Learn your Lymph Care

Following a surgical procedure the lymph system needs support since its’ primary purpose is to collect and discard unwanted material in the body. After surgery fluid can collect around an affected area causing swelling known as lymphedema. The primary cleaning system for the body, the lymph system leaps into action after surgery not only to address inflammation but also to support the immune system which is burdened by the use anesthesia and medication.

These fluids collect primarily in the interstitial spaces, or the spaces in between the cells. The lymph system balances the body’s fluid and whisks away this excess material.

The lymph glands, or nodes, are a complex network of connected tissue that serve as the front line of the immune system. Their primary function is to filter lymph, or lymphatic fluid, which collects viruses, bacteria, and even cancer cells. Though they are scattered throughout the body, the main concentration of lymph nodes are in the neck, armpit and groin. In women, the breasts also have many lymph nodes. The pelvic/torso area, shoulders, elbows, hips and knees also have a strong concentration of nodes. In all, there are anywhere from 450 to 700 lymph nodes in the body.

Lymph doesn’t have it’s own pump like the heart for the circulatory system. It is dependent on the contraction and relaxation of certain muscles to keep the fluid moving. This is one of the reasons exercise and movement is so important. We have over four times more lymph circulating in our system than blood so it is important to keep this cleansing system functioning properly.

There are several things you can do to support the lymph system prior to surgery and some specific things you can do afterwards. Walking is one of the best movements for stimulating lymph. As the body rocks up and down, arms and legs swing, the largest clusters of lymph glands are stimulated. Deep breathing also moves lymph as the rib cage expands and contracts. Dry brushing is a manual technique designed to assist movement of the lymph.

Moving the lymph can minimize pain and reduce inflammation and swelling. It also helps detoxify the body and reduces the chance of post-surgical infection. By stimulating the immune system, it helps not only with overall healing but boosts your recovery time and increases energy. One of the best treatments when recovering from surgery is manual lymph drainage massage. The massage is designed to gently move the lymph and promote healing. It can be especially helpful after breast surgery, cosmetic and orthopedic surgeries where lymphedema can commonly become a post-surgical issue. Lymph drainage therapy can also reduce the severity and formation of scars.

There are also plenty of videos online to give you a quick routine for lymph stimulation. One of the easiest and most pleasurable is a video by Sherry Lebed, a well-known lymphedema therapist. It can be found at:         

Lymphatic Opening Exercise

Other trusted sources and a resource for qualified practitioners can be found at:


After you are fully recovered from your surgical procedure continue with your lymph system health by taking one to two teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces of water daily. Also small amounts of citrus like lemon can stimulate movement. Sauna, dry brushing, walking, hot and cold alternating showers, and deep breathing are other activities which can support lymphatic health.