What is it?
One of the 11 organs systems of the body that is made of specific vessels, tissues (lymph nodes, lymphatic vessels, tonsils) and organs (spleen, thymus). It is also affiliated with circulatory, immune system and digestive system.
The fluid in the lymphatic system is called lymph, which is clear and circulates like blood and runs towards the heart.
FACT: There are 600 lymph nodes in the body surrounding muscles, vessels and organs.
What does it do?
It has a key role in fighting infection (immune system), balancing fluid in the body (circulatory system) and absorption of fat and fat-soluble nutrients (digestive system).
When one has an infection, the lymph nodes swell in a such response, due to a build up of lymph fluid, bacteria, or immune system cells.This enables for the body to communicate to the immune system to send the army to fight the infection.
For example, a person who presents with throat infection may feel that their glands are swollen.The swollen glands can be felt under the jaw, armpits or groin area. However what you are feeling are not glands but lymph nodes.
Usually the body’s own healing mechanism is able to fight off the infection and therefore the swollen nodes go away. But if this is not occurring it is important to seek medical advice.
As a physio who has a special interest in treating fascia, my approach to lymphatic system is to allow smoother exchange between the fluid system, remembering the fascia surrounds every tissue in the body (including the lymphatic system). In addition, breathing techniques, correct positioning of the body, specific manual therapy and exercise/movement can assist the lymphatic system.
It is also important to remember that there are specific pathological conditions that require medical intervention or specialised intervention. For example lymphodema requires approaches such as pressure garments or bandaging to assist the individual to manage this condition.