A stagnant Lymphatic System can be likened to bath water that’s been bathed in and has been sitting for days. That doesn’t exactly sound like something you’d want to bathe in if you were looking to clean your body, now does it? The bath tub has a drain that needs to be pulled when a bath is over. Consequently the lymph, unlike other systems of our body, does not have an internal pump or drain. Lymph moves through our body because of movement, when we are stagnant so is our lymph. This means that movement of our bodies is critical to healthy lymph circulation.
What is the Lymphatic System:
The Lymphatic System is responsible for cleansing our muscles, tissues and organs and carrying out the metabolic waste that runs through our body. Metabolic waste in the Lymphatic system consist of water, glucose, salts, proteins, fats, white blood cells and other cellular debris.
Primarily undetected lymph delicately flows below the surface of the skin, and deep within the body. Superficially you may have noticed lymph nodes around your neck, groin, or arm pits. Lymph also has major pathways that flow deep within the body around the heart and lungs. Lymph nodes are primarily found from the head to the knee while the system flows throughout the entire body.
White blood cells called Lymphocytes are produced and stored within the lymph nodes. Our bodies contain an average of 500-700 lymph nodes. Lymphocyte cells are distributed throughout the lymph fluid and internally bathe our body regularly to fight infection and disease.
Lymph typically flows at a rate of 10-12 bpm, following an hour long (MLD) Manual Lymphatic Drainage session the lymph will flow at 100-120 bpm for about 48 hour post treatment.
Who are (MLD) Manual Lymphatic Drainage Treatments good for?:
The majority of the clients we work with come in specifically on recommendations from their physicians post op. The most common concerns addressed are women who have have had lymph nodes removed because of Breast Cancer. Once lymph nodes are removed it makes it difficult for the lymphatic system to drain properly, as a result of lymph node removal in the arm pits swelling or edema is common in the arms and hand.
Other common reasons our clients come in are to help aid in post op recovery from face, knee, hip, abdominal or back surgery. We’ve had a handful of clients with Lyme Disease who will also come in and couple their Lymph treatment with a 45 minute infrared sauna session. Those clients report feeling a relief of symptoms for 2-3 weeks between sessions.
Clients who are familiar with the Lymphatic System will also come in just to simply stimulate the flow of the lymph to prevent illness or infection. Essentially everyone can benefit from stimulating the lymph, especially those who are wanting to detox their systems.
What Treatments target the Lymph:
While body treatments may be looked upon by the average person as being a luxurious spa procedure, the primary reason for many body treatments is to stimulate the lymph. Dry Brushing, Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD), body scrubs, wraps, cupping, and bathing rituals all play an important role in moving lymph through the body. Let’s take a look at each one individually as see what benefits they lend in the movement of Lymph.
Dry brushing is recommended prior to body wraps, or as a stand alone addition to your daily routine. Prior to a body treatment it stimulates the Lymphatic System as the therapist strategically begins brushing the arm pits and then brushes the body proximally to distally. In lamen terms that means closer to further away.
What that looks like is the therapist would dry brush the arm pit in a flicking motion then would move to the elbow and brush up towards the arm pit or auxiliary nodes. Then the brushing would continue from the wrist or hand to the elbow, then from the wrist all the way to the auxiliary nodes to complete the one arm. The therapist would then repeat these motions on the other arm.
Neck and Chest–
Flow of the Lymph is always moving towards the heart. Dry brushing the collar bone area over the subclavicular node and supra c nodes, then starting from the chin using a flicking motion with the dry brush to move the lymph towards the heart. Then from the center of the collar bone brushing out and down towards the arm pits or auxiliary nodes on either side of the body. Women should avoid the nipple on the breast but can and should certainly dry brush the breasts starting from the center of the chest and moving the lymph towards the arm pits.
Separate the stomach in half, from above the belly button brushing in flicking motions up towards the heart. From the belly button down brush towards the groin or inguinal nodes.
Brushing the legs mirrors what was done on the arms. Brush in an upward motion the center of the legs closer to the groin to stimulate the inguinal nodes. Then brush behind the knee to open those nodes and then begin brushing up moving the lymph towards the center of legs. After multiple passes have been completed brushing begins at the ankle and moves to the knee. To finish the treatment start at the ankle and then dry brush the entire leg in flicking motions towards the center of the legs.
Dry Brushing in spas can usually be found as a stand alone menu item or as an add on treatment to most massages. Dry brushing is also highly recommended for anyone who desires to regularly assist the lymphatic movement of their own body. Body brushes normally can be found at your local grocery or drug store in the aisle with body wash and soap. Brushes typically range in price from $3-$15.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage:
(MLD) is often referred to as Lymphatic Massage but the combination of the two words completely contradict each other. MLD is movement of the Lymph, there is no massaging involved in Lymph Drainage. Massage is the manipulation of muscle tissue which is definitely not what you are trying to achieve in the movement of Lymph. MLD certification requires extra hours and training beyond typical massage therapy hours and anyone claiming to be a MLD therapist should have the certificates and documentation upon completion of such a course.
MLD can be performed on a client or patient the day following a major surgery and in fact is highly recommend by surgeons in post op care and recovery for patients. Here at Summit Spa & Float we work with such clients regularly. Every body and surgery is different. If you are a post op client still actively recovering from surgery we highly recommend having a close friend or relative drive the patient to our facility and then be available in the waiting room until the procedure is complete. We can work around compression garments, pumps, or drains that clients may be using post surgery.
These before and after photos to the right are a personal client of ours here at Summit Spa & Float. Our sessions were 1 week apart for 6 weeks then as improvement came we reduced treatment to every other week and now on an as needed basis. All treatments included MLD each time and sometimes included lymphatic cupping.
Scrubs work similarly on the body as dry brushing does. Scrubs are easy to do at home or to schedule at your local spa. To really harness the full effects a body scrub can give to the Lymphatic Systems you or your therapist should be scrubbing the body the same way we described dry brushing above.
Most body wraps begin with a dry brushing treatment or scrub. Additional benefits received from dry brushing or scrubs come through the stuffing off of dead skin that will occur in the scrub or brushing process. This allows optimal penetration of the serums or muds traditionally used in a wrap as the pores are open and able to absorb the product applied .
Wraps also involve cocooning the body and allowing product to heat up by way of heated towels or electrical blankets. Raising your internal body temperature and then subsequently the cooling off as the wrap is removed creates a pumping effect of the lymph. Think of a body wrap as the ultimate way to stimulate the lymph.
Aside from feeling completely relaxed after a body wrap your lymph system will be extremely grateful for the cleansing that will occur during and after your treatment.
While thoughts of Michael Phelps and bright purple spots may be the image flooding your head right now, rest assured Lymphatic Cupping is a completely different experience from stationary cupping. Lymphatic cupping involves the therapist gently pumping over the lymph nodes and then moving the fluid lymphatically through the body in ways similar to what was described in the dry brushing section.
The lymph is for the most part located superficially in the body just underneath the surface of the skin. This means the cup dragging that occurs in lymph movement must be done in a way so as not to disturb the muscle tissue otherwise the lymph movement won’t be effective.
The usage of bath rituals has been around for years. Hot water will dilate blood vessels and cold water will constrict them so alternating back and forth between to extreme temperatures will act as a pump in the body to move the lymph through the lymphatic system.
Tony Robbins who is well know for his motivational speeches and books is a firm believer in the practice as he incorporates it into his daily routine.
“Cold water immersion causes your lymph vessels to contract, forcing your lymphatic system to pump lymph fluids throughout your body, flushing the waste out of the area. One of the benefits of cold showers is that they trigger the immune system’s white blood cells, prompting them to attack and destroy any unwanted substance in the fluid. It’s sort of a domino effect – the cold water affects the lymphatic system, which in turn affects the immune system, which ultimately keeps you feeling happy and healthy.”
What conditions are contraindicated for MLD?:
- High Fever
- Infection (must be on antibiotics for 48 hour previous to treatment)
- DVT or deep vein thrombosis within 2 years
- Those undergoing active oncology treatments (we require a Dr.’s note to treat if you are active with treatments)