The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and nodes that helps fight infection and remove excess fluid from tissues. It’s like a drainage system for the body’s fluids. Unlike blood circulation, which uses the heart to pump blood around the body, the lymphatic system relies on body movement and normal muscle contraction to move the Lymphatic fluid around the body.

In the clinic, it is rare for people to tell me they are coming to see me because their lymphatic system is not performing well. The exception to this is people who have had lymph nodes removed during surgery, which is common for those who have had cancer.


This is the most common lymphatic issue I see in the clinic, not that anybody tells me I have a sluggish lymphatic flow. It often occurs after a cold or an infection.

What you feel: Lack of energy is the most frequent symptom, but other symptoms can be reoccurring colds or infections. You may feel your lymph nodes as a small lump in your neck or armpits depending on where the congestion occurs. It feels a bit like a squashy pea under the skin. You may notice swelling in one of your arms or legs.

What is happening: Your immune system finds the viruses and bacteria and clumps around them to stop them from getting into your cells. Once in the lymph node, other immune cells work on the captured cells. The immune system activity in the lymph nodes causes them to swell, hence why you can sometimes feel them.

How we might treat this. For Osteopaths fluid movement is crucial, and that includes the lymphatic fluid. First, you need to identify the area where the lymphatic fluid is restricted. Then find the cause of the restriction, it could be a tight muscle or a group of muscles, it could be from trauma or postural issues. Then cause will determine the treatment it could be a gentle form of massage called lymphatic drainage, I may need to balance the tensions in the lymphatic vessels themselves or loosen some muscles. Because I call myself the gentle Osteopath all my techniques will be gentle but yet effective.


Is a build-up lymphatic fluid most often found in the arms and legs but can be found in other parts of the body. A common cause of lymphedema is the result of cancer treatment, where some lymph nodes are removed to stop the spread of cancer. This can be a positive outcome for the cancer diagnosis, but now your body may need some assistance to help shift the lymphatic fluid back to the trunk of the body. Some people have a genetic predisposition for lymphedema, they have to work hard to improve the lymphatic flow of fluid in their body .

What you feel: First you may notice the swelling in a particular area, if it is left unchecked the swelling will increase, and you may notice the additional weight of your arm or leg. You must check your skin for possible skin infections and be alert for reoccurring infections. If you see a patch of redness develop, they may feel warm for no apparent reason, this is a good time to consult with your GP.

What is happening: If your lymphatic system is not draining the excess fluid from the area, the presence of this extra fluid will further impede the movement of lymph in this region. So as the lymphatic fluid becomes more static, it decreases the effectiveness of your immune cells in finding the infections. At this stage you may notice a red patch as your immune system attempts to fight off the infection. As your immune system fights a losing battle the area of redness will get bigger and it will get hotter. This is a good time to consult with your GP promptly and if the area of redness and heat is increasing rapidly, you should go to the hospital.

How we might treat this. Hopefully, we get involved at the early stages and we can keep the lymphatic fluids moving. The First thing I would suggest is a change in posture. A simple example of this is if you have been standing all day and your ankles are swelling, elevating them may be the first step. I may prescribe exercises to encourage the muscles to move the lymphatic fluid. I may work directly on the lymphatic vessels to improve the flow through them. I may teach you some lymphatic massage strokes to help move the lymphatic fluid manually. If I thought your lymphatic system was deteriorating, I would refer you to your GP.

Sluggish lymphatic flow