The Lymphatic system works very closely with the cardiovascular system and includes lymph, lymphatics, lymph ducts, lymph nodes, lacteals, tonsils, spleen and the thymus gland. Lymph, the liquid that moves through this system, is derived from blood and fluid stored around cells. “Lymphatics collect excess tissue fluid, microorganisms, damaged cells, and protein molecules that are too large or too toxic to return directly to the blood stream” (Beck, 202).
Like the cardiovascular system, the lymph system has a series of vessels that its fluid moves through; however, the lymphatic system does not have a mechanical pump like the heart to help push the fluids through the vessels. Lymphatic fluid moves through these vessels (often against gravity!) solely due to muscle contractions, smooth muscles within the lymph vessels themselves, and the compression of skin against muscles. These contractions squeeze lymph through the lymphatic vessels similar to squeezing out a tube of toothpaste. As lymph travels through lymph vessels, it is filtered and microorganisms are killed in lymph nodes. Eventually, lymph recycles back into the blood stream to be used or eliminated.
Massage has been shown to increase the amount of white blood cells circulating through your blood and lymphatic system. White blood cells are largely responsible for immune function, as they help fight and kill harmful microorganisms. Additionally, by manually helping lymph drain during a massage, toxins and waste can be eliminated at an increased rate. Healthy tissue depends largely on good lymph circulation. Massage directly affects lymphatic flow in the area that is being worked, helping drain waste to its appropriate filters.