The lymphatic system is a vast network of nodes and vessels that makes up part of the body’s immune system, fighting infection and disease. Nodes are small bean- shaped structures. Instead of carrying blood like the vascular system, the lymphatic system carries a fluid called lymph. This fluid consists mainly of water that is rich with white blood cells to fight off infection, such as bacterial, viral and fungal. Each day, several litres of fluid is lost from the vascular system. The lymphatic system helps to filter this, to prevent excessive fluid build up.
The main lymphatic organs in the body are the tonsils and adenoids, the spleen and the thymus. All these organs function together to create white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are used by the body to protect itself against foreign invaders that would otherwise do harm.
The lymphatic system is a one-way journey from the body towards the base of the neck, where it attaches into two large veins at either side. Once the lymph is brought to the veins, it is then filtered from the blood via the kidneys and the liver. Unlike the vascular system with it’s large and powerful pump, the heart, the lymphatic system relies entirely on muscles and joints to pump lymph through its vessels. The tightening of the muscles and closing of joints squeeze or push the lymph fluid along within the vessels.
When the lymphatic system becomes slowed in any way the body will struggle to work optimally.
When there is prolonged swelling in the ankle from arthritis, ankle sprain, fracture, or for any other reason, lymphatic blockages can occur. This most commonly occurs at the popliteal node which is located at the back of the knee. Edema in the lower leg can be painful and uncomfortable. Edema will slow the process of lymphatic drainage down, as well as reduce the efficiency at which the body is able to heal the injured tissue.
One of the largest lymph nodes in the body is situated at the base of the diaphragm, close to the spine. When we couple poor posture with the lack of diaphragmatic breathing, we restrict the amount of movement available at the diaphragm. This results in tight fascia and thus, lack of nourishment to the diaphragm (for more information on fascia see link below). It is important to remember that the lymphatic system needs the muscle pump for movement to occur. We must move to achieve optimal health.
There are many causes of lymphatic system blockage including sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, poor dietary choices, dehydration and many more. Again, the most important thing to remember is to move little and often, keeping in mind that the lymphatic system needs muscle tightening to work.
NO SYSTEM WORKS ALONE. NO SYSTEM GETS INJURED ALONE. NO SYSTEM HEALS ALONE.