Lymphatic massage, lymph drainage, lymph dry brushing… lymphatic cleansing techniques seem to be in vogue at the moment! High time to dive into what exactly is your lymphatic system, and to let you in on a little secret at the end – there is one absolute best way to get your lymph moving, and it can be absolutely free!
The Lymphatic System
All over your body, running alongside your blood vessels, is a whole other work of nodes and tubes. You might be familiar with them when you have a cold and the ones in your throat or just under your chin become inflamed and swollen, or someone says “my nodes are up” – they are talking about their lymph nodes. There are other components to the lymphatic system – your tonsils, spleen, adenoids and thymus are part of it too.
Your lymphatic system is somewhat akin to a sewage system (sorry but we’re yet to come up with a better metaphor!). It helps get unwanted products, toxins and waste out of the body. When your muscles squeeze, lymph gets pumped back in the direction of the neck, where the lymph fluid re-joins the circulation, to be eventually filtered and the waste products excreted out of the body. Lymph, therefore, is a really important pathway for internal waste removal.
Lymph is also a very important part of our immune system, carrying bug-fighting immune cells called lymphocytes. When we are sick, those lymph glands get inflamed and can be tender to the touch. There are collections of lymph nodes all around the body, including in your throat, under your chin, at the base of your skull, under your armpits and even in your groin!
How to help your body move lymph:
The biggest key here is that lymph does not easily pump itself. It is moved through the body via external pressure of the muscles squeezing and joints moving.
And here comes the big secret… the best way to get your lymph moving, in the absence of pathology, is TO MOVE. This can be in any way, shape or form, but the thing is, we are generally far too sedentary these days. Sitting for long periods of time is damaging to all sorts of processes in the body, including creating the environment for a sluggish lymphatic system.
Great ideas to move our lymph include:
You don’t need machines, you don’t need fancy equipment, you don’t need much of anything to move your lymph except to move your body.
What you might need is some help to get back to moving well, which is where your Chiropractor comes in. We help people get out of pain, get functioning again, return to or start movement/exercise/sports, and then (our favourite part), we help them keep moving through maintaining proper spinal mechanics, body balance and a well-adjusted nervous system.
2018, J. E. Moore Jr., C. Bertram, “Lymphatic System Flows”, Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics, 50: 459-482
2016, G. E. Hespe et al, “Exercise training improves obesity-related lymphatic dysfunction”, The Journal of Physiology, 549(5): 4267-4282