Lymphatic Massage: Amazing detox

Your heart and blood vessels work to keep blood circulating through your body — but did you know that’s not the only circulatory system you have? There’s a second transportation network in your body called the lymphatic system.

 The power of your lymphatic system

Your lymphatic system works like this: As blood circulates through your body, blood plasma naturally diffuses out into your tissues. Your lymphatic system’s job is to gather up that plasma and other fluids from your tissues and funnel it back to your heart, so it can get loaded up with red blood cells and nutrients before it makes the same trip all over again. When you experience swelling in a body part from excess fluid, it’s your lymphatic system that comes swooping in to clear it up.

Your lymph nodes — hubs in that transportation network — also act as filters, screening out cellular waste and toxins, and the clear lymph fluid is like a highway for white blood vessels and antigens. So even though it does its work silently and most of us really don’t think about it much, the lymphatic system is an important part of your immune system.

How does it get where it’s going?

You don’t have a second heart to pump it along, so your body depends on gravity and movement to keep lymph moving. That’s one reason why sitting for a long time in an airplane — the exact opposite of moving, right? — can make your feet swell; your lymphatic system isn’t getting a chance to do its job.

Illness affects your lymphatic system too — if you go to the doctor and say you don’t feel well, one of the first things he may do is feel for swollen lymph glands in your neck. The excess fluid from heart failure can also impact your lymphatic system, and sometimes lymph nodes are removed as part of cancer treatment.

Benefits of lymphatic massage

When things go wrong with your lymphatic system, one of the best ways to put them right again is lymphatic massage. It’s simple and relaxing: Your lymph system is close to the surface of your skin, so the massage therapist uses gentle, circular or pumping (and sometimes tapping) strokes to help move the fluid along.

Lymphatic massage is some pretty amazing stuff. When done properly, it can help increase movement after joint surgery, reduce swelling in those with heart failure, and boost your immune system too. Just keep in mind that if you have a condition that makes lymphatic massage necessary, your doctor should be in on deciding how it’s done and monitoring its effects.

If you don’t have access to a trained massage therapist, you can learn to do some limited lymphatic massage on yourself — but you may have better luck with dry brushing. It’s basically the same thing, but you’re using the brush instead of your hands — and you might just get some glowing, healthy-looking skin out of the bargain, too!