Hello everyone and welcome to our September blog post. This
month we’re going to introduce you to your lymphatic system. What it is, what
it does, and why your Osteo loves it so much.
So, what is the lymphatic system?
One part of it is a collection of small tubes found right
throughout the body, and you can think of these tubes as part of the
circulatory system of the body. Say ‘circulatory’ and everyone thinks of blood,
arteries and veins, but the buck doesn’t stop there. The lymphatic tubes are
well and truly just as important as the tubes that carry blood around the body.
The other part of the lymphatic system is a collection of larger tissues found in
various areas of the body and you can think of these as part of the body’s
defence system. So straight away, you can see it’s pretty darn important!
Let us take a look at these areas in a little more detail… A
little recap for you on circulation: arteries take blood from the heart to the
body, and veins take blood back to the heart from the body. Where does the
lymphatic system fit in to all of this? Well, the tubes (or vessels) of the
lymphatic system roughly follow the pathway of the veins of the body (so back towards
the heart). The pump of the heart creates pressure, which drives blood through
the arteries where it gets distributed around the body providing life-giving
nourishment to all of the different tissues of the body (i.e. our skin,
muscles, bones and organs). However, the pressure from the arteries causes some
of the fluid and nutrients in blood to leak out into the surrounding areas. And
this is where the lymphatic tubes kick in. They pick up the excess fluid and
nutrients (mainly proteins) and send it all back towards the heart to be
re-used by the body. This ensures every valuable bit of fluid and nutrition in
the body is not wasted. Very efficient right?! The fluid that travels through
lymph vessels is simply called ‘lymph’.
The lymph travels through the lymph vessels by a combination of
muscle contractions in the vessel walls, and us moving our bodies (another
reason why moving is so good for you!). Along the way back up to the heart, the
fluid is passed through a filter station called a lymph node. Here, any of the
nasty bacteria, viruses, or even cancer cells that are in the lymph are dealt
with swiftly by our defence cells. The freshly cleaned lymph is then sent
further along the chain until it reaches a vein close to the heart. It is here
where the lymph re-enters the blood and the cycle continues.
Before we forget (just kidding, we never forget!), in the small
intestines there are some very specialised lymph vessels which help the body to
absorb fats from the foods we eat. This is another important function of the
Defence, defence, defence!
On the defensive front, there are various tissues located around
the body (called lymphoid tissues) where the production of our defence cells
occurs. The main tissues include the ‘thymus’ – which is found in the upper
chest region, and the ‘spleen’ – found in the abdomen. If it wasn’t for these
handy organs, we would be much more susceptible to infection and disease (and
death). So, it’s these organs which help to populate our bodies with the lifesaving
defence cells. We have a lot to be thankful for with this system!
Osteos love their lymphatic systems
So why are we so interested in this system? Well at the heart of
Osteopathy lies the principle of maintaining fluid balance and equilibrium
throughout the body. We’re all about keeping the flow going. But sometimes flow
of fluid in the body can become compromised, maybe due to injury or disease,
and then congestion in the tissues occurs and things start to stagnate. This
can lead to a whole host of issues including reduction in movement, pain, and
imbalance throughout the body. Regardless of your issue, our treatment will aim
to remove any barriers to a functioning system to reinstate flow of fluid
through the body. Sometimes a dysfunctional lymphatic system can lead to a type
of swelling called lymphedema, which is essentially a backlog of lymph fluid.
This often occurs in the hands, arms, feet and legs. Depending on the cause,
this is something your trusty Osteo is skilled at dealing with, so always seek
help if you notice swelling.
We hope this has been interesting and educational, and we hope
you now have a newfound respect for the intricacies of the human body. After
all, it is what keeps you alive, so look after it. Here’s to health!!
Chila, A. 2011. Foundations of Osteopathic
Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams
Inner West Health Clinic
87 Victoria St, Seddon Vic 3011
Appointments (03) 9078 2455
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