The Lymphatic System and Lymphatic Drainage Therapy


The Lymphatic System is one of three parts of the body’s fluid circulation system, the others being arterial and venous systems

Rauber Vol3 p448 Lymphatics SchematicArteries and Veins carry blood to and from the body’s tissues, with the heart as the central vortex.  This is a two way system.  At the cells, blood vessels and lymph vessels are called capillaries, their walls are one cell thick, and nutrients and wastes can migrate back and forth between vessels and cells.

Most (~92%) substances that need to leave the tissues are picked up by the blood capillaries and travel back to the heart in the veins.  The balance – substances that can’t, shouldn’t or don’t return directly into the blood circulation – instead enters the one way Lymphatic vessel system.

Lymph is similar to blood, but without red blood cells – and so it is clear or white instead of red.  Lymph contains more water compared to blood.  It contains proteins, fats (absorbed from Small Intestine), white blood cells and cell debris.  It also carries hormones, (migratory cells – in the case of cancer) and various toxic substances.

Toldt Vol5 p720 Lymph lateral neck & axilla MLymph is everywhere in the body, except for places where there is no blood supply (epidermis, cartilage, and the cornea and lens of the eye).

Lymph vessels, like veins, converge into larger and larger vessels, emptying into the largest veins just before they empty into the heart.  The walls of the larger lymph collection vessels have smooth muscle walls that act as a local pump, squeezing lymph through one way valves in the direction of the heart. in 1980 the first study documented the human lymphatic rhythm (5-15/min) (Waldemar OLSZWESKI, Poland | Bio |Abstract )

Rauber Vol3 p457 Lymph superficialAlong the way lymph travels through lymph nodes.  There are upwards of 400-700 nodes in the human body, with almost half being deep in the abdomen.  Concentrations are found in the folds of the body – arm pits, groins, elbows, knees – and around the neck and throat.

Inside the Lymph nodes, lymph is filtered and concentrated, toxins captured and destroyed, and lymphocytes manufactured.  Lymphocytes are a sub-group of white blood cells, part of the body’s immune system. In this way, the lymphatic system takes something that might be dangerous (virus, bacteria, chemical) & breaks it down to components that are not dangerous.

Rauber Vol3 p445 Lymph Abdominal and Inguinal w KidneysLymphatic Drainage Therapy (LDT) maps the flow of lymph, identifies where flow is sluggish, and gently encourages improvements. It supports lymph flow and lymphatic system functions – immune, detoxification and transport.

Improving lymph fluid flow indirectly stimulates blood capillary circulation.  LDT stimulates a nervous system relaxation response.

LDT is, in principle, potentially helpful for:

  • improving fluid circulation and tissue drainage
    • Toldt Vol5 p717 Lymph Nodeswelling (chronic and sub-acute) eg after injury, inflammation, infection
    • lymphoedema
    • to support healing and tissue regeneration eg scars, fractures, surgery, stretch marks or wrinkles
    • to support digestion, as lymph transports fat absorbed during digestion
  • stimulating the immune system
    • inflammatory conditions (chronic and subacute) eg chronic fatigue, autoimmune problems, arthritis, bronchitis, sinusitis, etc
  • Rauber Vol3 p456 Lymph stomachrelaxing the nervous system
    • LDT activates the parasympathetic (rest and digest), and reduces the sympathetic (right and flight) aspects of the nervous system
    • including beneficial effects for internal organs eg digestive system
  • reducing pain and muscle spasm
    • LDT alleviates tissue stagnation and quietens pain receptors.
    • LDT can be helpful for some kinds of chronic pain.
  • chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia
    • Bruno Chikly has developed a protocol that he is finding beneficial for improving symptoms of CFS and FM.  There is still a great deal to be learned about CFS and FM.  Chikly’s approach considers CFS and FM as similar processes – in CFS it is fatigue and in FM pain that is the dominant experience.

Lymph flow is activated by your movement and breathing, and indirectly by external pressure (e.g. being in water swimming or SCUBA diving, compression garment/bandage to support an injury).  Lymphatic Drainage Therapy (LDT) can locate areas of tissue congestion that are not changing with your efforts, and in turn optimise your own efforts.

Quotes and quips:

  • “everywhere there is a tissue tension there is a fluid congestion” from LDT1 class
  • “…your patient had better save his life and money by passing you by as a failure, until you are by knowledge qualified to deal with the lymphatics” A.T.Still, osteopath.
  • “… consider gold fish — the environment it lives in is very important.  Changing the water is very important.  Your cells are like fish — they live in water.  The quality of the water environment is important for your cells as water quality is important for the fish.  Fluid exchange to & from the cell is essential” from LDT1 class

History of LDT (as per Chikly)

  • Bruno Chikly learned lymphatic treatment as part of MD studies in Paris, France and wrote his thesis on the lymphatic system.  Bruno was taught that lymph flow could not be felt, but noticed that he could feel in fact it. He noticed that in some people the lymph flow did not go in the way the text book says, and that if he encouraged it in the direction it was actually flowing then it would be more helpful than directing it in the way textbook/protocol said.  He also noticed that flow might at first feel sticky like egg white, and that working with it it would change and increase in flow and fluidity until like a river. So began working on the areas that needed it rather than following a routine.