Monday, October 26, 2009

Lymphatic Massage

Since surgery, I've been experiencing lymphedema, which is a tightness in the skin, a feeling of "fullness" in the affected area (armpit), and persistent swelling. It's a very weird feeling. One of my good friends has suggested looking into lymphatic massage. This is what I discovered about such a massage:
As a vital component of the body's immune function, the lymphatic system is comprised of several organs (thymus, tonsils, spleen, adenoids), hundreds of lymph nodes, and a multitude of vessels that run throughout the body similar to our circulatory system of veins and arteries. These lymphatic vessels carry a clear fluid, known as lymph, that circulates around the body's tissues, absorbing fluid, waste products, dead cells, bacteria, viruses, fats, and proteins from the tissue as it goes, while also giving passage to immune cells as they're needed.
Lymph nodes are found throughout the body -- including most notably the neck, armpits, and groin -- and have the job of filtering the lymph fluid and removing damaging elements they've picked up along the way, such as bacteria and cancer cells. When the lymph nodes detect these foreign elements in the fluid, they begin producing additional infection-fighting white blood cells, and become enlarged in the process, hence a swollen gland. If the system gets overtaxed because of ill health, surgery, stress, or poor diet, it can get sluggish and not do its job as efficiently. As a major player in the body's immune process, it makes sense that by waking up the lymphatic system you dramatically improve your chances for staying healthy.
With lymph massage, the system gets a wake-up call through delicate means. Lymph massage is extremely gentle and slow, not just as an aspect of its healing nature, but by necessity. Most of the lymphatic vessels are just below the skin and are stimulated by .5 to 8 ounces of pressure per square inch. That light, slow pressure mimics the pulse and rhythm of the lymphatic system itself and gets the vessels to respond as they should. Each stroke slightly moves the skin in the direction of the lymphatic flow to encourage the drainage of fluid and waste.
The delicate nature of each stroke as it carefully glides across the skin can sometimes make it feel as if nothing is happening, especially for those who are used to deep bodywork. But it's exactly that noninvasive quality of lymph massage that makes it work. They say the results can be profound. When the lymphatic system is especially compromised, as in the presence of cancer or after it's been disrupted by surgery, it can slow to a near negligible pace. This is when a swelling of the lymph passages occurs, known as lymphedema, creating a painful, potentially debilitating condition. One of the most common causes for lymphedema is undergoing a mastectomy, where breast tissue and/or lymph nodes under the arm are removed. Of the women having this operation, up to 15 percent are likely to get lymphedema. Of course I just have to be in that 15%! I'll have to check with Rick to see if he does lymphatic massage as it sounds like just what I need!

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