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Lymph Drainage Therapy

Manual Lymph Drainage Therapy is a therapeutic treatment using "feather light" pressure in gentle strokes to increase lymphatic flow and remove toxins from the body.

The vessels of the lymphatic system parallel those of the circulatory system, but the two differ in that lymph only moves in one direction only and has no pump of its own. lymphaticsRather, it is moved through the body by the action of the muscles, and it can stagnate if there is little exercise or if there is scarring or damage from disease, surgery or radiation.

Lymph originates in the plasma or fluid portion of the blood. As the blood plasma leaves the capillaries and enters tissues to deliver nutrients, oxygen and hormones to the cells, it picks up cellular waste, carbon dioxide, electrolytes, and proteins. About ninety percent of this "dirty" plasma enters the veins and continues in the circulatory system to the kidneys for filtering. The remaining ten percent carries waste too large for the capillaries of the circulatory system and enters the lymphatic vessels for transportation to the lymph nodes.

There are around 600-700 lymph nodes in the human adult body. The lymph nodes are the body's first line of defense against disease, and it is here the lymphatic fluid is filtered of waste. The nodes and lymphatic fluid also carry white blood cells called lymphocytes. These attack bacteria, viruses, and even cancer cells. When the lymphatic system is fighting some diseases, the nodes themselves will swell. These are the "swollen glands" we may feel when we are fighting the flu or other illnesses.

About seventy percent of the lymphatic vessels are superficial, meaning they are located just under the skin. The protein-rich lymphatic fluid moves as the muscles squeeze it along. This is one of the reasons patients in hospitals often wear intermittent lymphatic compression devices to pump the lymph, speed healing of wounds and infection and avoid excessive edema (swelling) and secondary infection from the waste in the fluid. The other thiry percent of the deep lymphatic vessels surround the organs.

Drainage Therapy (LDT) targets the superficial lymphatic vessels with precise, gentle, rhythmic pressure that moves stagnant lymph though the vessels and nodes. The therapist begins at the locations of the subclavian veins, where the lymphatic fluid reunites with the bloodstream, and works outwards and back. In other words, as the nodes nearest these veins are stimulated and cleared, the therapist hands rhythmically move farther away from the central nodes and then back toward them, clearing a path and lightly helping the body to pump the fluid into the nodes and circulatory system by degrees.

If the pressure is too firm, the fine, thin vessels actually close. Consequently, finding a therapist who is trained in the technique of LDT is essential for optimum results. Those trained in the method developed by Dr. Bruno Chikly are taught to actually feel the subtle movement of the lymph itself just under the skin so that the perfect pressure can be applied for optimum results. The lymphatic movement feels like tiny waves as it moves through the vessels, and this movement is matched by the pumping rhythm of the therapist's pressure to open a path to the nodes and back to the subclavian veins.

Thus, opening blocked nodes and vessels helps the body rid itself of toxins and prevents disease and secondary complications from surgery and radiation. If the vessels or nodes are damaged or have been surgically removed, LDT helps re-route the lymph around blocked area to other lymph vessels and keeps the flow from stagnating.

lymphatic_circulatory_capillariesLymphatic When nodes and vessels are blocked, they swell and become painful. Left untreated, this stagnant, protein-rich fluid not only causes tissue channels to increase in size and number, but also reduces oxygen availability in the transport system, interferes with wound healing, and provides a culture medium for bacteria that can result in lymphangitis (infection).

The worse cases result in a condition called lymphedema, which first presents as pitting edema, then as fibrosis or hardening of the surrounding tissue, and finally, in extreme cases, swelling so excessive the disease is called lymphostatic elephantiasis because the affected body part may be several times its normal size. LDT is indicated for lymphedema if the client does not have an infection or other contraindications (see sidebar).

Lymph Drainage Therapy was developed by French physician, Bruno Chikly and based on earlier work of Dr. Emil Vodder and Dr. Johannes Askonk. Chikly was the first to recognize the specific rhythm of the lymphatic flow and teach his students how to attune with it manually, using flat fingers. Lymph Drainage Therapy is now taught through the Upledger Institute and through the newly formed Chikly Health Institute (CHI). Dr. Chikly is widely-published and because of his research is considered today's foremost authority on manual lymphatic drainage techniques. According to Dr. Chikly, one of the strengths of LDT lies in the practitioner’s connection with the water in the patient’s body. “When you touch water in the lymph, you are touching over 50-75 percent of the body. Water goes in and out of the cells, also people react very quickly to that.”

Sinus Massage with Lymph Drainage Therapy

sinusesThe paranasal sinuses are air-filled cavities within the bones of the face. They are lined with mucus producing tissues and tiny hairs called cilia, which use a swaying motion to move the mucus from the sinuses, into the nasal passages, where it mixes with the nasal mucus and, optimally, is secreted out of the nasal passages.

When we have a cold, allergy or other obstruction that causes swelling, our sinuses and the associated lymphatic vessels can become blocked and shut down effective mucus flushing from the sinuses. The mucus backs up and creates pressure. If this results in infection, our bodies react by increasing the flow of fluid and white blood cells into the sinuses in an effort to fight the infection, thus accelerating the problem and causing headache, watery eyes, stuffiness, sore throat and even earache if the mucus backs up into the eustachian tubes.

Sinus massage with LDT can relieve many of these symptoms and stimulate the unobstructed flow of mucus through the nasal passages and away from the sinus cavities. Aromatherapy can also be used to help open the sinuses and relieve pressure and is an effective addition to the sinus massage protocol. Stimulating the acupressure points associated with the sinuses may also be beneficial and is often added to the treatment. If you suffer from allergies or chronic sinus congestion, you may want to consider sinus massage to relieve your symptoms and pain.

Note: Sinus massage with LDT should not be attempted if you have an untreated sinus infection, strep throat, skin infection, tooth abscess, or any other active infection in the head or face because it can spread the infection in your own body and possibly to others. If your infection is acute and in treated, your massage therapist will refuse treatment. However, if you have been on antibiotics or receiving medical treatment for your condition for at least three days and the infection is getting better, it is should be safe to use sinus massage. Always consult your doctor if infection is present especially if your mucus is yellow or green. Non-infected mucus is usually clear. Severely infected sinuses can cause death. Although this is a rare occurrence, it is possible.

Suzanne's Qualifications

internation association of healthcare practitioners logoSuzanne was trained in the Chikly method of Lymph Drainage Therapy at the Whole You School of Massage and at the Chikly Heath Institute. She is also trained in a specific treatment protocol for sinus massage.

Suzanne is currently enrolled in additional continuing education in LDT through the Upledger Institute and the Chikly Health Institute (CHI) .

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Benefits of Lymph Drainage Therapy


Contraindications for LDT

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