Of course I love muscles. They are the “meat” of my business so to speak. But today I woke up thinking about the lymph system (I know, it’s a problem). We spend a significant amount of time studying it in school, only to not speak much about it in practice.
Stimulation and draining of the lymph system is believed to be one of the biggest benefits of regular massage. A good deal of the relief you feel after a massage is due to even incidental movement of lymph fluid back into the “hopper” as I call it. Unlike blood, lymph does not have an automatic pump to move it through the body to be cleansed. It requires muscle contraction to force it along. Think of the analogy of a self-winding watch. Leave it on the dresser and things stop moving.
Now, the job gets done primarily by living our daily lives, walking around, exercise programs etc. Massage can give a serious boost to the process. There is even a specialty in massage called MLD (Manual Lymphatic Drainage) that is gaining popularity. It requires lot of additional training and in future I believe will be used widely as a pre and post operative treatment, particularly for oncology patients.
So what IS lymph fluid? It is a clear, watery fluid containing protein molecules, salt, glucose and urea and works sort of like a soldier – collecting the used components from around the body and returning them for cleansing and responding to invaders. You do not lose or gain significant lymphatic fluid (we each move about 3 liters per day), it just keeps wagon training through. You can see how the filtering of it through the lymph nodes, spleen and liver are vital. It’s the ultimate recycling process!
What does this mean to your life?
If you were inclined, you could get much more detailed information about these things by searching Google. What I am hoping to impart is a wider appreciation for the water consumption, movement throughout the day (ahem, office workers), and regular massage that we Massage Therapists are always preaching. By the way, you can ask your therapist to give priority to lymph fluid movement. That is a completely valid request and the firm, consistent pressure feels great. Consider this type of massage before and after a long trip, or even a long week behind your desk. You will feel better and give your immune system a boost!
Thank you for giving 5 minutes today for this unsung hero, Your Lymphatic System.
Please enjoy your day.