By Jennifer Hau
When patients are asked about where their lymph nodes are located, they usually point to the nodes near under their jawline, armpit or groin. Although those areas are the major lymph nodes, did you know that your lymphatic system is everywhere in the body? In fact, 30% of your lymph nodes are in the neck.
What is the lymphatic system?
It is basically the body’s sewage waste system for metabolic waste from your body’s normal functions and for removing pathogens.
Lymph is a colourless fluid that contains white blood cells. It has a network of nodes and capillaries similar to the vascular system (i.e. arteries and veins), except it doesn’t have an active pump to drain it. Instead it relies on diaphragmatic breathing, movement and manual drainage to help clear it properly.
When is it activated?
Any form of inflammation or swelling (edema) in the body, such as a puffy ankle from a sprain or swollen lymph nodes from a cold or flu, can activate the lymphatic system. The lymph system is constantly working to help clear your body’s waste from its everyday functioning.
How does massage therapy help the lymphatic system?
Along with helping to relieve aches and pains, massage therapy also benefits the circulatory system and the lymphatic system. Massage therapists can target the lymphatic system directly by using more superficial and lighter massage massage techniques while focusing on lymph drainage patterns and major lymph node collection points.
Massage therapists can also help create better movement in the diaphragm by working on the muscles around the diaphragm and rib cage. The diaphragm plays a key role in helping the lymph more better with breathing.
What are ways you can stimulate the lymphatic system yourself?
- Dry brushing: whether it’s monthly, weekly or daily, dry brushing is a great way to help your lymph move along as well as exfoliating your skin and increasing energy. Any time of the day works and you can choose to shower after or not.
Diaphragmatic breathing: slowing down and literally taking a breath. Finding the time to work on diaphragmatic breathing can be difficult. Allowing 5-10 minutes per day before bed or after you wake up are ways to incorporate a daily habit of deep breathing. It will help your lymph move as well as help relax your body.
- Movement: any kind of exercise from simple exercises like walking and tai chi to higher intensity workouts. Any kind of movement that moves you also moves your lymph.