Sinusitis is a chronic or recurring inflammation of the mucous membrane layers of the paranasal sinuses. It occurs when foreign bodies (such as pathogens or allergens) enter the nasal cavity & are recognized by the immune system, triggering an allergic reaction or infection.1 So, how can Manual Lymph Drainage help?
Interestingly, our recognition today of Manual Lymph Drainage came from sinusitis & research done by Dr. Emil & Estrid Vodder. In the early 1930s, Dr. Vodder & his wife were working as massage physical therapists on the French Riviera & treating several Englishmen & women with chronic colds. These patients had one thing in common: swollen neck lymph nodes. Despite the lymphatic system being virtually ignored in that day, Dr. Vodder decided to treat the swollen nodes with massage & he did so with great results.2
When a foreign particle or bad antigen (such as a virus, bacteria, allergen, etc.) enters the body through the nose, it encounters the body’s first line of defense: a mucosa lining. This lining has lymphoepithelial tissue which contains lymphocytes.3 These lymphocytes (white blood cells) react & develop antibodies (immunoglobulins) in the lymph nodes specific to this particular “invader.” So, the next time it enters the body, it encounters a mounted defense (a second & third line of defense: inflammation & targeted attack). This time the body reacts by triggering special immune cells (mast cells) which have been coated with this antibody. The mast cells target the invader & give off histamine which dilates the blood vessels in the nose, causing swelling. The dilation increases blood flow to speed up the transport of nutrients, oxygen & lymphocytes. And, paranasal mucus secretion is increased. This swelling & secretion can block drainage in the nasal cavity & fluid pressure builds up in the sinuses leading to sinus headaches4 & congestion that can trigger sinus infections. (This process accounts for the redness, swelling, heat & sometimes pain associated with inflammation.)
Manual Lymph Drainage helps by decongesting the tissue through increasing the speed of lymphatic flow.5 Additionally, immunity is bolstered because pathogens are hastened to lymph nodes where they are filtered & contained & production of antibodies is increased.
It’s important to note that while an acute inflammation due to a pathogen is always a contraindication for MLD, acute allergic reaction is as well because the histamine generated from the body’s response (which is localized) can be spread throughout the body, becoming systemic. (Lymph angions temporarily spasm to reduce lymph transport & contain the invader until the body is able to gain the “upper hand.”) If a person has had a sinus infection, for example, but they have been on an antibiotic for approximately 2-3 days & symptoms are improving, then MLD can be provided. In the case of chronic ear, nose & throat infections or allergies, MLD can help for reasons noted above.6
1Tortora, G., Grabowski, S. (1996). Principles of Anatomy & Physiology (8th ed.), p. 703. New York: HarperCollins College Publishers.
2Wittlinger, H., Wittlinger, G. (1998). Textbook of Dr. Vodder’s Manual Lymph Drainage (6th ed.), pgs. 17-21. Germany: Karl Haug Verlag.
3Foldi, M, Foldi, E. (2006). Foldi’s Textbook of Lymphology (2nd ed.), p. 8. Germany: Urban & Fisher.
4Tortora, G., Grabowski, S. (1996). Principles of Anatomy & Physiology (8th ed.), p. 176. New York: HarperCollins College Publishers.
5 Tan, I., Maus, E., Rasmussen, J., Marshall, M., Adams, K., Fife, C., Smith, L, Chan, W., Muraca, E. (2011). Assessment of Lymphatic Contractile Function After Manual Lymph Drainage Using Near-Infrared Fluorescence Imaging, Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehab, 92(5), 756-764.
6Kasseroller, R. (1998). Compendium of Dr. Vodder’s Manual Lymph Drainage, pgs.142-143, 174-175. Germany: Huthig GmbH.