I’ve heard of lymph and the lymphatic system but what actually is it? Why is it currently in vogue?
Lymph is a colourless liquid that contains lots of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that fights infection and breaks down damaged or abnormal cells. The lymphatic system has a network of vessels that traverse the body carrying lymph, in a similar manner to how your arteries and veins carry blood around the body.
As the blood circulates around the body, fluid leaks out from the blood vessels into the body tissues. This fluid carries food to the cells and bathes the body tissues to form tissue fluid. The fluid then collects waste products, bacteria, and damaged cells. It also collects any cancer cells if these are present. This fluid then drains into the lymph vessels.
The waste product, bacteria and damaged cells are then filtered out when the lymph flows through the lymph vessels into the lymph glands. The lymph glands are small bean shaped structures, also called lymph nodes. The lymph nodes filter the lymph fluid as it passes through them. White blood cells, such as B cells and T cells, attack any bacteria or viruses they find in the lymph.
From these lymph nodes, the lymph moves into larger lymphatic vessels that begin to merge together, they continue merging eventually creating a significant lymph vessel at the base of the neck called the thoracic duct. At this point the thoracic duct empties the lymph back into the blood
Lymphatic drainage is a manual technique used to stimulate the flow of lymph to relieve swelling and improve health. Among its many functions, lymph helps isolate disease-causing pathogens and returns captured fats and protein back into the bloodstream.
As the lymphatic system plays a central role in the body & immune system, proponents of lymphatic drainage suggest that this form of therapeutic massage can help treat a variety of health conditions.
With the 6 Nations rugby well under way there has been a lot of press recently surrounding the negative impact of concussion and its effects on players who have endured thumping hits to the head. Most players get better within the first few weeks, many do not have ongoing problems with
thinking and memory, mood, headaches, and reduced satisfaction with life. These problems make it difficult to return to the playing field, affect future work and other activities. Several processes are affected in the brain with concussion, some of which are only partly understood. One process is the
removal of waste products, including proteins that are released from the brain when it is injured.
These proteins are released into the lymphatic system in the head/neck and are eventually removed before the lymph is emptied back into the blood as explained above. With concussion, this waste removal system does not work as well, and this may be one of the reasons for slow recovery and
possibly also for an increased risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s years later.
Lymphatic drainage is one type of massage that has been used to encourage drainage of lymph fluid elsewhere in the body. In 2015, lymphatic vessels were re-discovered in the brain. The significance
of the confirmed existence of these vessels has changed the landscape for future treatment of concussion, with improved recovery possible by improving waste removal and increasing blood flow
to the brain.
If you’ve ever suffered ill effects following a concussion or significant blow to the head consider seeing one of our experienced manual therapists today who can assess if lymphatic drainage may be
the right course of action for you.