Lymphatic Flow By Cathy McNeely, PT

April 16, 2018
Lymphatic Flow By Cathy McNeely, PT

Lymphatic Flow By Cathy McNeely

I have been a Physical Therapist since 1989.  Being a Certified Lymphedema Therapist with a background in orthopedics/sports medicine, I am always searching for innovative therapeutic exercises and natural remedies to improve lymphatic flow and return in my patients with swelling.

Complete Decongestive Therapy which involves Manual Lymph Drainage, use of compression (compression bandaging, vasopneumatic pumps, and/or compression garments) and remedial exercises is the standard for treating any chronic swelling in the body. Chronic swelling is generally thought of as swelling that lasts greater than 6 weeks.  The majority of time lymphedema therapists treat the superficial lymphatic system which is present in the tissues below skin, but above muscle.  The deep lymphatic system is present in the abdomen and each internal organ has lymph nodes associated with it.  The difference between regular body fluid and lymphatic fluid is mainly the presence of large protein molecules and fat cells.  During a twenty-four hour period, 2-4 liters of fluid are processed through our lymphatic system.  If there is a dysfunction in the venous and/or lymphatic system these large protein molecules can build up in the tissues causing hardness of skin and eventually fibrosis.  The good news is that the lymphatic system can be stimulated to take up the extra fluid and protein molecules so that skin can be soft again!

So knowing that what you take in your body is being circulated throughout might make you think twice about what you put in.  A diet that has lots of water, is low fat and low sodium, and full of fresh and frozen vegetables is what is recommended for lymphatic health.  An eating plan like this will help your system eliminate toxins and improve your immunity.  I have been informed of some unusual herbs that can assist with lymphatic drainage including :  Cleavers (Galium aparine), Calendula officinalis (Pot Marigold), Echinacea agustifolia (Narrow-leafed  pale Purple Cornflower), Astragalus (astragalus membranaceus), Dandelion (Taraxacm officinale),  Wild Indigo Root (Baptisia tinctoria), and others.  See HERBS That Promote Lymphatic Drainage, October 12, 2014 by Hillary Hilliard.

Occasionally I treat patients with swelling in their abdomen post-liposuction or other abdominal surgeries.  I began taking Pilates classes 17 years ago and I have taught a community Pilates class.  I saw the benefit of the timing of deep breathing with muscle contractions, especially of the pelvic floor, transverse abdominus, and iliopsoas to assist the lymphatic system in picking up more fluid.

Many times physicians have not been informed about how much Complete Decongestive Therapy can help their patients with swelling. These patient's swelling continues longer and becomes more severe over time. If you have swelling in your body you may need to ask your physician to refer you for this type of therapy.  At Therapy Achievements I am able to utilize the skills I have obtained over the years in both Complete Decongestive Therapy and Pilates-method exercise to benefit my patients.