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Osteopathy and Lymphatic Flow: Improving Immune Health

Anya Woolliams
April 16, 2024

What is your lymphatic system and why does it matter?

The lymphatic system, including organs, vessels, and tissue, forms a key part of the body’s immunity, which is the body’s protection against infection.

The system is responsible for draining the fluid build-up in the body’s tissues, made up of the debris of damaged tissues and plasma leaked from pores in the blood vessels. The substance is filtered before being returned to the bloodstream, ensuring the maintenance of healthy fluid regulation within the body. Toxins are also removed that may otherwise sustain inflammation, provoke autoimmune disease flare ups and lead to chronic pain.

Lymph organs store immune cells, which when alerted to invading antigens, multiply and are carried to the location of infection. The lymphatic system also transports essential dietary lipids and lipid-soluble vitamins.

The system is put under stress during inflammation, the body's natural response to the fight against infection, when many chemicals are released to combat invading pathogens, and the porosity of blood vessels increases to allow for immune cells to reach the site of disease.

Unlike the circulation of blood that is propelled by our heart. Lymph flow relies on one-way valves, phasic contractions and the compression of its vessels by external forces such as muscle contraction. Movement in crucial.

Maintenance of a healthy lymphatic system is crucial as without it our immune response may suffer, leading to increased chances of illness, slower wound healing, and pain.

How can Osteopathy help?

Osteopathy places great importance on the lymphatic system, its role in clearing waste from the body, and the vitality and health it gives to the body.

Osteopaths can use manual techniques to encourage optimal lymphatic drainage and relieve inflammation, supporting the body's natural healing processes. Using their knowledge of physiology and anatomy, osteopaths can tailor techniques to treat various phys, and infections like pneumonia.

By improving lymphatic flow, osteopathic treatment can help the body fight off illness and recover faster. Taking care of your lymphatic system is essential for staying healthy, and osteopathy offers a hands-on way to support its function.

Our ten top tips to improve lymphatic system health:

  1. Stay hydrated.
  2. Priorities regular exercises. Make sure to break up long sedentary periods with breaks to move your body and stretch.
  3. Practice diaphragmatic breathing.
  4. Elevate your legs.
  5. Have regular messages either self-administered or with a professional. At Core Clapton we have specialist therapists trained in lymphatic techniques.
  6. Mind your diet. Although recommended diets vary for person to person, choosing one that is well-balanced and favouring whole foods over processed meals will ensure the best chance of receiving the nutrients the body needs while mitigating inflammation. Diet will also hugely influence your hydration. We recommend Growing Communities as a great source to buy local and organic vegetables.  
  7. Incorporate hot and cold showers or baths.
  8. Do not wear tight-fitting clothes.
  9. Visit a sauna. The Community Sauna Baths in Hackney Wick come highly recommended (another not-for-profit like us)
  10. Book an appointment with an osteopath


  • Childs, C. E., Calder, P. C., & Miles, E. A. (2019). Diet and Immune Function. Nutrients, 11(8), 1933.
  • Kunutsor, S. K., & Laukkanen, J. A. (2023). Does the Combination of Finnish Sauna Bathing and Other Lifestyle Factors Confer Additional Health Benefits? A Review of the Evidence. Mayo Clinic proceedings, 98(6), 915–926.
  • Hodge, L. M., Bearden, M. K., Schander, A., Huff, J. B., Williams, A., Jr, King, H. H., & Downey, H. F. (2010). Lymphatic pump treatment mobilizes leukocytes from the gut associated lymphoid tissue into lymph. Lymphatic research and biology, 8(2), 103–110.
  • Johnson L. A. (2021). In Sickness and in Health: The Immunological Roles of the Lymphatic System. International journal of molecular sciences, 22(9), 4458.
  • Moore, J. E., Jr, & Bertram, C. D. (2018). Lymphatic System Flows. Annual review of fluid mechanics, 50, 459–482.
  • Noll, D. R., Degenhardt, B. F., & Johnson, J. C. (2016). Multicenter Osteopathic Pneumonia Study in the Elderly: Subgroup Analysis on Hospital Length of Stay, Ventilator-Dependent Respiratory Failure Rate, and In-hospital Mortality Rate. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 116(9), 574–587.
  • Remien, K., Woo, M. J., & Vilella, R. C. (2024). Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment: Lymphatic Procedures. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.


Anya Woolliams

Anya trained at the University College of Osteopathy (formally the BSO). She has worked extensively with patients with chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia.

She believes in a patient-centred approach and recognises the importance of treating the whole person to have the best impact on their health and strives to instigate longer lasting healthy habit changes, promoting confidence and independence.

Anya is also an equine and canine osteopath, and offers sports and deep tissue massage at Core.

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