Have you ever noticed that your muscles feel tight? A certain area of your body feels or looks inflamed when you are sick? This can be a sign of poor circulation within our body. Massage therapy can assist the circulatory system by promoting increased blood and lymph flow within our body. Let’s have a look at what the circulatory system actually is.
2 Circulation Systems - Back to high school biology!
There are two types of circulation systems in the body, the cardiovascular and lymphatic systems. These circulatory systems are responsible for moving fluids around the body and delivering oxygen, nutrients, immune factors, and remove waste products within the body.
Cardiovascular System -
The cardiovascular system is a closed system that is pressurised by the heart. It moves blood around our body via the heart, veins, and arteries. It provides oxygen, nutrients and removes waste products like carbon dioxide to and from our organs and cells. Veins deliver deoxygenated blood towards the heart and arteries deliver oxygenated blood away from the heart to the whole body.
The lymphatic system is an open system that moves lymph, a clear-white fluid that contains white blood cells, in one direction from our extremities to two drainage points into the veins just above our heart. Lymph moves slower than our blood as it is not pressurised by the heart. The lymphatic system interacts with the cardiovascular system through capillaries and helps filter out any unwanted substances within our blood, which is vital for our immune system. We will talk more about the immune system in our next blog.
How can massage help the circulatory systems?
The 3 main reasons why a healthy circulatory system is important:
Increased Vasodilation: creates more room for more blood flow by an increase in size of the blood vessels
Increased Capillarisation: feeds more nutrients (e.g. oxygen) to our muscles from our blood and also gives a sense of relaxation
Increase Venous Return: an increase in blood flow back to the heart, which helps the heart to pump blood easier.
Good circulation within our cardiovascular system is critical for performing day-to-day activities. Without proper circulation, we may feel a variety of discomforts such as cold hands and feet and body fatigue/achiness due to the amount of lactic acid that builds up in our muscles.
Massage therapy creates friction and pressure between our skin and muscles to manually move blood around congested areas, which can then give more space for new blood to flow in by increasing the vasodilation of our blood vessels. Having more blood flow within our body increases the capillarisation process and feeds our muscles with more oxygen and nutrients to allow them to relax and function properly. It can also make life easier on our heart because there is an increased venous return to the heart.
If you have a heart condition, we always advise you seek medical advice prior to booking in a treatment.
The 2 main reasons why a healthy lymphatic system is important:
Maintains the balance of fluid levels within our body
Moves pathogens within the body to help with elimination
As previously mentioned our lymphatic system is not pressurised by the heart, so it takes its time to circulate and is stimulated by our muscles contracting and relaxing. For those of us who are very sedentary, it takes the lymph longer to circulate around our body, this can result in reduced toxins being eliminated from the body and potentially swelling of extremities. By moving we are activating our lymph system, even if it’s just a short walk to the kitchen to cook some delicious food or jumping jacks or a run around the block - it all helps. This activation will circulate and drain our lymphatic system so that we can maintain a balanced amount of fluid within our body while removing the toxins we digest and absorb through modern living.
If you suffer from lymphoedema (swelling of a body part), lymphadenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes), have had lymph nodes removed due to surgery, in a wheelchair, bed-ridden or unable to move freely, receiving a lymphatic drainage massage from a qualified massage therapist can help circulate the lymphatic system. This massage technique uses gentle brushing strokes and is very specific. The therapist must be properly trained and understand how the lymph moves through the body to create a flow to the lymphatic sites such as the chest, neck, pelvis, axilla (armpit), inguinal (groin) region with these strokes.
Removing toxins and pathogens from our bodies helps our immune system do its job as well, so in general, movement helps you stay well!
In our next blog, we will be talking about this more in-depth. Don’t forget everything in our bodies is connected, so when we adjust something we need to ensure we understand the reactions that may occur.