What is the Lymphatic system?
The lymphatic system is one of the body’s 13 systems and it is an integral part of our immune system. The fluid in the lymphatic system, known as lymph, is collected into lymphatic vessels from the spaces in between our cells after it has left the circulatory system. Unlike our circulatory system, the lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump like the heart to circulate the lymph through our body. It relies on movement from muscles and other manual means to assist with circulation.
What can happen to our Lymphatic system?
The lymphatic capillaries that carry the lymph are also constructed differently to our circulatory system. They comprise of lymphatic vessels with each tiny vessel having a system of valves. If a vessel becomes compromised, the passage of lymph can be interrupted which can lead to a build-up of fluid known as lymphedema which can present as swelling. Other signs and symptoms can include:
- Swelling of part or all your arm or leg, including fingers or toes
- A feeling of heaviness or tightness
- Restricted range of motion
- Aching or discomfort
- Recurring infections
- Hardening and thickening of the skin (fibrosis)
Cancer, infections, surgeries or radiation treatment can compromise and damage the lymphatic system and lead to lymphedema.
Lymphedema needs to be managed and one way of doing this is using a specialised form of massage known as Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage (MLDM). It is a very gentle form of massage as the lymphatic system is quite close to the skin and doesn’t require much pressure to move the lymph. A knowledge of the route of the lymphatic capillaries and lymph node sites is required for effective MLDM.
So, who can help me?
Brendan Wilson, a Remedial Massage Therapist at Lake Health Group in Ballarat has had specialised MLDM training and is also a trainer of massage students in this field. Call 03 5335 3200 to book an appointment with Brendan. You are encouraged to call first and discuss – particularly if cancer, chemotherapy or radiation are potential issues.