What is the New Lymphatic Health Trend?
Maybe you’ve seen the new wellness trend of lymphatic drainage massage how-to’s online, of people massaging their faces or bodies in a particular way. That state they can reduce wrinkles, eye puffiness, boost immunity while reducing fat.
Perhaps you suffer from a lymphatic disorder and wonder if these massages can help your symptoms. In this article, I will go over the basics, the scientific evidence, and if the beauty benefits are real!
What is the Lymphatic System?
The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs within our skin that look like a web (like veins) with little sacks attached to them, that helps rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The lymphatic system is vital to our immune system; it includes the thymus, bone marrow, spleen, tonsils, appendix, and Peyer patches in the small intestine. Within this system is a liquid called lymph that passes through the body and contains infection-fighting white blood cells.
In the 19th century, researchers began looking into the benefits of manual lymphatic massage. There are different techniques for lymphatic massage, but the idea is to massage the skin gently in a specific direction of the lymphatic system, with the aims of pumping fluid that may be trapped in the lymph nodes and draining them. What causes an imbalance in the first place?
Lymphedema and health issues
Lymphedema is when our skin becomes swollen due to either primary lymphedema or secondary lymphedema. Primary is due to genetics and causes your lymphatic system not to drain correctly. Secondary lymphedema is due to a broader range of things such as:
- Cancer surgery — particularly skin or breast cancer as they might need to remove lymph glands.
- Radiotherapy — as this is used to destroy cancerous cells in the lymphatic system but may attack healthy ones too, causing it to be damaged.
- Infections — such as cellulitis, filariasis and worms can cause blockage of the lymphatic system.
- Inflammation — due to things like rheumatoid arthritis or eczema.
- Venous diseases — DVT and varicose veins also affect the lymphatic systems ability to function.
- Obesity — It is not sure why, but believed that the pressure of the fatty tissue affects the lymphatic system.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis can be found by seeing either physically or through an MRI scan whether your lymph nodes are enlarged. In most cases, this enlargement is entirely normal and could be due to your body’s natural defence mechanism of ridding an infection.
However, if it lasts longer than the infection or if the lymph nodes become more significant than usual, then you should see a doctor for an examination. Common symptoms of any lymphatic disorder include swelling of the arm or groin, weight loss, fever and night sweats.
Treatment will depend on your particular issues, but conventional therapies tend to be:
- Exercise — as it helps stimulate the lymphatic system to help with drainage
- Compression garments
- Healthy diet
- Drinking more water — as it helps us to flush toxins
- Anti-inflammatory medications — to help reduce any swelling caused by lymphedema
A 2018 study found that lymphatic drainage massage is safe to use alongside exercise for issues arising because of breast cancer surgery. The most reliable evidence suggests that manual lymphatic drainage techniques may be useful in the resolution of structural skeletal muscle cell damage. However, there need to be more studies when it comes to helping with things like sports injuries.
Now we get to the anti-ageing, facial puffiness-reducing (the very untechnical term I’ve coined), and skin firming qualities. Although it is all the rage with beauty bloggers and YouTubers alike, there have been very few studies done. One small study on 60 participants, showed there might be skin firming benefits, particularly in thinning the thighs. However, to begin telling people to apply these techniques at home when there is not enough research could be an unnecessary risk.
Lymphatic drainage is generally quite safe. However, check-in with your GP before you start if you suffer with: a high risk of blood clots, congestive heart failure, swelling or an active lymphatic infection.
Some Final Words…
I always say: discuss your queries with your healthcare provider first. See someone who has expertise in this manual therapy, if you wish to use it to help with an existing lymphatic disorder, alongside the other methods. There is some evidence to suggest it could help with post-cancer-surgery, reducing swelling and improving with the flow of the lymphatic system.
However, not enough research has been done for its beauty benefits just yet. Therefore, if it is for aesthetic reasons, I say drink more water, move your body through exercise, eat well, and you may see the same results. I hope this has given you more information on the lymphatic system or massage, and I wish you the very best!
Written by Jaqueline Renouard
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