Developed in the 1930s, Manual Lymphatic Drainage is a delicate form of skin stretches and light pumping pressure that stimulates the body’s lymphatic system, improving the metabolism, helping the body to eliminate waste and toxins and providing a boost to the immune system.
How does it work? The Lymphatic system collects and cleans up the fluid not collected by the blood’s normal circulatory flow and transports it into large veins to return it to the heart. It plays a vital role in the immune system as the Lymph produces lymphocytes which attack and kill foreign bodies, hence the reason for swollen glands during illness as they are working hard to kill the invading cells. When the lymphatic system becomes blocked, fluid builds which can cause the entire system to overload with toxins, making us feel sluggish and at the same time more susceptible to illness.
By stimulating this system through a very light massage action it helps it to work more efficiently, it clears any blockages, helps to eliminate toxins that have built up, transports nutrients to cells, increases the metabolism and consequently is a huge boost to the immune system.
What does it involve? Lymphatic drainage should always be carried out by a specialist practitioner. The first session involves a consultation to determine the client’s needs and, at that point, the number and frequency of future sessions is decided upon. It is important to be aware that, unlike body massage, lymphatic drainage utilises a very light pressure combined with soft pumping movements in the direction of the lymph nodes. The process can take anywhere from 30 minutes with the practitioner concentrating on a localised area, to two hours when working on the whole body. In most cases the practitioner will suggest a course of 4 to 6 treatments which is the minimum amount for the body to be able receive the maximum benefit.
What is it good for? Lymphatic drainage is especially useful for individuals who seem to suffer regularly from common illnesses like colds and flu. It is also recommended for people who lead sedentary lifestyles, or those who want to reduce the puffiness or swelling of limbs or joints (Oedema). It has been cited as having a positive effect on skin problems such as eczema and cellulite, in helping sufferers of asthma and in helping people deal with low energy levels.
Lymphatic drainage is particularly beneficial and recommended in cases where the lymphatic system is impaired in some way, such as through Primary or Secondary Lymphoedema, or where lymph nodes have been removed, for example, due to surgical treatment for breast cancer. (www.macmillan.org.uk). (However under the latter condition treatment should only be carried out initially by specialists holding certification in Combined Decongestion Therapy).
What are the benefits? Lymphatic drainage boosts the immune system so, as well as helping the body ward off illness, treatment can facilitate general feelings of health and vitality. It also has a positive physical effect, improving the appearance of the skin and reducing puffiness caused by water retention or poor circulation. As with other types of body treatments such as massage, it can help with pain from fractures and sprains and rheumatism, and it promotes the body’s own healing mechanisms. Lymphatic drainage is excellent for assisting in weight loss programs with proven beneficial results particularly when used in conjunction with balanced nutrition and exercise.
What are the side effects and when should it be avoided? Lymphatic drainage should not be used by people suffering from thrombosis or major heart problems or when suffering any type of fever. Where active cancer is present sufferers should seek medical advice prior to undergoing treatment.