Trisoma® - Lymphatic Drainage Therapy Massage

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Santa Barbara Body Therapy Lymphatic System

When people think of circulation, the cardiovascular (blood) system usually comes to mind. However humans also have two other important circulatory systems: craniosacral and lymphatic. Whereas the blood circulatory system could be analogous to a water system of a city, the lymphatic system is analogous to a sewer drain system, which becomes easily overloaded during a "health storm", such as injury or sickness. The lymphatic system is a branched system throughout the body which transports lymph through vessels, ducts and nodes, to process centers and for elimination.

If the system is not functioning well, the water can fill in the vessels (or "pipes"), overflow into the surrounding tissue (or "street"), and clog the lymph nodes. Complications occur when the system is overloaded with toxins (just as sewers may have trash and dumped oil) or when a person is injured or sick.

Lymphatics have been described in most organs of the body, including thyroid gland, thymus, tongue, adrenals, kidneys, and the urinary bladder has a rich plexus of lymphatic capillaries just beneath the epithelial lining. [1] Lymphatic Drainage promotes the function of the lymphatic system, and ideally helps to remove toxins, lymphocytes, excess fluids and other waste from the body. This helps prevent edema, infections, cellulite, and is thought to affect aging, cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases.

Good lymph fluid circulation (approx. 3 quarts per day) prevents: fluid from overwhelming lymph nodes (as in hard lymph nodes during an infection or after injury); fluid solidifying and binding with collagen fibers of the fat cells (as in cellulite); and excessive interstitial fluid (edema.) If a person has swollen ankles, and the doctor prescribes medication to force the kidneys to remove water from the blood, then perhaps the patient should ask their doctor if the problem is too much water in the blood, or overworked lymphatic system, and if lymphatic drainage might help. Some medications that counteract edema, could be thought of as "an umbrella over a storm drain" or "opening the flood gates of a dam" rather than clearing the jammed river, or facing the actual problem. Edema of ankle

Being such a subtle and asymptomatic part of the body, the lymphatic system remained largely undefined and unresearched until the latter half of the 20th century. Modern Western medicine is excellent for trauma care, but for preventive medicine, most doctors seem to define health as the absence of symptoms, and find medication to eradicate the signs and symptoms of disease, rather than to correct the actual problems that cause symptoms to occur. Some physicians think that some symptoms, such as moderately high cholesterol, may be evidence of the body trying to heal itself naturally, and supressing symptoms may actually interfere with the body's natural methods of healing.[5]

Although in 1917 scientists confirmed that glucose and protein was absorbed by the lymph as well as by blood in the intestines,[2] physicians did not consider the importance of maintaining lymphatic system function. Even within the past 20 years, most medical students would not have gained an awareness that organs such as the tonsils, adenoids, thymus, cisterna chyli and spleen were part of the lymphatic system. Nor would they have learned that the lymph system is often the first line of immunological defense against harmful bacteria, toxin concentrations and oxygen starvation of one's cells. The Journal of Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology reported in 2003 that "There is mounting evidence that a significant portion of cerebrospinal fluid drainage is associated with transport along cranial and spinal nerves with absorption taking place into lymphatic vessels external to the central nervous system... linking the subarachnoid compartment (of the brain) with extracranial lymphatics. [3] It is still taught that the vermiform appendix is a useless vestigial organ, although new research confirms that it is rich in infection-fighting lymphoid cells, and Leonardo Da Vinci described its function as a relief valve, and it was hypothesized by the author in 2004 that, besides lubricating the ileocecal valve, the appendix may be an important detoxification organ which mixes downstream lymph with intraintestinal cellulose and expells the mixture into the colon for elimination. On October 6, 2007, The Journal of Theoretical Biology reported that surgeons and immunologists at Duke University Medical School think they have figured out the real job of the appendix: It produces and protects good germs for your gut. Lymphatic System in the Arm

Eating, drinking and exercise cause metabolism which produces energy, by-products and water. The water adds to the circulating blood plasma. This allows metabolic wastes, bacteria and nutrients to be diffused out of the cells and into the lymph system. Lymph fluid is continuously "produced" in this manner. There is no muscular pumping organ connected with the lymphatic vessels to force lymph onward, as the heart forces blood in the circulatory system, so lymph moves slowly and steadily along its vessels by its many valves, and by body positions (gravity) and movements (exercise). Pressure builds in each section of lymph vessel as new fluid is received from the cells, and due to muscular contractions. Thus the human body is well designed to expel a certain amount of toxins and pathogens.

Environmental and dietary toxins, infections and lack of exercise overload the lymphatic system, and when inflammation is involved, it may also inhibit the active flow of lymph. When the lymphatic system is overloaded, toxins normally filtered out by the lymph system are offloaded as detritus onto the fat, brain, liver and many other organs, reducing the organs' capacity to do their work. Lymph fluid in the lymphatic system totals 50 percent greater volume than that of blood, and because it has been shown that the lymphatic system has a role in maintaining blood volume in sheep, [4] Paul Svacina hypothesises that ancient bloodletting may have been a way of "jump-starting" lymph flow, forcing the toxins to flow through the system faster. When food was organic and not overused, perhaps the bloodletting served that purpose effectively. In modern times, however, forcing toxins through the lymphatic system, such as is done with some "detox cleansing" methods, may actually offload toxins into other organs. Lymph capillaries around the intestine and appendix

A stagnant toxic lymph flow can produce a thickened, turbid lymph, which encourages degeneration of both cells and organs, fluid and macromolecular exchange, and contributes to cyst and tumor (cancer) formation. Some believe that this can lead to a long list of diseases such as Alzheimer's, diabetes, bowel disorders, chronic fatigue and depression, rheumatoid arthritis, hormonal and emotional imbalances, allergies, gum disease, bad breath, tonsillitis, prostatitis, hemorrhoids, slow healing, fibromyalgia, cancer, cellulite fat accumulations and many chronic illnesses.

Modern Americans are at high risk for lymphatic blockage. Most spend the majority of their day either standing or seated, and there are few rest breaks for lying down, walking, or planned gentle rhythmic sensual movement. Tight clothing, especially socks, underwear and bras, add to resistance of lymphatic flow. Not only is exercise necessary for proper lymph flow, but long hours in a fixed posture (cubicle or register) with tense muscle greatly impede the flow of lymph. Only in the last fifty years has the number of people working in sedentary positions increased dramatically. Incidentally, one of the least known and fastest growing cancer types is Lymphoma.

In Chinese medicine, these blockages are attributed to disruption of Chi along meridians, and are treated with manual medicine (massage, acupressure, acupuncture) and herbs. Heat and water treatments, which include hydrotherapy, saunas, and steam baths (contraindicated if inflamatory toxins are present), help to increase circulation of blood and lymph. This aids the flow of waste in the lymph system and also brings the toxins closer to the surface of the skin. During the process of excretion, these toxins find their way out of the body and the pressure on the lymph system is greatly reduced, so it can function more effectively.

Lymphatic drainage massage is also useful when working with clients who have sports injuries. After the initial inflammatory stage has passed, lymphatic work can be applied after Sports or Neuromuscular massage has been completed. This will help to clear the tissue of debris, and help to reduce the minor edema that sometimes occurs after deep massage. Continued applications of lymphatic drainage while the client is healing can help to enhance the tissue regeneration process. Not only is lymphatic drainage useful for sports injuries, but it can also help reduce scarring. Lymph work has been shown to help the scarring process by enhancing circulation and immunity. As the lymph flow around the scar is increased, lymph vessels that have been damaged are stimulated to heal, and the increased lymph flow also draws away toxins, improving the health of the tissues.

Lymph capillaries in the Foot Reduction of Cellulite
This therapy also helps impede the formation of cellulite. Cellulite is an accumulation of fat, fluid and toxins trapped into a hardened network of elastin and collagen fibers in the deeper levels of the skin, which can look lumpy when compressed/ squeezed. The skin might also look whiter and feel colder than the rest of the body, because circulation is poorer in the area. Many sources do not mention that one reason for cellulite formation is toxic buildup and the storage of toxins in the fat cells, due to inadequate function of the lymphatic system to remove them, or of the liver or kidneys to process them. Cellulite can be reduced and impeded by detoxification of the body and a proper combination of diet, vigorous and/ or deep massage, and exercise. Some sources state that increased metabolism reduces cellulite, but it should be mentioned that higher metabolism causes more toxin ingestion and formation.

Paul studied Lymphatic Drainage under a Doctor of Eastern medicine, formally a US government chemist who became sick from plutonium and pesticide poisoning. The doctor studied and developed a deep manual method of moving lymph which helped him recover when Western medicine offered no hope. This philosophy is more concerned with the etiology of disease rather than just masking local symptoms. There are many nodes and vessels around the abdominal organs, and this model of the lymphatic system drains toxins primarily into the digestive and excretory systems, where toxins can be eliminated, and only the interstitial fluid is returned back into the blood. In loosening blockages and assisting the body to naturally remove toxins, it is frequently possible for symptoms to be reduced or eliminated. This method hypothesizes that the body knows how much lymph to move to various organs, such as spleen, blood and liver. The efficient functioning of the liver is essential for metabolism and detoxification, and therefore liver detox treatments are not recommended concurrent with lymphatic drainage unless supervised by a health practitioner.

This method is similar to that being taught by Matthew Jones & Mary Sullivan at the Santa Barbara Body Therapy Institute, and differs from most lymphatic massage techniques, in that it uses more pressure over the vessels and nodes, and is based on a theory that most of the drainage of heavily contaminated lymph flows into the large intestine. Thus a typical treatment begins with, and possibly only with, abdomen work. Most other medical sources state that all the lymph dicharges back into the bloodstream at the left subclavian vein near the heart; however this seems like installing a toilet upstream of the kitchen faucet. Just as many scientists are still debating whether the cranial bones move at the sutures, or whether the appendix is vestigial, modern lymphatic models are still evolving.

Most popular Lymphatic Drainage methods (Vodder, Földi, Leduc, Casley-Smith), which are covered by health insurance in Europe, are soft and light dermal effleurage. These methods are useful for certain cases, (such as local edema, post-surgery or for people who wear tight garments and do not exercise,) but generally this seems analogous to wiping the bathtub with a tissue when the drain is clogged. The light treatments push along the lymph in the smaller vessels toward nodes and larger vessels, which, if overwhelmed, may just stagnate or recirculate the toxins.

Conversely, some therapies use active contraction lymphatic pumps or passive contraction devices, which can have systemic effects such as raising blood pressure, and may be analogized as cleaning your bathroom with a firehose- although some bathrooms may need it! Pumps and vigorous massage can release subdermal toxins, which pour into the lymph system, and if the system is already stagnated, may overstress vessel valves and further jam the nodes and may move toxins back into the blood and spread to more vulnerable organs. It can be theorized that temporary storage of toxins in the adipose tissue is preferable if the body's resources for removing toxins are overwhelmed. Some doctors theorize that most lymphatic problems are caused by blockages further downstream, and that specific deeper work may be generally more effective systemically.

Thus the primary goal of such deeper methods is to clear the passageways downstream first, generally toward the abdomen, and then loosen the more distal branches in order for the system to function more efficiently. This may be analogous to combing through tangled hair- beginning at the downstream end helps work out the knots, and then progress can be made upstream. Therapy may begin with light effleurage, or may include much deeper work. Normally this includes digestive release (abdomen work) as well as work on the limbs. This type of manual lymphatic drainage may be incorporated into a session of another modality, such as swedish, and clients may learn how to perform portions of this work on themselves for maintenance. Regular self-therapy and healthy habits can greatly improve the results of treatment.

A typical session includes, or is alternated with, Craniosacral work or Qi Gong to restore energy levels and balance, depending on the current state of the client. Many systems of meditation and martial arts reference the breath as a focal point and as one method of moving "energy."

Clients frequently feel physically and mentally drained after a session and will require more water than after a regular massage.

When the lymph blockages are removed and lymph is moving properly, exercise, rebounding or even just walking, will promote the lymphatic flow. Always consult a medical doctor before beginning an exercise or treatment program.
Melike Bitlis-Bush Jumping is physically challenging


1. Henry Gray. Gray's Anatomy: Anatomy of the Human Body. 1918. (Return to Reference 1 in text)

2. Byron M. Hendrix, Joshua E. Sweet A Study of Amino Nitrogen and Glucose in Lymph and Blood Before and After the Injection of Nutrient Solutions in the Intestine. Laboratory of Physiological Chemistry and the Laboratory of Surgical Research, University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia. Received for Publication Oct. 4 , 1917, reprinted in The Journal of Biological Chemistry ( (Return to Reference 2 in text)

3. Zakharov A, Papaiconomou C, Djenic J, Midha R, Johnston M. Lymphatic cerebrospinal fluid absorption pathways in neonatal sheep revealed by subarachnoid injection of Microfil. Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology. 2003 Dec;29(6):563-73.Related Articles, Links (Return to Reference 3 in text)

4. BRACE R. A. Blood volume response to drainage of left thoracic duct lymph in the ovine fetus Univ. California San Diego, Dept. Reproductive Medicine, Div. Perinatal Medicine, La Jolla CA 92093-0803. American Journal of Physiology- Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology ISSN 0363-6119 1994, vol. 35, no3, pp. R709-R713 (16 ref.) Published by: American Physiological Society, Bethesda, MD. (Return to Reference 4 in text)

5. The Douglass Report, 702 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. (Return to Reference 5 in text)

Image Credits

1. Cancer Research UK
2. stacylynn
3-5. Henry Gray. Gray's Anatomy: Anatomy of the Human Body. 1918. Fig.
6. Melike Bitlis-Bush and Delphine Louie

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