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Types Of Bodywork/Modalities

Lymphatic Drainage

In spite of the image the name conveys (physical removal of a watery fluid using a Turkey baster), lymphatic drainage is extremely gentle, totally non-invasive, and no fluid is actually removed.

The lymph system is superficial. It is literally just beneath the skin. In terms of structures, it is skin, lymph, fascia and muscle, in that order. Lymph is also technically a part of the circulatory system in that the lymphatic fluid is reprocessed in the heart along with the blood. It does not, however, share the same transport system as the blood, i.e. the veins and arteries. It uses a secondary pathway back to the heart, parallel to the venous system. The lymph fluid itself is generated in the connective tissue spaces in the body.

A critical aspect of the lymphatic system is that it is part of the body’s immune response to infection and injury. One key aspect is the build up of lymphatic fluid in response to trauma. Specifically, this is swelling or edema. With a fully functioning lymphatic system, the edema is only temporary and results from an overload on the system. More lymphatic fluid is produced as a result of the trauma than the system can move. In more serious cases, such as lymphedema, the system itself is compromised, preventing normal movement altogether. Lymphedema is a very serious medical condition that requires management by someone specifically trained in lymphedema management.

The principle of lymphatic drainage, regardless of the modality employed, is to physically assist the body in moving or transporting the excess fluid that is causing the edema. It is done by very, very light, gentle massage. The three main “schools” of lymphatic drainage are Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD), Lymphatic Drainage Therapy (LDT), and Vodder’s. I was introduced to MLD and Vodder techniques in massage school. My subsequent continuing education in lymphatic drainage was all LDT as developed by Bruno Chikly.

The primary distinction in my mind among the three is that LDT is the only one that teaches how to actually feel the movement of the lymphatic fluid with your hands. This is a huge asset in being able to effectively work with the lymph system. It also opens the door to doing the work energetically, including off-body without even physically touching the person.

LDT is always my first choice where edema and inflammation are involved.

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