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Lymphatic functions include: transporting nutrients and oxygen to the cells and tissue, removing waste matter (including environmental toxins) from the cells and the body’s interstitial (in-between) regions, maintaining fluid balance in the connective tissue and transporting fatty acids from the small intestine to the liver for storage.

When the lymphatic system becomes congested, these functions are impaired depriving cells of oxygen and affecting the ability of the body to rid itself of its own waste material.  Over time, other systems that rely on the lymphatic system for waste removal will also become compromised, setting the stage for pain and disease.  A sure sign of congestion are sore and swollen glands and lymph nodes, which are most noticeable in the neck, armpits, groin, and intestines.  Manuel Lymphatic Drainage is suggested for overall health, well-being, and keeping the Lymphatic System clear of debris.


One of the most important systems of the body is a little known circulatory system called the lymphatic system. Most people know little about it, but have certainly experienced its effects. It gets our attention with those painful nodes in the neck during a cold or flu; or, as swelling in an injured ankle that won’t go away. But it is much more than an annoyance! The lymphatic system is literally the “information highway” of our immune systems. Along with the blood, it transports critical fluid to virtually every cell, tissue, and organ. It is like a ‘river of life’ within the body that both feeds and cleanses, and is even described by terms such as ‘watersheds.’ When there is an injury such as a cut, burn, wrenched knee or sprained ankle, the lymph system carries the fluid to protect the tissues. This is called edema. It also transports specialized white cells to devour invaders like bacteria and viruses. When functioning properly, it aids in cellular repair, and eliminates toxins and cellular debris from the body. Like a river it carries a load and deposits it, has tributaries and main channels, and has its own complex, ecosystem. This internal transportation system is the key to vital health!

Sometimes the lymphatic system does its job too well and the swollen ankle or lymph nodes don’t go away. So what goes wrong? The lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump (the heart) like the circulatory system. It pumps primarily by the pressure of muscles when we move around. So when we’re not physically active, toxins don’t move out and cleansed lymph doesn’t move in. Edema may become chronic. Also, lymphatic fluid may become stuck in an injury because basic energy flow becomes static, causing the lymph to pool.

When the river gets blocked by stagnation, or logjams, we call it congestion. If the state of congestion is long lasting, blockages can form and cause a backup in the flow. This can affect nearly every system: respiratory, elimination, endocrine, nervous, & immune. Fibrotic conditions, fatigue syndromes, chronic pain, sinus trouble, lumps, such as fibrocystic breast lumps, and unresolved injuries can all be caused or aggravated by blocked lymph. Weight gain can be a lymphatic problem. Other consequences of congestion are diminished appearance and premature aging, such as skin breakouts, facial edema, dark circles, dry, wrinkled or sallow skin, spider veins, and cellulite.

What are the primary causes of lymphatic problems? Poor lifestyles such as inactivity and improper diet, injuries and surgery (scar tissue and adhesions), emotional stress states, infections, environmental toxins, hormone imbalance, and the normal aging process. It’s obvious how poor lymphatic flow can contribute to a wide range of dysfunction and lack of vitality. But there is relief!

Manual lymph drainage (MLD) uses delicate massage techniques on the skin, originated in Europe decades ago, and has a proven track record for reducing lymph - based disorders. Many bodyworkers have taken special training in this therapy. But it’s a tedious process to perform and is time intensive, for both the therapist and the patient. In an attempt to improve the therapy, an electronic massage device was developed and researched over the last decade. It uses gentle, sound pressure waves and a mild electro-static field, along with specific manual massage techniques. This combination therapy vibrates and loosens the stagnation to stimulate and restore proper flow. Lymphatic therapists who tested it found it much faster at relieving edema and congestion than MLD alone. Now, it’s become a favorite therapy with the practitioners who use it.

The technology is called the Lymphstar Pro Instrument. The therapy is called Lymphatic DeCongestive Therapy. It is fast, requires little physical effort, and is highly effective. The therapist applies two treatment heads on the skin, leaving them over key lymphatic points on the body for 5 minutes each. This opens the lymph flow to the main drains for the lymph called watersheds. The treatment may then be applied to a specific injury or across a wider area if needed. This is followed by gentle, sweeping, massage motions over the skin to direct flow. Sessions range from 20 to 45 minutes. The client feels extremely relaxed during treatment, and increased mental clarity and energy following the session. Therapists benefit, too, by getting excellent results more efficiently! In addition to massage, it is now being used by physical therapists and chiropractors, in naturopathic, colon hydro-therapy and lymphedema centers, and holistic medical clinics. Spas and estheticians are discovering the therapy for enhancing relaxation, detoxification, cellulite and facial treatments and to accelerate post - procedure healing, i.e. chemical, laser peels, and surgery. Registered with the FDA as a Therapeutic Massager, insurance covers certain lymphedema conditions, if ordered by a physician or other licensed professional. The therapy is available in the U.S., Canada, and a dozen foreign countries. Training seminars are currently held around the United States and overseas. Lymphatic DeCongestive Therapy can be a preventive tool for the health – conscious individual, too. Almost everyone can use it for a tune-up, or a specific problem, at some time on their lives. (Please check with your health care professional or the therapy provider. There are some contra - indications to Lymphatic Therapy.) To keep your ‘river of life’ FLOWING, exercise every day, drink lots of pure water, educate yourself about the many ways to help your lymphatic system, and try this therapy if you have an unresolved problem that may be lymphatic in origin.

Article for Inside Outside Magazine, Durango, Colorado, August 2005 - by Lori A. Sweet

For appointments: Cynthia Story at 805.729.2255

Santa Barbara ~ Montecito