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September Is National Leukemia And Lymphoma Awareness Month

Sept. 27, 2010

The Role of the Lymph System

Just as the cardiovascular system plays an important role in our bodies, so does the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is vital to maintaining fluid balance in the body, fighting disease, and ridding the body of toxins. The lymphatic system, made up of organs, ducts and nodes, is responsible for moving lymph throughout the body. It maintains fluid balance and defends against disease. Lymph is the fluid and protein (blood plasma) squeezed from the blood. The lymphatic system drains that fluid, lymph, from tissue ultimately returning the cleansed fluid back to the blood. Lymph nodes located at various points around the body (under the chin, behind the ears, in the armpits for example) filter lymph fluid. Lymphocytes, produced in the bone marrow, help the body fight disease along with white cells and are transported with the lymph fluid. Since lymphocytes are instrumental in fighting disease it is important that the lymph system is functioning properly and flow is unobstructed. Flow can be blocked due to illness, inactivity, surgery, and injury. Since lymph cleanses almost every cell in the body, chronic lymph blockage can lead to:

• frequent colds and flu

• joint pain

• headaches and migraines

• increased menstrual cramps

• arthritis

• loss of appetite

• fatigue

• mood irregularities

• depression

• acne

• edema

What is Lymphoma?

When fighting an infection, the lymph nodes may become enlarged which is normal. Sometimes enlarged lymph nodes, however, are tumors. Lymphoma is cancer of the lymph system. It can be caused by malignant lymphocytes that grow too fast or live too long accumulating in the lymph nodes and other areas of the lymphatic system forming tumors.

Symptoms of lymphoma:

• painless lump or swollen gland in the neck, abdomen, underarm, or groin area (usually the first sign)

• red patches on the skin

• nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain

• coughing or breathlessness

Less common signs:

• drenching night sweats

• unexplained weight loss, usually more than 10% of total body weight

• fever of more than 100 degrees that comes and goes, especially in evening

• itching skin, usually without a rash

• unusual tiredness

*If you have a painless enlarged lymph node or gland that doesn't go away in a couple of weeks see your doctor to have it check out. While some lymph nodes can be reactive (enlarged and painless for an extended period of time but benign), it is still important to have a doctor or medical professional make that determination. Early detection is important.

The Benefits of Lymphatic Massage

Lymphatic massage, developed in the 1930s, incorporates gentle manipulation of the body's lymphatic system to increase lymph flow and unblock congested lymph pathways. The lymphatic system while circulating fluid is not a closed system and lacks a pumping mechanism like the cardiovascular system. Lymph therefore relies on muscle contraction from deep breathing, exercise, or massage to circulate fluid. Lymphatic massage is a beneficial way to help move lymphatic fluid, unblock the lymph system, aid the lymph system in draining and filtering out toxins and bacteria, and increase the immune system. By improving lymphatic flow, massage increase the bodies abilities to fight disease and heal from injury. During a lymphatic massage, light pressure and soft pumping movements towards the lymph nodes help unblock the lymph system and increases lymph flow up to 20 percent. Ultimately, immune system function can be significantly increased, while increasing metabolism, and aiding in the elimination of waste and toxins.

To increase the benefits of any massage but especially lymphatic massage, drink lots of water afterward to help flush released toxins. Lymphatic massage is sometimes combined with deep tissue massage to help reduce the minor edema that can occur after deep tissue massage.

After a lymphatic massage you may notice that your skin looks fresher. This is because the increased lymph flow balances body fluid level plumping the skin and flushes toxins.

When Is Lymphatic Massage Recommended

Lymphatic massage is beneficial for sports injuries, surgical patients (with doctor approval), fibromyaliga, chronic fatigue, edema, after a cold or flu, and for people who are inactive.

Due to the stress put on the lymph system after a sports injury, lymphatic massage can help speed recovery by reducing swelling and helping remove proteins and waste products from the affected area. Reducing pressure on the injured cells by relieving swelling allows them to reproduce faster speeding up healing.

Often after surgical removal of lymph nodes (for example done during breast cancer surgery) limbs swell. While severe edema requires medical treatment, many people find lymphatic massage relieves mild swelling. Many women find they suffer from lymphedema (localized repeated fluid retention) in their arm/s post breast cancer surgery and lymph node removal. Regular lymphatic massage (with doctor approval) can reduce the swelling and maintain proper lymph flow.

Because lymphatic massage is gentle and boosts the immune system it is ideal for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome paitents who have sore trigger points throughout the body.

Finally, lymphatic massage is helpful after a cold, flu, or other illness. The lymph system is stressed by illness and lymph nodes swell with white blood cells and waste while fighting an illness. Often lymph nodes take a while to return to normal size. A lymphatic massage can hasten that process by moving fluid through the lymph system and releasing congestion in the system.

Lymphatic massage is not recommended for acute inflammation, malignant tumors, thrombosis, and those with major heart problems.

Elements Therapeutic Massage at 312 E. Silver Spring Drive offers lymphatic massage.

To schedule a lymphatic massage with Joel and Marylisa who are trained in lymphatic massage call (414)332-3260.

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