Andrew Taylor Still, a physician who founded the first school of osteopathy, taught his medical students: “….your patient had better save his life and money by passing you by as a failure, until you are by knowledge qualified to deal with the lymphatics.”
Our lymphatic system is often referred to as our filtering or detox system. However, it’s much more than that. The lymphatic system intricately intertwined with our immune system.
Every where that we have blood vessels, we also have lymph vessels. When the blood vessels narrow to become capillaries, the fluid, or plasma, of our blood filters out of small pores. We now call this fluid interstitial fluid, which bathes the cells in nutrients and oxygen. It then picks up toxins, waste, bacteria, viruses, and parasites. These are all called macromolecules. Macromolecules because they are too large to fit through the tiny pores in the blood vessels. Instead, the macromolecules, with some of the fluid, are drawn into the lymph vessels. Now we call this fluid lymph. The lymph flows through our lymph vessels, and through hundreds lymph nodes. Most of our white blood cells are hanging out in our lymph nodes, waiting to attack, or otherwise render neutral any invaders or threats to our health. Most of the time, this works quite well for us.
Sometimes, even though we have between 400-700 lymph nodes, our lymph system becomes backlogged, overwhelmed. There might be more macromolecules than it was ready to handle. It needs help. Often that help might come in the form of antibiotics. Most of the time, other safer and more effective means can help our lymphatic system to a state of homeostasis.
For example, a client came to see me for his knee. He had knee replacement a year prior. He still had knee pain, and he was limping. His physician said it was because he had a stubborn infection in his knee. He’d been on a number of rounds of antibiotics. In fact, he’d just finished receiving 60 days of daily intravenous antibiotics. It didn’t work. He wasn’t terribly hopeful that I could help, but came in at his daughter’s insistence. I had him come in three days in a row to glean the maximum benefit from the treatment, Lymphatic Drainage Therapy (LDT). By the end of the three days, he was walking without a limp, and said his knee felt better than it had since before he had the surgery.
LDT can be used, with certain precautions, any time your lymphatic system is compromised. Some conditions indicating a compromised lymphatic system are pain – any type of pain, joint pain, muscle pain, head pain, rashes, swollen glands, inflammation or swelling, inability to fight off infections, bloating, indigestion, numbness, an allergic response, to name a few. However, if there is any suspicion of a blood clot, or cancer, see your doctor first!
Drinking plenty of water, breathing deeply, and moving your body frequently all help support a healthy lymphatic system.
I’m going to share with you three specific LDT techniques that you can use on yourself, especially whenever you feel your lymph system could use additional support.
Neck crossover – cross your arms on your chest, placing your hands on your neck. Make slow, gentle, inferior strokes with your hands, ending with a circular motion. Repeat 10-20 times. This is where our lymph drains back into our venous system, through the subclavian veins just beneath our clavicles.
Draining the axillary nodes – We have about 20 lymph nodes under the arms. Lymph from the chest, back, sides, and arms drain to these nodes, then toward the subclavian veins. Drain one underarm, or axillary region, at a time. Place your hand at the apex (uppermost part) of your underarm, and gently compress in and up – at a diagonal. Repeat 10-20 times. Repeat on the other side.
Clearing the Cisterna Chyli – The lymph from our digestive system, pelvic region, and front & back of our legs drain into our cisterna chyli. This frequently become backlogged. Find your xyphoid process, the small bone at the bottom of your sternum. Place one hand just below the xyphoid process, and place your other hand over that hand. Take a deep breath, follow your breath in with your hands as you exhale. At the end, add a gentle in and upward motion. This technique is similar to the Heimlich maneuver, only slower and much more gentle. Repeat 10-20 times.
I hope that by now, you have a little bit more understanding of your lymphatic system and how critically important it is to your health, and life. You also have several ideas on how you can support your lymph system. You know that drinking abundant water, deep breathing, and moving frequently are important. And you also are now familiar with three LDT techniques you can use on yourself: the neck crossover, draining the axillary lymph nodes, and draining the cisterna chyli. Photo Credit: chiklyinstitute.com