The lymphatic system comprises of a network of capillary-like vessels that web through just about every tissue of the body, plus a surprising assortment of organs and tissues including the spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and of course, lymph nodes. There are a lot of complexities in this system, so I'll just focus on the parts relevant to lymph drainage as a therapy. This system is what collects excess fluid from all over the body, taking with it the cellular waste that results from normal cellular activity. However, it doesn't have a handy pump to keep things moving along like the heart does for the circulatory system. Instead, it relies on the movement of nearby contracting muscles to keep the lymph flowing. Usually this is taken care of in movement of everyday living, but when that isn't enough for one reason or another (blockage, too few lymph vessels in an area, to much or too little pressure on the vessels, and many more possibilities) the tissue can start to swell. Lymph movement is crucial in the process of wound healing. You may be familiar with the yellowish crust of dried fluid that appears around a cut as it heals, or the clear liquid that fills a blister on a burn. Both are the lymphatic system delivering fluid and nutrients that help supply cells with what they need to build healthy tissue. The lymphatic system is also a large part of the immune system and produces cells that fight infection. The lymph nodes are well known for swelling up when your body is fighting an illness. That’s because infection-fighters (lymphocytes) filter through the lymph fluid at the lymph nodes and seek out and destroy foreign bodies in order to prevent sickness or help you recover from it.
When all these pieces are working efficiently and in perfect harmony, you probably won’t even stop to think about your lymphatic system. When it doesn’t work quite as it should, the results can be uncomfortable or even painful, and that’s where the therapy of Manual Lymph Drainage comes in.