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Lymphatic Facilitation

Find a professional for Lymphatic Facilitation in Seattle

Lymphatic Facilitation, also called Lymphatic Massage or Lymphatic Drainage Massage (LDM), is a form of massage used to increasing the healing process and the function of the nervous, lymph and muscular systems.  Lymph is a clear colorless fluid comprised of water, cellular components, fatty acids, and proteins.  Its function is to move these components back to the blood, balance the body's fluids, and remove bacteria from the system.  Lymph circulation is improved through gentle, slow, rhythmic movements made in a specific direction and progression on the patient's body. LDM is most commonly used to treat lymphedema.  It is also effective in the treatment of colitis, edema, colds, arthritis, allergy conditions, psoriasis and sinus conditions.   Increased occurrence of lymphedema in the United States has increased the practice of LDM.

Alexander Von Winiwarter, a Belgian surgeon, developed techniques to treat swollen arms and legs in the 1890s.  Emil and Astid Vodder further developed Von Winiwarter's techniques in the 1930s in a system called manual lymph drainage (MLD).  LDM practiced in the United States today was modeled after MLD.  MLD is also currently practiced in North America and Europe.  In the 1970s Michael and Ethel Foldi, two Hungarian physicians, developed Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) by combining MLD with other therapies.  CDT is aimed at treating lymphedema through bandaging, exercise, skin care, and massage.
LDM is an excellent form of therapy for the many conditions discussed above.  However, there are certain conditions that are contraindicative of LDM.    These include malignant tumors, phlebitis, infection, thrombosis and major heart problems.  It is also important that LDM be used with extreme caution in any condition that can be complicated or exacerbated by increased lymph circulation.  Examples of these types of conditions are asthma, congestive heart failure, thyroid conditions, kidney disorders, menstruation and cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.  It is also recommended by the National Lymphedema Network that patients taking anticoagulants for vascular disease be screened for blood clots prior to treatment with close monitoring.  If pain or infection occurs associated with lymphatic drainage, treatment should be discontinued until it is resolved.
Massage therapists, nurses, naturopathic physicians, occupational therapists, and osteopaths practice LDM.  A variety of institutions offer training programs throughout the country for the practice of LDM.  These training programs usually entail between 30-130 class hours.

Author: Bronwyn Bacon, ND Candidate '09


PJ Benjamin, PhD, FM Tappan, PT, EdD, Handbook of Haling Massage Techniques, 2005:268-277.

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