Health & Lymphatics
The lymphatic system (LS) is the body’s central detoxification system and a vital component of a person’s entire well-being. Running parallel to its more well-known relatives, the circulatory and immune systems, the lymphatic system supports their function by:
Maintaining the body’s fluid balance
Balancing the autonomic nervous system
Filtering foreign substances
Assisting to regenerate tissue
The LS is a humble warrior. If we were to tune into its daily schedule, we would be amazed at its instrumental role in keeping us well. Its systemic (whole body) function makes the lymphatic system a key network to treat when the body is working through disease or injury.
How does it work?
Composed of lymphatic vessels that are thin as a spider’s web, lymph nodes (tiny, gland-like spheres of tissue that hang out in packs at key filtering locations in the body), and lymph (a milky-to-clear liquid that carries white blood cells), this delicate, vital network picks up fluid in the interstitial space that has been forced out of the blood via the capillaries. From the ~20 liters of fluid that is squeezed out daily, ~17 liters are reabsorbed immediately, but ~3 liters remain, to be taken up and processed by the lymphatic system. If this fluid is not reabsorbed properly, the interstitial space will back-up with fluid, creating edema (swelling).
Once inside the lymphatic vessels, the fluid moves in a loop through the body and between the organs, carrying (picking up and depositing) white blood cells and proteins where needed. Finally, the lymph is deposited back into the bloodstream directly to the heart, where it goes on to be filtered by the kidneys and liver. This intricate network is like a plumbing system in the body, clearing waste and keeping your system healthy.
Lymphatic vessels are accessible via light touch through a charted network that is dispersed in the body. The original lymphatic drainage technique was established by a husband and wife team, Emil and Estrid Vodder (PhD, ND) in the 1920s and 30s, when the lymphatic system was first gaining recognition for its imperative role in the body.
The specific, light, repetitive strokes catch the skin just slightly and make it spring back, causing the vessels (which have one-way valves that look like a thatched roof) to open — pressing too hard causes the valves to close. These vessels, when activated correctly, pick up excess fluid that the blood capillaries have dumped into the interstitial space and transport it to lymph nodes for filtration.
The Vodder technique is the foundation for all lymphatic drainage techniques used nowadays by the medical community. Exciting new discoveries, such as the award-winning research of Bruno Chikly, MD, DO, continue to refine and add to therapists’ toolbox about how best to assist the body through recovery.
What Happens to Lymphatic Circulation During Disease and Injury?
Chronic conditions, such as Lyme Disease and Autoimmune dysfunction, compromise the healthy circulation of lymph. This can cause a range of symptoms: edema (swelling), sluggishness, decreased mobility in the joints, stilted digestion and nutrient absorption, and a decreased ability to fight off pathogens. When the immune system is constantly fending off invaders, it can feel like a deep, sluggish burn-out.
Lymphatic balancing provides a clearing that allows the body to restore its most basic, imperative functions. Steady, light strokes also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (our “rest and digest” response), allowing people to sink into a deeply restful state.
After a sudden physical injury or when recovering after a surgery, the body increases its volume of infection-fighting white blood cells and lays down scar tissue. Heat and swelling can occur along the lymphatic pathway, and though inflammation is a natural part of the body’s healing process, recovery is facilitated with lymphatic drainage, which stimulates fluids to filter and reabsorb more readily. Healthy scar tissue formation is greatly assisted by the removal of extra fluid in the extracellular space (where scar tissue forms); it can actually reduce the amount of scar tissue that develops.
There is no underestimating how important exercise is for healing after an injury or surgery, and for the health of the organism as a whole. In the initial stages of healing, however, such as directly after an operation or bodily injury, recovery means remaining in place to let things heal. Since lymphatic flow is primarily activated by muscular contraction, a lack of movement significantly diminishes lymphatic flow. To ease discomfort and speed recovery, this backup of fluid is well serviced by lymphatic balancing.
Helping to Restore Health
Vela Bodywork’s Lymphatic Balancing is a specialized treatment that combines the wisdom of traditional lymphatic and connective tissue techniques with state-of-the-art devices. This provides a customized path to restoring patients’ lymphatic flow, directly detoxifying the system.
Vela does not take a cookie-cutter approach, understanding that every body has a different story, and that the process of healing is as intertwined with emotions and energy as it is to any anatomical system of the body.
Vela Bodywork incorporates both Vodder Lymphatic Drainage and the fascial techniques of Sophia Matrix, creating an effective approach to balancing the entire lymphatic system in the context of the connective tissue matrix of the body. The unique capabilities of these techniques lie in their protocol: Vodder’s specific manual approach is clinically proven to increase lymphatic flow along each patient’s network of vessels and nodes. The Sophia Matrix works with the same well-documented lymphatic pathway, yet also incorporates connective tissue techniques in the abdomen that clear the way for the lymphatic work to land effectively.
An assessment will begin the session, since people differ in what areas their lymph may be stagnant, based on previous injury and patterns of movement. This assessment informs the treatment approach.
Vela is excited to offer state of the art technologies to supplement your sessions, including Lymphstar, an inert gas mobilization technology that is a fantastic compliment to any manual lymphatic techniques. The therapy is applied via glass transmission heads; inside the glass bulbs, noble gasses are excited and converted into direct current. When gently touched to the skin in the same direction of lymphatic drainage pathways, the movement of lymph is stimulated. The therapy is non-invasive, relaxing, and can be a great way to assist with particularly congested areas.
FSM (Frequency Specific Microcurrent) is a microcurrent technology used to treat various conditions of the body -- please read more on the FSM page.
What You Can Do to Prepare for a Lymphatic Balancing Session
Come well-hydrated but preferably not having chugged a glass of water just prior to a session.
Your first session will include a 5-10 minute interview to talk about health history, goals and to assess the movement of your lymph and any areas of stagnation.
Vela recommends not scheduling any high-energy activities after a session. The body takes time to integrate, and most of these therapies at Vela will leave you relaxed and somewhat subdued.
After a session, you may feel: a reduction in pain and swelling, an increase in range of motion, and/or sleepiness. It is possible that during the morning following an appointment, you notice an increase in symptoms – this is called a Herx reaction and is due to the movement of toxins from the tissues into the organs for the last steps of elimination.
Recommended ways to sustain results and assist detoxification: Colonic hydrotherapy or enema, taking binders such as charcoal or chlorella (as prescribed by your physician), applying compresses containing castor oil (an impressive anti-inflammatory agent and pain reliever), dry skin brushing, saunas, light aerobic activity such as walking or swimming.
Who is Lymphatic Balancing Beneficial for?
Patients desiring detoxification support, patients with inflammatory conditions, stress, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, breast tenderness and pain, lactation disorders, abdominal pain, cosmetic disorders (rosacea, scars, keloids, stretch marks, acne, burns), pre and post-operative needs, liposuction, cosmetic surgery, whiplash, mastectomy, mastodynia, stroke, MS, headache, severe illness, cellulite, lymphedema and traumatic edema (impact injuries, sprains, strains, bursitis, contusions, burns), cancer (patients with edema that is a result of medical treatment, such as following lymph node removal or radiation therapy).
Who is Lymphatic Balancing Not Recommended For?
Patients with cancer that have untreated or metastasizing neoplasms, including melanomas. Patients with a pacemaker, epilepsy, acute allergy, active flu, thrombosis/phlebitis, cardiovascular deficiencies, renal issues.