The lymphatic system is the body’s self-cleaning system. It is part of the circulatory system and works to remove toxins from your blood whilst carrying lymph (from the Latin 'lympha,' meaning water) towards the heart. Lymph is a clear fluid that contains amongst other things, white blood cells - your immune system’s defence against disease. The lymph nodes filter out bacteria, waste and other toxins from the lymph as it travels around your body, whilst signalling to launch an immune response (when we refer to our 'glands being up,' we are actually referring to swollen lymph nodes), when required.
Think of the lymphatic system as your bodyguard. For the purpose of this post, I am focusing on the lymph nodes located in your neck because during this time of year, as the seasons change, we are more likely to get colds, sore throats and see our skin morphing from a lovely golden hue to a faded version of our summer self.
Manual lymphatic drainage is a type of massage that stimulates the filtering of the lymph nodes. It is the most important facial massage you can do to remove toxins and maintain healthy, plump skin, not to mention keeping those colds at bay!
The image above shows you where the lymph nodes in your neck are located. A simple daily exercise is to make a ‘V’ sign with your first two fingers; place your index finger behind your ear and your middle finger in front of your ear. Start at the top of your ears and make small circular movements with your finger pads all the way down to the base of the ears where your jawline starts. Repeat this several times.
Eventually the lymph travels to one of two large lymphatic ducts underneath the collarbone, where once filtered, it makes its way back into the bloodstream. Just as blood is always circulating throughout your body, lymph is continuously being moved out of your tissues, transported through the lymphatic vessels and nodes, and back to the lymphatic ducts.
For a more intensive massage, using oil, sweep your hands with the flat of the hand from the jaw, down the neck and across your collarbone.