Brian L. Polzin, Steaming Stone Massage
Professional and Personalized Massage Therapy

Articles: Lymph


Here is some information regarding questions I have received over the years about the lymphatic system in the body.

The Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system is referred to as the waste removal system but it has many more very important functions other than waste removal. Being only one of its primary functions, the removal of unwanted materials and waste products usually occurs in the form of undigested protein, debris, and no longer needed cellular or tissue materials.

The lymphatic system consists of a very complex network of much smaller capillary vessels that support and connect to the blood vascular system. In comparison the blood vascular and lymphatic systems work together much like the water and sewer systems found in your home. The lymph fluid is a clear and odorless liquid sometimes seen oozing out of a cut, lacerations, or wounds. And research has found that it is similar in composition to that of seawater.

The lymphatic system is also a major transporter of food materials. It receives nutrients from the blood vascular system and carrying them into areas that the blood vascular system cannot reach. Also the lymphatic system is home of the white blood cells. This makes the lymphatic system responsible for the body’s immune and defense mechanisms against sickness, illness, disease and infection.

What happens when the lymphatic system doesn’t flow properly? When the body is overloaded and congested with unwanted debris and waste materials, it reacts just like any other overloaded system – it backs up. And just like the sewer system in your home the unwanted fluids and materials overflow and spill over into areas where it is not suppose to be. Large build ups of waste materials are them unable to pass through the normal sized lymph vessels and nodes. Perhaps the most noticeable areas of the body where this back up occurs is in the joints. Unwanted meat crystals known as “uric acid crystals” collect in the toes to create a condition knows as gouty arthritis. Process sugar crystals also collect in the toenail regions of the body creating a condition knows as toenail fungus. When these same lymphatic capillary vessels are clogged in the joints of the hands the condition is known as rheumatoid arthritis. When the lymphatic nodes become overloaded and clogged with toxic materials they swell and become painful, usually at or over a joint but also found within the armpits, ankles, groin, and throat. Skin brushing along with diet is a very effective way of regenerating an ailing lymphatic system. Brushing breaks the viscous material and unwanted debris back into more fluid forms, allowing the lymphatic system to process it, as it should. This is one of the chief ways in which brushing defeats cellulite.

Directly or indirectly, brushing connects all of the body’s systems together. Since each organ and the glandular systems have anywhere from six to eight acupuncture points scattered over your body, you are certain to activate them when brushing even if you should accidentally miss a certain meridian or nerve connection highway. Many individuals remark that brushing feels almost like having a body massage or adjustment. You will realize that it is not surprising that they say this after you have experienced the sensations it produces. Through this stimulation of your body’s systems, skin brushing helps them work together – collectively, which leads to better health. And the awareness of the benefits from skin brushing helps prepare the way for your next important steps in taking actions in health awareness.

While all massage affects lymph movement, Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is a specific technique to work exclusively with only that system.

MLD can increase lymphocytes by as much as 30% and can increase the flow of lymph by as much as 20 times! A normal lymphatic flow is about 4 ounces of lymph per hour. This means that with MLD the flow can be increased to as much as 80 ounces per hour!

This non-invasive, painless and very effective therapy for lymph edema and other related conditions has been used in Europe successfully for decades and is now becoming widely recognized in the United States.

Lymph Drainage Therapy has been proven to aid in the absorption of toxins, assist the body in deep cleansing, stimulate fluid circulation and the work of the immune system, absorb fat molecules, induce deep relaxation and activate antispasmodic actions.

Our lymphatic system has vessels just like our circulatory system, but does not have a pump (the circulatory system has the heart).

In order to clear the “lymph” (the clear extra cellular fluid that is collected by the lymphatic vessels and filtered by the lymph nodes), the lymphatic system must gently be pumped manually. We do this by moving about with an active lifestyle.

When we get sick, we are told to “get plenty of rest and drink lots of water”. The only bad part about getting the “rest” is that we stop moving around, and thus, the lymph is not being removed. This is why we feel like we are having a “re-lapse” once we get up and moving again. When we start our activities again, we start to pump the infected lymph back through our systems again.

MLD is a gentle manual treatment technique which improves the activity of the lymph vessels by mild mechanical stretches on the wall of lymph collectors. MLD re-routes the lymph flow around the blocked areas into more centrally located lymph vessels that eventually drain into the venous system.

Lymph Drainage can be an effective means to help prevent colds and or shorten the duration of the illness once infection has set in.

Experience has shown that it is not only for ill patients; lymph drainage massage is also a perfect technique for helping clients to maintain health and improve the beauty of the skin. 

Benefits of Manual Lymph Drainage

  • reduces edema, local puffiness
  • stimulates a sluggish immune system
  • reduces congestion type headaches
  • reduces constriction type headaches
  • enhances cellular level immunity
  • enhances the beauty and health of the skin – Anti-aging effects
  • deeply relaxing and soothing to aid insomnia, stress, loss of vitality and loss of memory
  • reduces scar tissue
  • detoxification of the body
  • regeneration of tissue, including burns, wounds and wrinkles
  • relief of numerous chronic and subacute inflammations, including sinusitis, bronchitis and otitis
  • relief of chronic pain
  • reduction in the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia
  • antispastic actions to relieve conditions such as muscle hypertonus and some forms of constipation

What about Lymphatic Breast Care Massage?

see article on breast health for particulars for that

Manual Lymphatic Drainage

  • enhances the effects of other massage modalities:
  • combine with cellulite massage to speed the removal of toxins
  • combine with sports massage to speed the healing of injuries
  • combine with deep tissue massage to reduce post-session soreness and swelling
  • combine with facials to enhance the skin from the inside and outside
  • combine with body-mind work to produce a deeply relaxed state for inner work
  • combine with detoxifying treatments to speed the removal of cellular garbage


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