by Clare Anvar MSc, Clinical Massage Therapist
Following any injury or surgical procedure, the lymphatic system is responsible for wound healing, fighting infection, reabsorbing swelling and bruising plus scar formation.
The lymphatic system is part of both the circulatory and immune systems and has many varied roles within the body. This includes maintaining normal blood volume and pressure in blood vessels. It regulates fluid build up in tissues beneath the skin by draining excess fluid and waste. The fluid is filtered before returning the red blood cells to the bloodstream. In the small intestine, it absorbs and transfers fat from the gut during digestion. It also makes and stores specialist immune cells called lymphocytes, which fight bacteria and viruses, protecting us from disease.
What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)?
Both localised and overall lymphatic function can be greatly improved using MLD, an advanced therapy, which has been specifically developed to redirect lymphatic fluid from congested tissues where it is not effectively draining, to areas of the body where lymphatic drainage is normal.
The most modern evidence-based method of MLD has been developed over the last 5 years and is known as Fluoroscopy guided MLD. A fluorescent substance is injected into the tissue under the skin that causes the movement of the fluid to be visual to the therapist enabling more effective treatment. This is in combination with gentle, rhythmic, ‘pump and flush’ techniques that reduce swollen, congested or injured areas, while improving and redirecting drainage.
How can it be used?
The most recognisable symptom of fluid not draining correctly is chronic swelling of limbs (usually), known as lymphoedema, which can be genetic but is often associated with lymph node removal from the underarm or groin and radio/chemotherapy as part of cancer treatments in the UK. If left untreated, the condition can progress and result in the formation of fatty fibrous tissue and skin changes. There is also the risk of ongoing infections known as cellulitis. It can, however, be brought under control and managed. Lymphoedema has no cure but with appropriate treatment and care, the often distressing physical and psychological symptoms can be greatly improved using specialist treatments including MLD.
MLD improves recovery times for all orthopaedic procedures. It is widely promoted by plastic surgeons and oncologists in the UK to speed recovery times and enhance results after cosmetic procedures (facelift, blepharoplasty, abdominoplasty, liposuction) and cancer surgeries (mastectomy, hysterectomy, axillary clearance). The techniques are gentle enough to be used directly after any type of surgery to speed the first natural inflammatory phase to encourage wound healing and minimal scar formation. It is also used to treat complications such as seromas, haematomas, hardened tissues, hypertrophic and keloid scarring.
Because the lymphatic system has so many other regulatory, anti-inflammatory, detoxifying roles it is also used to:
• Reduce and control chronic oedemas (a build up of fluid in the body which causes the affected tissue to become swollen) of all types
• Promote the healing of fractures, torn ligaments, sprains
• Reinstate movement at swollen joints post-surgically
• Promote healing of wounds and burns
• Improve the appearance and texture of new and old scars
• Enhance immune function (chronic fatigue, post-viral syndromes, Lyme disease)
• Improve congested conditions (rosacea, sinusitis)
• Reduce symptoms for inflammatory autoimmune conditions (Crohn’s, rheumatoid arthritis)
• Reduce swollen ankles during pregnancy
Clare Anvar is a clinical massage therapist at Horder Healthcare, Tunbridge Wells. Please call 01892 529059 to book an appointment and to discuss your personal treatment plan.