After frequent colds or stress, the immune system can need a little boost. Different massage modalities can certainly help you get back on your feet. One of the best massages for the immune system is a lymphatic drainage massage. Read on to learn more the lymphatic system and why massage can help it.
What Is the Lymphatic System?
Lymphatic vessels spread all across your body. The system's main function is to carry lymph fluid, which contains white blood cells. White blood cells are your body's way of fighting against germs. Besides carrying white blood cells, lymph fluid picks up bacteria in the body and takes them to lymph nodes, where infections are destroyed.
Sometimes the lymphatic system is overtaxed or sluggish, which makes it that much harder for a person to heal, since lymph fluid doesn't flow and toxins build up.
What Are the Signs of a Sluggish System?
When someone's lymphatic system isn't working to the best of its ability, they tend to feel a general malaise. They may have unclear thinking, and they may feel fatigued or depressed.
Gastrointestinal issues are also common. People with sluggish lymphatic systems tend to become sensitive to certain foods or have allergy flare-ups. They may have gas, bloating, and constipation.
Poor circulation and swollen lymph nodes are tell-tale signs of poor lymph flow. The largest groups of lymph nodes are found in the armpits, on your neck, and by the groin.
How Can a Massage Help?
If nothing is done to help the lymphatic system, then some of the previously mentioned symptoms may linger.
Some people develop lymphedema, a swelling of lymph fluids caused by a blockage. Lymphedema is commonly seen in those undergoing cancer treatments or those that have had lymph nodes removed. While compression wraps and exercise help lymphedema, studies have shown that manual drainage—or massage—can help as well.
How Does a Lymphatic Massage Work?
A lymphatic massage is lighter in its touch than other therapies. If you are sensitive to deep tissue massage or sports massage, then lymphatic massage is a great option.
Before the massage, your chiropractor or massage therapist may have you do some deep breathing, since it can help to activate the lymphatic system. He or she may also do some spinal manipulations so that you are in proper alignment before the massage.
During this massage, your chiropractor or massage therapist will gently stroke certain areas of the body to circulate lymph.
Besides circulating lymph with pulsing strokes, the therapist will also massage towards lymph nodes and away from lymph nodes. For instance, your therapist may stretch and release skin in front of the neck, since there are a lot of lymph nodes in that area. Ideally, these pushing and pulling actions will help the body remove waste products.
Who Mainly Benefits From Lymphatic Massage?
Besides helping people improve their immune systems, lymphatic drainage has been known to help the following groups:
- People with skin conditions, like acne or rashes
- People with hormone imbalances
- People with lymphedema
- People with arthritis
- People with frequent headaches
- People trying to lose weight
Can Lymphatic Massages Be Done at Home?
Yes! If you find that lymphatic drainage helps you, then you may want your chiropractor or therapist to teach you techniques so you can reap the benefits at home.
Most lymph nodes are situated anteriorly, so it's easy to self massage. You don't need a lot of pressure when you do these massages yourself. Some people find it helps to dry brush, or use a stiff-bristled brush to sweep across their skin. Not only will you be moving lymph fluid, but you'll improve your circulation as well.
Contact a chiropractor or massage therapist at a chiropractic office like Progressive Chiropractic in your area for more information on lymphatic massage and other massage techniques.