Cleanse and Maintain: Your Lymphatic System – Part 2

In our last Blog post we discussed the important roles of the lymphatic system and its role in the immune system and defense of your body.  The next 2 roles of your lymphatic system are to cleanse the tissues and maintain the fluid balance. The lymphatic system is best known for its work to clean the tissues. Many times you will hear the lymph system referred to as the “sewer system” of your body.

The fluid that leaves the capillaries and delivers oxygen and nutrients to the cells and tissues of our body also picks up waste products from the tissues. If this fluid contains large protein molecules or is too toxic to be brought back into general circulation, it is picked up by the lymphatic capillaries. The lymphatic system then delivers this “dirty” fluid to the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes are the “washing machine” of the lymphatic system.  The fluid that contains waste products is cleaned of toxins and proteins by the lymph nodes.

The lymph nodes have lymphocytes that cleanup the bacteria, viruses, and debris. These nodes concentrate the fluid and send the purified fluid back into general circulation and dispose of the toxic substances. The fluid must be clear and safe before it goes back to the heart. Once the fluid is cleaned, the Lymphatic System returns the fluid into use so that the fluid levels stay balanced. Over the course of a day, 30 liters of fluids are exchanged between the capillaries and the tissues.  Typically, 27 liters come back in safely without needing to be cleaned. That leaves 3 liters of “dirty” fluid that needs cleaning. Once cleaned, the 3 liters of fluid are returned into circulation by the lymph system to keep the blood pressure regulated and its job is done. 

Why is Your Lymphatic System So Important?

Do you know what your lymphatic system does? Or the role it plays in keeping you healthy?  When I ask my patients if they know anything about their lymphatic system, they typically say they know they have one but don’t know what’s it for or how it works. 

Your lymphatic system is sometimes called your second circulatory system. Your first circulatory system is the heart, arteries, veins and capillaries. This system transports the blood throughout your body.  The lymphatic system has a series of vessels and nodes that transport the lymph throughout the body.

There are 5 main functions that the lymph system performs. 

  • Defense
  • Cleaning of the tissues
  • Fluid balance
  • Transportation
  • Nutrition

Let’s just talk about the first function – Defense.

Approximately 70% of your superficial lymph system is just under the surface of your skin.  This acts as a barrier to external toxins, bacteria, and viruses trying to enter your system.  If toxic substances get through the skin, the lymphatic system is the first system to attack the invaders.

The lymph system carries lymphocytes that are part of the immune system. These lymphocytes, white blood cells, T Cells, and B cells help protect our bodies by attracting and destroying foreign invaders.

It is important to keep our lymphatic system strong and healthy. This will help protect you from colds, flues and viruses. Lymphatic Balancing is a great manual therapy technique that can keep your immune system strong and healthy.

How Does Your Body Heal After Knee Replacement?

As we age we all will experience aches and pains…sometimes minor, sometimes major.. We can actually wear out parts of our body from years of wear and tear. If that happens and the damage is too severe, you may need to replace a knee or hip joint. Ultimately, you want to take care of your body to prevent needing joint replacements. But, unfortunately, the body doesn’t come with an owner’s manual that tells us when to change our oil or tune-up our engines.

If you do need to get a knee replaced, there is a sequence that the body goes through to heal.  One of the first reactions to the trauma of having a knee replaced is swelling. Swelling is a normal reaction post-surgery.  But swelling can prevent healing if it persists. 


In the rehab phase of a total knee replacement, reducing the swelling is one of the first stages.  In order for the knee to heal it needs fresh blood bringing new nutrients and oxygen to the area.  So the swelling needs to be reduced to allow for fresh blood to bring in the good stuff. If your knee is swollen and stagnant, there is no room for more fresh blood to get into the knee.

Using Kinesiotape is one way to improve the lymphatic drainage of a knee. The tape has a slight stretch that promotes lymphatic drainage when applied correctly.  This will enhance the body’s natural processes of reducing the swelling.  Once that occurs the healing can continue.

As we age we all will experience aches and pains…sometimes minor, sometimes major.. We can actually wear out parts of our body from years of wear and tear. If that happens and the damage is too severe, you may need to replace a knee or hip joint. Ultimately, you want to take care of your body to prevent needing joint replacements. But, unfortunately, the body doesn’t come with an owner’s manual that tells us when to change our oil or tune-up our engines.

If you do need to get a knee replaced, there is a sequence that the body goes through to heal.  One of the first reactions to the trauma of having a knee replaced is swelling. Swelling is a normal reaction post-surgery.  But swelling can prevent healing if it persists. 


In the rehab phase of a total knee replacement, reducing the swelling is one of the first stages.  In order for the knee to heal it needs fresh blood bringing new nutrients and oxygen to the area.  So the swelling needs to be reduced to allow for fresh blood to bring in the good stuff. If your knee is swollen and stagnant, there is no room for more fresh blood to get into the knee.

Using Kinesiotape is one way to improve the lymphatic drainage of a knee. The tape has a slight stretch that promotes lymphatic drainage when applied correctly.  This will enhance the body’s natural processes of reducing the swelling.  Once that occurs the healing can continue.

Watch this slideshow on how to tape a knee to reduce the swelling and bruising after having total knee replacement surgery.

Thanksgiving: Time to Count Your Blessings?

This is a good time of year to reflect and count our blessings from the past year. Thanksgiving is in a few weeks,  a time for friends and families to share a meal and celebrate the holiday season.  We are lucky to live in this great country and to have the opportunities we do.  This year I have had the privilege to teach manual therapy courses and travel both around the country and internationally.  When you get out of your home environment you can compare other regions of the world to what you have at home.  Even if it is going to the next town or across the state, there are differences, both good and bad. 

It’s all about your perspective.  Our perspective shapes our thoughts and feelings about things.  Those of us used to living in the United States take a lot of things for granted based on our perspective and experiences.  For instance, it costs about $35 to fill up the gas tank in my car here in Sarasota. When I was traveling in New Zealand this year, it cost $70-$80 to fill  my rental that had a smaller gas tank than my car at home!  So when we think gas prices are high here in the states, it’s all relative.

I had the great fortune to teach two courses in Canada this year. I am grateful they have such a good educational system for the therapists in Canada. It made teaching advanced work much easier because of the skill sets of the therapists taking my classes.  Teaching in the U.S. is different because each state has different standards and educational requirements. Yet, when I was in the Cook Islands, the therapists didn’t even have educational requirements. It’s all about your perspective.

So I can say I am truly grateful and blessed to live in this country and have the opportunity to teach around the world.  I love my manual therapy practice in Sarasota, Florida and grateful for the patients who honor me by trusting their healthcare to me. I am also grateful for my wife, family, and friends.  These are just a few of the things I am grateful for. 

What are you grateful for?

Hurricane Safety Tips For Your Back

Yes, we are in the middle of yet another hurricane season.  It is important to prepare for rain, high winds, and possible flooding when a storm is approaching your area.  But you also need to take care of your body and back when preparing for storms.  I see a lot of patients this time of year due to back spasms and strains from lifting and carrying heavy objects in preparation for storms. 

Here are some does and don’ts when preparing for the next big storm.

Give yourself plenty of time to prepare.  If you do a little each day to get ready, you are less likely to over exert yourself with your preparations. Take your time and do a little over several days, instead of trying to get everything ready in a few short hours.  This will be less strenuous on your back.  We get at least a week’s notice if a storm is heading our way. Use that time wisely.

Ask for help. Remember you don’t need to do everything by yourself.  If you need things moved or storm shutters put up, ask a friend or neighbor to help you. During emergencies people are more willing to help out, but you need to ask.  It will make them feel good knowing they helped out a friend or neighbor in need. So don’t be embarrassed to ask for help.

Now for the don’ts.

Don’t lift objects that you normally would not if a storm was not coming.  I ask my patients how they hurt their back and they tell me all the things they did to prepare for the storm.  They lift and carry things they normally would not try to lift if a storm was not coming. Watch this video to see why your back gets hurt from lifting things that are too heavy.   Just because a storm is coming it doesn’t give you superhero strength. 

Don’t be inundated by the news and weather reports.  Yes you need to stay informed but you don’t need to be obsessive with watching the news.  The stress of news can make your whole body tighten up. Your psychological state of mind has a physiological reaction in your body. That reaction to emotional stress is tighter muscles.  So when you are stressed form watching too much news you are more likely to hurt your back because you are starting out with tight muscles before you do an activity.

What Are the Essentials for a Long Plane Flight?

After a trip to New Zealand, 24 hours of travel time door to door, I have learned a few things about the essentials needed to make your trip more comfortable.  Travel has changed a lot over the years and more people are flying.  So, your comfort on the plane will make a big difference in how you arrive at your destination. I found these items essential to being comfortable, or as comfortable as possible on a plane for a 15 hour leg, from Houston to Auckland New Zealand!

Starting with items from your head down to your feet-

  1. BLANKETS & PILLOWS. If you fly on a long flight the airline will provide a blanket and pillow. However, you will still need a neck pillow. Keeping your neck supported on the flight will make it easier to sleep. You ask why don’t I use the airline pillow? I do use it, but for my lower back. Airline seats have gotten smaller and have NO lumbar support. So I use the airline pillow to provide lumbar support. Then you will need a neck pillow to keep your head supported and prevent a stiff neck.
  2. NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES. I didn’t realize how much the noise on planes disturbs your ability to sleep. My wife had a pair on our last trip and she let me try them. So I ran out and got a pair for this latest trip.  And I can personally testify that you sleep much better on the plane when you can block out all the noise for the engine and other passengers.
  3. CHANGE OF CLOTHES, Fourth is a change of clothes and socks in your carry-on. You never know if the plane will be too hot or too cold. So having a change of clothes will give you options to keep your body temperature at a comfortable level. And traveling for long periods increases our chances for spilling food or drinks on yourself if the plane hits turbulence, or the flight attendant has an accident. The extra socks are important so you can take off your shoes while you are seated. Taking off your shoes can help your feet and legs be more comfortable while flying.
  4. TOOTHBRUSH/TOOTHPASTE. When you travel for 24 hours straight, it’s nice to be about to brush your teeth along the way. Something so simple make you feel more refreshed when you get to your destination.

These are just a few tips to make your long flights more enjoyable and arriving at your destination more rested and refreshed.

What Happens to Your Body When You Experience Trauma?

Have you ever had a fall, injury or other trauma? It could be as simple as a fall off your bike, a slip on the ice, or something bigger, like a car accident. 

When your body experiences trauma there is a physiological response the body goes through to protect itself.  The body’s response is always the same if the trauma is severe enough. Here is a Trauma Flow Chart that explains the process.

Trauma Flowchart

TRAUMA

INFLAMMATION

FIBROUS TISSUE/RESTRICTIONS

CHANGE IN TISSUES

COMPENSATION & OR SYMPTOMS

When you have a TRAUMA to your body, an inflammatory response occurs to the injured tissues.  The damaged tissues create a chemical response in the body. Typically when your tissues are damaged by trauma the blood and proteins leak out of the blood vessels. These proteins attract water and cause INFLAMATION and swelling in the region of the trauma. 

This triggers an immune response that starts a change in the tissue structures.  The body starts laying down more collagen tissue to help repair the damaged area. The collagen is stiff, FIBROUS TISSUE that acts as extra support for the damaged area.  This tougher, denser tissue will start to RESTRICT normal movement of the injured area.

Typically, muscles and connective tissue are made up of elastin and collagen. The elastin give us flexibility and the collagen gives us stability.  So when we have a trauma the body tries to protect and support the area by laying down more collagen fibers, leading to a CHANGE IN TISSUES.

Because this change in your tissues is made up of stiffer, more ridged connective tissue, your normal function is impeded. Because we don’t have the same flexibility in the traumatized area, our body has to COMPENSATE for these changes.  The compensation leads to SYMPTOMS locally at the sight of trauma and in many cases, if left untreated, the symptoms can manifest anywhere in your body.

That explains why the trauma to your tailbone, when you fall on the ice, can lead to headaches, if left untreated.

Why Do Sprained Ankles Take So Long To Heal?

Have you ever sprained your ankle? Maybe twisting it on the edge of the curbstone?  If you have a minor injury to your ankle it can swell, turn black & blue, and sometimes be painful to walk on. But why does a simple injury like a sprained ankle take so long to heal?

To understand the complexity of an ankle injury you need to look at the anatomy.

The ankle is made of several bones held together by ligaments. The ligaments give the ankle stability and have less flexibility than a tendon or muscle. The tendons are what attach the muscles to the bones of the foot and ankle.

Depending on the severity or grade of the injury to the ankle, some or all of the anatomical structures can be damaged when you sprain your ankle. The tendons and ligaments are less vascular, meaning they have less blood flow.  This is because they are more like ropes or cables. In comparison, muscles are more like sponges and are more vascularized.

Circulation is one of the keys to healing. So, when you injure a tendon or ligament, it will take longer to heal because tendons and ligaments are less vascularized. A muscle, on the other hand, naturally has more blood flow which can promote faster healing. So a sprained ankle can take up to 12 weeks to heal if you injured the ligaments and tendon.

If you sprain your ankle it is best to use ice, rest, and elevate the foot and ankle to help reduce swelling.  Sometimes wrapping it with an ace bandage can reduced the pain when you walk. After your ankle starts to heal you may need to do some exercises to help stabilize your ankle. Watch this simple ankle exercise to speed your recovery.

How Long Will It Take?

How long does it take to get better? I get that question all the time in my practice, from patients seeking treatment for everything from headaches and back pain, to plantar fasciitis. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to that question. There are several factors that have to be considered in order to provide an answer to that question. Let’s explore these factors and discuss when you should seek help in the first place.

Nervous executives waiting for interview

One of the first things I ask my patient about their condition is, “How long ago did it start?” I have patients who come to see me the day after a car accident. Then I have patients who tell me they have had back pain for the past 30 years! The length of time you have had this pain plays a large role in how fast you will heal. The quicker you can get treatment, the faster your body can heal. The longer you wait to seek help, the more your body learns to compensate for an injury. Compensation patterns will increase the amount of time your body needs to heal.

The severity of your injury is the second factor that has to be taken into consideration. The more severe the injury, the longer it may take to heal. If your injury is minor, your potential to heal fast is greater. But that is not always the case.

Other factors that need to be considered are:
• Your age
• How many other injuries have you had in your life
• Your activity level,
• Your diet,
• How well you sleep
• and your mental state – just to name a few
Now you have to take all these factors, and few more, and see how the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fits together. So there is no easy answer to how long does it take to heal after an injury.

But the general rule is, if you’re not seeing improvement in your condition after an injury within 2 weeks, you should seek outside help. Now that being said, if you have an injury and a bone is sticking out of your skin, you may not want to wait 2 weeks to see if it starts healing!

How Does The Time Change Effect Your Body Clock?

According to the American Massage Therapy Association, research has shown that massage therapy can help improve mood, alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression, and reset circadian rhythms. The result? Improved sleep and more energy.

Back relaxing massage

Improved Mood

The Research: A randomized study of 34 women with stage 1 or 2 breast cancer examined how massage therapy impacted depression and anxiety levels. The massage therapy group received a 30-minute massage three times per week for five weeks, which consisted of stroking, squeezing and stretching techniques to the head, arms, legs, feet and back. The control group received no intervention. Study participants were assessed on the first and last day of the study, and assessment included both immediate effects measures of anxiety, depressed mood and vigor, as well as longer term effects on depression, anxiety and hostility, functioning, body image and coping styles. A subset of 27 women also had blood draw to assay immune measures.

 The Results. The immediate massage therapy effects included reduced anxiety, depressed mood and anger. Longer term effects included reduced depression and hostility, as well as increased serotonin values, NK cell number and lymphocytes.

Serotonin, a neurotransmitter with functions in various parts of the body, works to regulate mood, appetite, sleep, memory and learning.

 Better Sleep

In another study examining the effect of massage therapy on the adjustment of circadian rhythms in full-term infants, researchers measured the rest-activity cycles of infants before and after 14 days of massage therapy, starting at 10 days old and again at six and eight weeks of age.

Rest-activity cycles were measured by actigraphy, and 6-sulphatoxymelatonin excretion was assessed in urine samples at six and eight weeks of age. The concentration of 6-sulphatoxymelatonin in urine correlates well with the level of melatonin in the blood, and melatonin is what helps control sleep and wake cycles.

At 12 weeks, nocturnal 6-sulphatoxymelatonin excretions were significantly higher in the infants receiving massage therapy than those in the control group, suggesting that massage therapy can enhance coordination of the developing circadian system with environmental cues.