Drip, drop, drip

Written by consiliumclub on . Posted in A Little Connection, by Jen Richards Little, MSPT, CST

It has been raining here.  A lot.

I am looking out the window, and watching as one single raindrop lands on the glass.  Then gravity pulls it towards another drop and the two become a larger drop.  They are joined by a third, and are starting to leave a little trail behind them.  As they flow down the glass, the various trails meet up to make bigger channels, braiding together.  The bigger channels all converge at the bottom of the window, a puddle forming and growing until the water spills over the edge to create a waterfall that feeds into the large puddle at the edge of the house.  From here, the water runs with a slight current downhill towards the gutter where our yard meets the street, to flow into the tiny river that rushes to the sewer drain.

Anatomically speaking, I have also just described the lymphatic system.


The lymphatic system starts out as the fluid that surrounds each cell that flows through unorganized pathways, which lead to the larger collection areas, called lymphatic capillaries, and then into lymphatic collectors, then the lymphatic trunks and ducts, and eventually arriving into the nodes.  The fluid continues its migration through the nodes and ends up dumping into the aorta, the large blood vessel that enters the heart.  From here it gets pumped via the bloodstream to the different organs of the body for filtering.  And then it gets recycled back into the general fluid content of the body.

Eighty percent of the lymphatic system is superficial, living just under the surface of the skin.  The other twenty percent is around the deeper body cavity tissues.  The lymphatic system surrounds, supports, and cleanses the entire body.  It is a dynamic system having spiral smooth muscles throughout the channels called lymphangions.  These muscles contract and relax in waves, starting at one end of the tube and essentially milking the fluid to the other end, where it dumps into the heart.  It has direction, it has predictability.  It feels like a gentle moving stream, my hand drops in and gets pulled along the current.

A thin pine needle lands on the glass.  The water pools up behind it, until it finally cascades around it.

When there is too much fluid, whether it be from a trauma, surgery, chronic inflammation, or illness, the lymphangions get stretched open and then cannot fully contract, leading to more backup of fluid, more swelling.  The body tries its best to keep up, continuing to move the fluid however it can, using the normal pathways as able, and if there is overflow, it reroutes the fluid to the next open lymph node.  Just like water anywhere, when it gets blocked, it finds a way around.

This is where lymphatic drainage comes in.

The gentle massage technique locates the areas of congestion and then helps to milk the fluid through, decreasing the push on the lymphangions, and allowing them to more fully contract.  As the fluid gets milked out of the tube, this also creates a vacuum that pulls more fluid through.  As the lymph vessel begins to clear, the current under my fingers gets stronger.  Lymphatic drainage can also reroute the fluid back to the normal pathways, or if the normal pathways are permanently removed (as in some surgeries for cancer where they intentionally take lymph nodes) help the fluid find the most efficient path to take.  This sparks the body’s natural processes to kick in again, and with all the parts able to do their jobs again the body decreases any swelling.  Lymphatic drainage helps clear out the blocks to the fluid flow, opening up the rivers so they can resume their travels to the ocean.

I go outside and gently lift the pine needle off the glass.  The rain runs straight down the glass again.

I can’t help but smile and appreciate the beauty of moving fluid.

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