Osteopathic Manual Therapy and the Lymphatic System

Osteopathic manual therapists view the body as one whole functional unit. This means that problems in one area of the body will eventually have an impact on all other areas. If you want to improve the body’s inborn ability to heal itself, it is important to know how different areas are connected and how these connections can be leveraged to improve health.

Let’s look at the diaphragm as it relates to edema in the lower legs to show just a few connections throughout the body.

Along with the heart, the diaphragm is the most important pump in the body. It does not just pump air into the lungs. It also pumps lymphatic fluid as pressures against the lymphatic vessel walls increase and decrease with every breath cycle. This pumping takes place in both the chest and in the abdomen.

Several things need to be looked at to fully address the diaphragm. Nervous system control is optimized by addressing tensions along the diaphragm’s nerve pathway, from the upper and middle neck and down through the chest. The diaphragm’s attachment points along the lower ribs and low back are also addressed. Structures in the upper and middle abdomen are also looked at to ensure the diaphragm’s mobility. Of course, the diaphragm itself is addressed to ensure it can move fully so that each breath not only delivers air to the lungs but also creates pressure changes that assist the movement of lymph through their vessels.

Similar approaches are taken regarding the small intestine with its large number of lymphatic vessels and nodes. Following the lymphatic pathways to the leg, we address the hip and pelvic region and their local lymphatic nodes. The lower leg itself contains structures that act as fluidic pumps that can also be assessed and normalized.

These are just a few examples of how manual osteopathy might consider the whole body to prepare for specific work on the lymphatic system. The exact approach will depend on the issues the patient presents with. Keep in mind that this approach not only helps lymphatic flow but will likely improve the function of the areas addressed and overall health. When this approach is used along with specific osteopathic lymphatic work or Manual Lymphatic Drainage, the results can be life-changing.

Steve Brophy has completed all coursework and clinical practice in the 5-year program at Collège d’Études Ostéopathiques, Halifax campus. To book an appointment for manual therapy with Steve, click the BOOK NOW link in the menu or call (902) 425-7795.