Your lymphatic system moves lymph (the clear fluid that travels through the lymphatic system and carries cells that help fight infections and other diseases, also called lymphatic fluid) from the body’s tissues back into the bloodstream. When your lymphatic network is impaired, a home lymphatic drainage technique called “dry brushing” is one part of a routine that can help.
If you move your fingers down the inside of your lower legs along the edge of the tibia bone, it is likely that you will find some tender gummy areas or a bit of swelling. Within a Chinese medicine paradigm this acupuncture pathway (called a meridian) is part of a system responsible for fluid distribution throughout the body. When impaired, “dampness” begins to accumulate along the channel which can lead to further disruption in overall fluid metabolism. Performing a daily lymphatic drainage technique called dry brushing may help to break this cycle.
Your lymphatic vessels are most numerous on the insides of the arms and legs, and are superficial under the skin. Before a shower, with a natural bristle brush, the protocol is to sweep upward from your ankles to your torso and from your wrists toward your chest for several minutes. Ask your health care provider if this exercise is safe for you. Women who have had lymph nodes removed may require a lymphatic drainage specialist to manually reroute lymph toward alternate nodes and some cases of edema require advanced bandaging techniques.
The lymphatic vessels contain segmental valves that open in only one direction and do not pump on their own. Exercise, stretching, massage and dry brushing are ways to stimulate the vessels to pick up more waste from the interstitial space. Nutrition, acupuncture and herbal medicine can also be helpful.
The term damp in Oriental medicine can refer to a palpable mass such as a fibroid, mucus accumulation in the lungs, edema in the limbs, or a pattern of insubstantial phlegm misting the heart orifices or mind which can lead to brain fog and psycho-emotional symptoms. By increasing the efficiency of lymphatic circulation, the roots of these patterns seem to have a much better chance of resolving.
Cheryl Weatherby is a licensed acupuncturist and anatomist with the Center for Acupuncture and Craniosacral Therapy in Columbia.