Most people think of massage as a way to relax through the popular pressure stokes experienced in a spa or wellness environment. However, there are various other types of manual therapy that can be beneficial for various health conditions including manual lymphatic drainage, or MLD, and CranioSacral Therapy, or CST.

One of the things I love about massage is that one slight change in intention can change the effect of the treatment. For example, instead of performing a longer duration light-touch myofascial hold to release fascial tension, a therapist can perform short light-touch rhythmic grabs on sequential areas of tissue to encourage lymph drainage, otherwise known as MLD.

One specific way CST can be used is for the support of detoxification pathways. Lymphatic vessels are part of the brain, spinal cord, respiratory diaphragm, digestive system, and surrounding the pelvic region (1).

Detoxification Massage

Lymph fluid moves through the body by mostly passive means through body movement and breathing, and can range in health depending on the health of the connective tissue system and heart (2).

As described in a post on TMJD, in addition to direct manual therapy, I have found CST effective for promoting myofascial balance but also for releasing deeply engrained stress holding patterns. An observed pattern over the last year working on patients receiving Naturopathic care for chronic illness such as Lyme Disease, has been the positive support CST and manual therapy has for assisting detoxification pathways. Dr. Klinghardt details his method of rhythmic compressions for aiding the lymph flow from the brain to the heart. He also describes how swallowing while sleeping allows for adequate lymph drainage from the brain to the thoracic inlet (3).

I have witnessed that patients who are suffering from bruxism (clenching or grinding of the teeth) are likely not gaining the benefit of swallowing while sleeping because there is observable fluid retention and swelling around the throat, cheeks, and eyes in some, but not all patients. Once the suboccipitals, jaw, and cranium balance via membrane tension there is a noticeable increase in swallowing during the session. This may be an area of further study for patients who are in ongoing treatment for chronic illness such as Lyme Disease and neurological disorders. Massage and CST could be an adjunct treatment for assisting the detoxification process.

There are numerous lymphatics in the brain, which allow for fluid drainage down the neck, through the thoracic inlet beneath the collar bones, to be emptied into the subclavian vein to then be taken up by the heart (4).

Detoxification Massage

Any metabolic waste products such as histamine, corticosteroids, and noradrenaline have been found in the urine of patients with lymphedema, suggesting lymph drainage improving the clearance of these substances from edematous tissues (2).

In conjunction with Naturopathic care, chronically ill patients can receive herbal support for the removal of this build-up of metabolic waste in addition to toxic wastes found in our food, air, medicines, and water supply such as heavy metals. ND’s often use binders to stick to these waste products to help remove them from the system. However, if you’ve been sick for a long period of time and there is toxic build-up or congested lymph and connective tissue, the substances may not be adequately removed and could benefit from the manual assistance of CST or MLD techniques, as well as the instruction and application of diaphragmatic breathing (what I refer to 3-D breathing), yoga asana practice that involves twisting and deep breathing, as well as rhythmic movement such as walking, rebounding, or WBV (5).

  1. Lymphatic System. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lymphatic_system#/media/File:Blausen_0623_LymphaticSystem_Female.png

2. Manual Lymphatic Drainage. Clinical Massage Therapy. Rattray and Ludwig.

3. Klinghardt, Dietrich. Sophia Institute. https://www.sophiahi.com/videos/

4. Lymphatic System University of New Mexico. http://www.unm.edu/~jimmy/lymphatic_system.jpg

5. Scrivens, Dave. Certified Lymphologist. Wellbeing Journal- Rebounding. https://www.wellbeingjournal.com/rebounding-good-for-the-lymph-system/