The body’s lymphatic system is a network of vessels, nodes, and organs that work as part of the immune system to carry lymph fluid that is rich in infection-fighting white blood cells throughout the body, while also helping rid the body of waste and excess fluid. The lymphatic system is made up of nodes and vessels, the tonsils, the thymus, and the spleen.

In HEALTH AND SKINCARE/MASSAGE THERAPY/BEAUTY AND NAILS/SOMATOLOGY we learn that the main function of the lymph nodes is to filter out excess fluid and waste products. The average person has approximately 600 to 700 lymph nodes. Lymphocytes (specialized white blood cells) that kill pathogens that might be present are found in the lymph nodes.

Lymph fluid depends on muscle contractions in the surrounding skeletal muscles to move through the lymphatic vessels. However, surgery, medical conditions, aching or discomfort, hardening or thickening of the skin, and recurring infections can cause fluids to build up in your lymph system and your lymph nodes, a condition known as lymphedema.

If you wish to study HEALTH AND SKINCARE/MASSAGE THERAPY/BEAUTY AND NAILS /SOMATOLOGY, you will learn that in order to move waste fluids away from the damaged area, Manual lymphatic drainage massage, which uses gentle pressure, is a technique used to reduce lymphedema. MLD is a systemic, rhythmic method of purposefully stretching the skin to produce an increase in the volume of flow of the lymph fluid through the filtration system of the body.

When performing MLD, it’s important that the massage includes more than just the affected area. The entire body’s lymphatic system except for the head, right side of the chest, and right arm drain near the left shoulder. So, a massage should include all areas to drain properly.

How is lymphedema classified?

Lymphedema is commonly classified into stages based on its severity:

  • Stage 0 (latent). No visible changes are seen, but you may notice changes in sensation, often with achiness or tightness.
  • Stage 1 (mild). Swelling in the affected area can change throughout the day. The tissue will hold an indentation when you press on it (pitting edema). There are no permanent changes in the skin.
  • Stage 2 (moderate). There’s more permanent swelling where your tissue feels spongy to the touch. Inflammation and thickening of the skin occur.
  • Stage 3 (severe). There’s ongoing fluid retention. The affected area hardens and becomes very large. Skin changes are permanent, and there’s often a loss of function.

Areas of pitting edema respond to pressure. For example, when you press on the skin with your finger, it’ll leave an indentation, even after you remove your finger. Chronic pitting edema is often a sign of liver, heart, or kidney problems. It can also be a symptom of a problem with nearby veins.

Applying pressure to non-pitting edema, on the other hand, doesn’t cause any lasting indentation. It’s often a sign of a condition affecting the thyroid or lymphatic system.

Contraindications that apply to MLD include:

  • Congestive heart and renal failure
  • History of blood clot or stroke
  • Active Infection
  • liver problems
  • kidney problems

As a qualified therapist in HEALTH AND SKINCARE/MASSAGE THERAPY/BEAUTY AND NAILS /SOMATOLOGY, you would advise your client to do the following in order to manage their lymphedema amongst other things:

  • Use a compression sleeve/sock to prevent fluid buildup
  • Seeing a qualified therapist for in-office drainage massage
  • Drink water. Well-hydrated tissue helps move out waste materials
  • Try making a few lifestyle changes that will prevent the re-occurrence of the condition
  • Have your doctor take a look at the affected area
  • Perform a few limb exercises to assist with the muscle contractions
  • Pneumatic compression (vests or sleeves that are timed to inflate and deflate to stimulate the proper flow of lymphatic fluid.)

Other General causes of edema:

  • Exercise
  • Hot weather
  • Too much salt
  • Lymphedema
  • Preeclampsia
  • Psoriatic arthritis
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