The Mechanical Movement of Lymph

lymphatic system Apr 01, 2020

Thank your body for doing thousands of things without you even having to think about it. 

You take a bite of a sandwich, and after chewing and swallowing, your job is done. The digestive system largely takes over from there. You bang your head on the edge of the pool, and after a couple of stitches and a bandage, your circulatory system comes to the rescue to heal the wound. Your brain and nervous system receive information via your eyes, ears, nose, and touch, alerting you to environmental dangers, as well as pleasurable opportunities. You fall asleep each night and your body grows, heals, rests, recuperates, and stores energy for you to get up and do life again the next day. All without much conscious intervention on your part.

The lymphatic system also functions with or without your help. But if you want to increase its immunity-building capabilities, you can actually do something about it. Like a bodybuilder works to define her muscles, your behavior actually facilitates a healthy lymphatic system. 

A lifestyle that includes daily movement and breathing keeps your lymph moving.

The reason movement is so important to your lymphatic system has to do with the way the lymph vessels function. In a normal, healthy body, it’s all about pressure build-up in the tissues. 

The lymph system is composed of lymph vessels, sections of lymphangions, which pump lymph toward your lymph nodes. Lymph vessels propel lymph only after they fill with lymph. When the pressure inside a lyphangion fills to capacity, it ejects the lymph into the next lymphangion. 

The mechanical process of lymph movement

The structure of a lymphangion is a dynamic composition of flaps that create a valve of sorts. These flaps are actually attached via thin filaments to the tissues within which they reside. (Figure 1)

When the tissues plump with interstitial fluid due to inflammation, heat, or trauma; the filament grows taut. It pulls on the flap of the lymphangion. As the flaps are pulled open, the lymphangion fills with fluid. (Figure 2)

The pressure inside the lymphangion increases, causing the flaps to close. The fluid pressure moves from outside to inside. (Figure 3)

Once this takes place, the inner fluid of the lymphangion can no longer stay. The valve connecting the more distal lymphangion opens and the fluid is pushed mechanically up toward the next successive lymphangion. (Figure 4)

Fluid is moving closer and closer to its destination –– the lymph node. It can only move in one direction. The process repeats every two or three seconds, in an easy rhythmic fashion.

You can encourage lymphatic flow with practice

This process will continue on its own with no help from you. But if you want to encourage the healthy movement of your fluids, you can cause the natural pressure to build in your tissues. How?

  • Through physical activity and exercise.
  • Through breathing, especially deep breathing, every day.
  • And through periodic manual lymphatic drainage.

Activating your tissues activates your lymphatic system and keeps fluid from stagnating. Your body fights inflammation, builds immunity, and thrives in a state of fluidity and movement. 

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