.
Sources for this article include: