My Experience at Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) Bootcamp!
It was not like any other course or form of study I have known, from the first minute I was scrambling, my brain didn’t compute, I am thinking I am in the wrong course surrounded by well educated nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and the like. Then there was our teacher Jan who is like no other person in this world I have met, she knew it all, a walking encyclopedia of all things in the human body her passion and knowledge of the lymphatic system is phenomenal. Class days were combined of theory and practical sequences, the day started early and finished late, coming home consisted of a quick shower, quick bite to eat and then straight back into study. For fifteen unrelenting days I was immersed in all things lymphatic, immune and cardiovascular systems plus everything in-between.
Here is a very short summary of what I learnt:-
Functions of the lymphatic system are to primarily support the immune system, assist in maintaining blood volume, act to remove organic and inorganic materials, waste products, cells and cellular debris, removal of proteins and lipid molecules too large to enter blood capillaries and the removal of fluid leaked by capillaries into connective tissue spaces.
Anatomically the lymphatic system is beyond complex being made up of interconnecting cells, fibers, pre-collectors, vessels, nodes, trunks, ducts and veins and yes I can now tell you how and why it all flows together! That would ofcourse take much longer than you or I have right now so here is a summary of the basic things you need to know in relation to your treatments with me:-
The first part of the lymphatic system is the Initial lymphatic vessels (ILV) they sit just under the first few layers of skin, the job of the ILV is to gather all of the lymph obligatory load (LOL). LOL is compromised of all of the matter that the blood can not process, major components being Water, Proteins, Cells and Lipids. Minor components include but not limited to Dusts, Dyes, Pathogens and Cellular debris, the lymphatic vascular system (LVS) can be likened to a vacuum cleaner. Nobody needs all of that ‘junk’ hanging in their body (in the loose connective tissue) which is why we need to activate our vacuum cleaner. The ILV are so very important, just think for a minute, it is the head of your vacuum cleaner, explore how very delicate your skin is, if the entry point of your lymphatic system is only just under the first few layers of skin then it makes sense that we need to treat it with an extremely delicate touch so as to promote it to flow and not inhibit its function.
The LOL (lymph obligatory load) after being ‘sucked’ in from the ILV (initial lymph vessels) then passes into pre-collectors which in turn move into lymphatic collector vessels (LCV), it is the movement of the LCV that takes the LOL into the lymphatic nodes. We have nodes all over our body (anywhere from 700 – 1400, approximately 1/3 of these are located around our neck).
Lymphatic nodes have a really specific job when it comes to the regulation of blood and the immune system. It is at the lymph node that 50% of the water that has been collected by the LCV (lymph collector vessels) is returned directly into the blood supply, leaving the remaining concentrated 50% for the lymph node to process. The lymph node is a big production and filtering factory whose main job is to filter organic and inorganic substances and debris, pathogen removal and isolation, it performs as a storage site for lymphocytes and macrophages (immune cells), encapsulates inorganic material so it is not circulated back into the body and reproduces lymphocytes for immune defense. Here’s the bottom line, if you want a healthy immune system, you need a healthy lymphatic system.
Structurally there is a superficial and deep level of the lymphatic system, the superficial flows into the deep on its way back into the heart, this week I learnt how to work with both the superficial and deep structures of the lymphatic system.
I guess you may be thinking this is all really interesting Michelle but HOW do I get to improve my lymphatic system?
1 – Relax – when we are stressed we constrict blood and lymphatic vessels, muscles and all other intrinsic and extrinsic activities that help to stimulate lymphatic flow in the body, when we relax the blood capillary sphincter dilates which increases the velocity of blood through the capillary reducing the amount of fluid that leaks out of the cardiovascular system and into the connective tissue, this reduces the amount of lymph obligatory load that the lymphatic vascular system has to process ensuring that it is working within its maximum transport capacity, i.e. your vacuum cleaner is not getting blocked up.
2- Drink – when you are dehydrated everything slows down, the lymphatic system needs fluid to keep it moving through, remember it is like a river, more water = greater flow, every person has a unique amount of water that is ideal for their own bodies it is a good idea to chat to your healthcare provider about this if you are confused.
3 – Move – when we move we enable the stretch receptor reflex to pump the lymphatic collector vessels, we create more suction through the vacuum cleaner. Avoid lying down for long periods; the automyogenic process that is always present in the lymphatic smooth muscle only moves the lymph 6/7 times per minute which is why sometimes it is hard to get moving after a long period of sitting, standing or lying.
4- Breathe – I am talking deep belly breathing, the biggest area of lymphatic formation is around the middle of the abdomen, it is called the cisterna chyli (pronounced Kylie) this is where all of the lymph moves from the lower part of the body, the intestines, the reproductive system and the digestive system, breathing helps to enable the stretch receptor reflexes just like exercise does pumping that lymph further up the lymphatic chain and creating more suction.
5 – Clothing – the looser the better, tight restrictive clothing acts like a tourniquet to “cut off” the flow of lymphatic fluid, if it leaves a red line or a mark on your body forget it, bras, underpants and socks seem to be the major contributors that I see.
6 – Temperature – keeping yourself too cool slows down your flow, staying warm allows your lymphatic and cardiovascular system to keep moving, keep yourself at a comfortable temperature and listen to your body.
7 – Manual Lymphatic Drainage – MLD – enables the pumping capability of the lymphatic vascular system to increase to 27/30 times per minute, just like hitting turbo on your vacuum cleaner, increased lymph flow may affect immunological process, reduce chronic inflammation, increase wound healing and relieve arthritic conditions. MLD has an analgesic effect by inhibiting pain pathways reducing migraines, headaches, neuralgia and chronic regional pain syndrome. Calming the nervous system assists in recuperation, stress and sleep disorders.
In light of this new found MLD technique and the enormity of the information regarding the lymphatic system that now lives in my brain you have some new options open to you at your next appointment with me, what you might notice –
You have an option to have NO music (whhaattt)! Yes music has been shown to increase sympathetic tonus which you have just read has the opposite effect on what we want to achieve.
I will encourage you to NOT talk – again we are trying to reduce sympathetic tonus so that the blood capillary sphincter dilates, more velocity of blood flows reducing the amount of LOL (lymph obligatory load) in the connective tissue.
Reducing the sympathetic tonus also reduces the neural pain receptors in the brain, meaning that you will experience less pain as we reduce the inflammatory load in the tissues.
The touch will be much lighter to what you are used to – remembering that we want to encourage the ILV (initial lymph vessels) to vacuum up as much LOL (lymph obligatory load) as possible.
Perhaps you might want to consider having a sample of MLD at the end of your remedial massage, remembering that MLD reduces inflammation and often regular massage is increasing inflammation.
In the deeper work that I studied we learnt how to treat injury, burns, breaks and much more using MLD, if you have had a chronic injury and have had a lot of treatment on it but still it remains perhaps there is some trapped inflammation that MLD can assist to move?
You may now have a lot of questions about your own health and how MLD can help you to improve ie, lymphoedema, cancer, injury, inflammation, auto-immune condition, lipoedema, post surgery recovery, plastic surgery recovery etc. I am going to be writing some more in-depth articles on these subjects.
I am sure after reading this you want less inflammation, a better immune system, healthier tissues, speedy removal of pathogens, virus and cellular debris, reduction in the appearance of your cellulite, cleaner blood, better digestion and bowel motions? What are you waiting for? Get breathing, get moving and get some Manual Lymphatic Drainage today!
See you on the table!