Recently I flew to the East Coast to see my parents and go to a meeting. Two plane flights from Spokane to Denver and then on to Baltimore, Maryland. Well you know how you feel after you sit for that long a period of time. Your legs are stiff and your ankles look like they are two sizes too big for you. This is a time when you really need your lymph system to be up and running so not all this fluid collects just because you are sedentary.
The lymph system is an important system for your daily function. It works together with the cardio-vascular system and the immune system to absorb, collect and transport fluid and protein molecules. It has an important role against infection and tumor growth.
There are four easy ways to make sure your lymph system is up and running everyday, but it means you have to find time in your day to take care of yourself.
1) Exercise- Exercise activates the Muscle pump to enhance the flow of your lymph system. An example would be when you fly; you should do ankle pumps and ankle circles. You need to slide your foot back and forth bending your knee to pump the lymph nodes behind your knee. Then stand in the aisle and squat up and down for 2 mins. These things as simple as they are keeping are lymph system up and going.
2) Breathing- Deep belly breathing is an easy thing to do throughout your day. You can do it in any position, sitting, standing, or laying down. Stop now and put your hand on your tummy just over your belly region. Inhale deeply and slowly to the count of 4 and then exhale slowly to the count of 4. This deep breathing stops the stress response and stops the cycle of the release of cortisol, which is hard on the body when too much is being released into your system everyday. As those of you who do Yoga know this slows down your heart rate and decreases your blood pressure and you can take a mini vacation anywhere you are.
3) Skin massage- Gentle massage of your skin towards your heart. 10 mins everyday. Do it while you put on your lotion in the morning and at night. Your lymph system likes this gentle motion and stretch of the skin, it stimulates the body to mobilize any debris hanging around.
4) Arterial perfection- All this means is that we want to increase the blood flow to all our body parts which in turn will help motivate our lymph system to be more efficient. Walking, biking, and swimming are easy ways to accomplish this. All you need is 30 mins a day. The lymph system especially likes swimming. The water makes a natural pressure gradient that keeps the lymph system very happy.
Here’s to your lymph system. Take care of it and it will take care of you.
Author Sheree DiBiase, PT is the owner of Lake City Physical Therapy. She specializes in women’s health, lymphedema and breast cancer care. She has over 30+ years of experience practicing. If you have questions, reach out to here via Lake City PT’s Facebook.