Medical Massage

Recent studies prove the beneficial effects of manual lymphatic drainage massage

Massage therapy reduces activity of the sympathetic nervous system / Hawaiian Experience Spa

A new study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience shows the positive effects of manual lymphatic drainage massage on the sympathetic nervous system.  The sympathetic nervous system is the part of the autonomic nervous system that makes the body react under stress producing the fight or flight response.  This response helps the body deal with emergencies by releasing hormones, including epinephrine (adrenaline), into the blood stream causing a number of physiological effects such as increasing the heart rate, dilating the pupils, constricting blood vessels, and inhibiting digestion.

The study which was designed to investigate the effects of manual lymph drainage massage therapy on the cardiac autonomic tone was conducted on 32 healthy male individuals and found “that the application of MLD (Manual Lymphatic Drainage) was effective in reducing the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.

The fight or flight response initiated by the sympathetic nervous system is critical in our survival and is very effective in increasing our ability to defend ourselves or to escape from dangerous situations.  However, in cases of chronic “mental” stress, the sympathetic nervous system remains active, suppressing the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and relax part of the autonomic nervous system).  This creates an unhealthy state in the body and can lead to many disorders and symptoms associated with chronic stress.

Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) massage is a gentle massage in which the therapist uses special massage strokes to accelerate and enhance the flow of lymphatic fluid. Your lymphatic system is a network of vessels and fluid located just below your skin.  Its main function in the body is to remove toxins from your system by absorbing them into your lymph then transporting them to lymph nodes where they are purified. If the toxin is a bacteria or virus your lymphocytes and natural killer cells will attempt to destroy the invader before it spreads.

MLD has long been proven to enhance the immune system by studies conducted in the University of Miami School of Medicine and others.  It is also believed to directly affect the parasympathetic nervous system making the massage a very relaxing experience to most clients.  This new study shows that MLD also affects the sympathetic nervous system directly and could possibly lead to MLD being used as a treatment for post traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and other conditions in which the sympathetic nervous system is involved in the disorder.

Massage therapy is becoming part of the main stream medical community and is moving further away from its classification by some as “alternative medicine” with each new study published.  Medical massage therapies, such as Manual Lymphatic Drainage, can and are being used by millions of Americans to treat a growing variety of disorders.   Doctors often refer patients for massage therapy, because they know of it effectiveness and lack of side effects, despite the fact the most medical insurance companies still do not pay for this branch of medicine.

Perhaps someday insurance companies will start paying for medically prescribed massage therapy thereby enabling millions more patients to experience its benefits and avoid the long term use of unwanted medications.

For more information see:

International Journal of Neuroscience. 2009;119(8):1105-17. Effects of manual lymph drainage on cardiac autonomic tone in healthy subjects. Kim SJ, Kwon OY, Yi CH. Department of Physical Therapy, Kangwon National University, Kangwon-do, 245-711, Republic of Korea.

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  1. Pingback: Reduce stress with a manual lymphatic drainage massage in Scottsdale, AZ | Hawaiian Experience Spa

  2. Any treatments that assist the immune system works for me! I’m very interested in this.

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  4. A single study can not prove any thing, this is misleading.
    It can show that this therapy has potential benefits, nothing more. This is especially true of a small study with only 32 subjects.

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