Have you heard of lymphedema? This is when lymphatic fluid builds up in the tissues causing swelling and discomfort. It commonly occurs as a result of cancer treatment but is also caused by structural problems with the lymphatic system. Let’s take a look at the lymphatic system and how osteopathic treatment could help with blockages.
Purpose of the lymphatic system
The lymphatic system acts like a drainage network in our bodies. When blood circulates through the body, plasma fluid (made up of oxygen, glucose, and amino acids) leaks into the surrounding tissues. Most of it returns to the bloodstream immediately, however some is left behind. The role of the lymphatic system is to remove this excess fluid from the tissues and return them to the bloodstream.
Another important function of the lymphatic system is the role it plays in our immunity. It produces white blood cells known as lymphocytes, which help fight off diseases in the body.
Anatomy of the lymphatic system
The main parts of the lymphatic system are:
- Lymphatic fluid
- Lymph nodes that monitor and filter lymphatic fluid to cleanse damaged cells
- Lymphatic vessels are the network of capillaries that move lymphatic fluid around the body
- Collecting ducts connect to the veins that return the lymphatic fluid back into the bloodstream
Fluid build-up or lymphedema
Lymphedema is when lymphatic fluid builds up in soft tissue: usually in the arms and legs. This can cause pain and discomfort and also increases the risk of developing a skin infection.
There are two types of lymphedema: primary and secondary.
- Primary lymphedema is caused by rare, inherited conditions which stop the lymphatic system from working properly. This includes Milroy’s disease seen in infants; Meige’s disease seen in puberty or up to the age of 35; and late-onset lymphedema after the age of 35.
- Secondary lymphedema is more common and is caused most frequently by cancer treatments including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Can osteopathic treatment help with lymphatic drainage?
As osteopaths, we take a holistic approach to treatment. At your appointment we will ask you about your symptoms and medical history to determine the most suitable treatment options for you.
Lymphatic drainage massage is a type of manual therapy that is used to relieve the swelling in the tissues and move the lymphatic fluid into the lymph nodes. It helps by releasing the fluid from your tissues and moving it to the lymph nodes for reabsorption. It is generally a safe treatment for lymphedema however is not recommended if you have a heart condition, kidney failure, blood clots or an infection. But don’t worry, we screen you thoroughly before starting any treatments to ensure they are safe and suitable for you.
If you are experiencing lymphedema and want to find out more about the treatment options, we’re here to help you. Give us a call on 90782455 or email us at email@example.com to book an appointment.
- Britannica (2020). Lymphatic system. [Online]. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/science/lymphatic-system (Accessed 14 June 2022).