What is the Lymphatic system?

The dreaded MelbourneLymph and heart winter is fast approaching and runny nosed, congested, cold and flu med popping patients are walking into the clinic. Is there anything that we can do to support our bodies through the change in the cooling, dampening climate? What is responsible for helping us process these nasty bugs?

Why the lymphatic system of course! What is the lymphatic system you ask?

Blood within the arteries travels through the small vessels into the tissues (interstitial fluid) to deliver nutrients to the cell. It then leaves the cells where about 90%  travels through the veins whilst 10% of the fluid becomes lymph. The Latin for “lympha” means water, clear water, a goddess of water. This clear fluid is then transported through various lymph nodes throughout the body which filter the fluid, removing waste and killing disease causing organisms. Filtered lymph continues towards the neck and enters the vein near the collarbones.

So when your bed-ridden, flu-fighting friend coughs on you, you are exposed to the virus and your immune system kicks into gear. Organs containing lymphoid tissue including the spleen, thymus and tonsils are alerted when a foreign invader is detected and produce white blood cells to fight the intruder. As a result of fighting the infection the increase in cell volume causes the lymph nodes to swell. These are the lumps in your neck that the doctor is checking for when you are sick.

Since being discovered by Hippocrates, the lymphatic system has been neglected comparative to it’s blood vessel brother. However more recent research concludes it’s importance as “the other, not secondary vascular system“.

We strike at the source of life and death when we go to the lymphatics” A.T. Still DO.

Osteopaths have long known about the importance of lymphatics, with treatment initially used for patients suffering infectious disease. While medicine was not then what it is now, their are some studies which support the use of osteopathic treatment as an adjunct in the treatment of these diseases. By reducing musculoskeletal restrictions in the body, Osteopaths can remove impediments to normal lymphatic drainage and circulation and aid in the healing process.

When you come in to get your neck looked at this winter, mention the cold you can’t shake and perhaps improving how the lymphatics function may help the body to fully overcome it.

See how you can boost your immune system this winter?

  1. Choi, I., S. Lee, and Y.-K. Hong. “The New Era Of The Lymphatic System: No Longer Secondary To The Blood Vascular System”. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine 2.4 (2012): a006445-a006445. Web. 6 May 2016.
  2. Hall, John E and Arthur C Guyton. Guyton & Hall Physiology Review. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders, 2006. Print.
  3. Hodge LM, Downey HF. 2011 Lymphatic pump treatment enhances the lymphatic and immune systems. Exp Biol Med Oct;236(10):1109-15
  4. Pepino VC, Ribeiro JD, Ribeiro MA, de Noronha M, Mezzacappa MA, Schivinski CI. 2013 Manual therapy for childhood respiratory disease: a systematic review. J Manipulative Physiol Ther Jan;36(1):57-65
  5. Schander A, Downey HF, Hodge LM. 2012 Lymphatic pump manipulation mobilizes inflammatory mediators into lymphatic circulation. Exp Biol Med (Maywood) Jan;237(1):58 -63
  6. Schander A, Padro D, King HH, Downey HF, Hodge LM. 2013 Lymphatic pump treatment repeatedly enhances the lymphatic and immune systems. Lymphat Res Biol Dec;11 (4):219-26
  7. Leduc O, Crasset V, Leleu C, Baptiste N, Koziel A, Delahaie C, Pastouret F, Wilputte F, Leduc A. 2011 Impact of manual lymphatic drainage on hemodynamic parameters in patients with heart failure and lower limb edema. Lymphology Mar;44(1):13-20.

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