Archives for posts with tag: immune

I don’t often get to see people before their surgery which is a shame, because a couple sessions of manual lymphatic drainage beforehand makes a huge difference on a number of levels …

  • the immune system is given a tune up
  • any lingering toxins are cleared out of the body
  • new pathways away from the site of the surgery can be created helping to reduce swelling or oedema more quickly once the surgery has taken place

I see R on a monthly basis to work on some swelling she has in her lower legs and feet.  She and other females in her family all suffer from this condition and while in her case it is not severe, it is enough to make buying shoes difficult, not to mention it’s just plain uncomfortable.

R was diagnosed with a DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) in her right breast in December.  She’s been having annual screening for over twenty years as she was considered high risk and after a couple months of deliberation she has decided to have a double mastectomy and a tram flap reconstruction at the same time.  This is a huge decision on many levels.  A DCIS is not usually considered an aggressive cancer and the recommendation is a lumpectomy, sometimes followed by radiation and one of the hormone inhibiting drugs if deemed necessary.  But R’s reasoning is that she has been screened for 20 years and she’d like to stop worrying.

The surgery is major but one of the main benefits is that there is only one (usually, of course there may be complications but hopefully not).   Muscle, fat and skin are taken from your abdomen to create a new breast using your own tissue.  The transverse rectus abdominus muscle is used to create a breast and later on, if you choose, there is another surgery to create a nipple and areola.  Or you can use a prosthesis nipple – a client told me today she bought one and wore it to bed the other day and woke up with a new nipple on her arm!  Probably best to take it off before going to bed.)

The surgery is long, eight hours or so.  As with any procedure there is a risk  with anaesthetic.  And the recovery is long and quite painful (think about it, you’re moving your stomach muscle up to your chest, ouch). 

The following excerpt is from Breast Cancer,

Moving Muscle and Skin

TRAM Transverse Rectus Abdominus Breast ReconstructionIllustration © National Cancer Institute
On the skin markings, your plastic surgeon will make an incision, and raise the skin and muscle flap. A tunnel will be created under your skin so that the flap can be relocated. This tissue flap will go through the tunnel to your mastectomy incision. Notice that this illustration shows a free flap — the skin, fat, blood vessels, and muscle have been cut.

Creating Your New Breast

TRAM Transverse Rectus Abdominus Breast ReconstructionIllustration © National Cancer Institute
The abdominal skin flap (still attached to muscle) will be positioned so that it fills in the skin that was lost during your mastectomy. If you’re having a pedicle flap, your plastic surgeon will close the skin incision to create a new breast. And if you’re having a free flap, your surgeon will use microsurgery to reconnect blood vessels first, and then close the skin incisions.

Post surgery there is hourly monitoring to make sure that the tissue is still functioning (there is a small chance of necrosis) and numerous drips which are gradually taken out over the next few days.  There are bandages for the breast and braces for the tummy.  The stomach will likely be sore for about six weeks.  But at the end of all that, there are beautiful breasts made from your own tissue.

After the surgery, as soon as she feels able, R will come in for some post-op lymphatic drainge to help her

  • eliminate toxins from the surgery
  • build her immune system back up
  • reduce the swelling around the surgery site

Extra care is taken and only superficial work is done in the abdomen, that is, if she’s able to tolerate any work at all.  With R I have to be mindful that her lymphatic system is compromised already but luckily she will not have nodes removed in the surgery so the main collections under her armpit should not be traumatised and I can direct fluid towards them as well as the nodes in her neck.

Surgery is next week, good luck R.

Absolutely everything!  And yet, most people have no idea what their lymphatic system does and how important it is to your everyday life.

Your lymphatic system is your first line of defense against infection.  When pathogens enter your system, eg, cold or flu virus, the lymphatic system kicks into gear, filtering out as many of the invading germs as possible.  At the same time T cells, B cells and natural killer cells are produced which are released throughout the body to “wipe up” the germs that managed to escape. (Obviously this is a very simplistic explanation.)  When you’re sick and go to the doctor one of the first things they do is check to see if your glands are up – basically, what they are checking is to see if the lymphatic system has started it’s job of protecting the body by producing extra antibodies – the nodes swell in response to the extra activity.  They may check your neck, armpit or groin area.  Remember in the last post I talked about clearing the main collections of nodes?  Those three areas are included when you are doing your own clearing.  They are also the easiest and most prominent collections to feel or see.

So, in relation to the immune system – what’s lymphatic drainage good for?

  • Those who have been “under the weather” and can’t seem to get on top of it
  • Those with immune disorders, eg, chronic fatigue, glandular fever (or Mono to those in the USA), or chronic conditions such as asthma (note, treatment cannot be given during a flare up of any condition)

Another big function of the lymphatic system is to remove interstitial fluid from tissue.  In simple terms the blood capillaries pick up waste material from tissue but they are not big enough to remove protein molecules so the lymphatic capillaries carry out that job.  If the lymphatics are not working properly and the protein isn’t removed from the tissue, the result is fluid collecting in the tissue.  The result? Swelling or odema.  Not pleasant.

In relation to fluid, what’s lymphatic drainage good for?

  • Reducing fluid retention post surgery, sprain/strain/bruising
  • Reducing symptoms of any fluid-related condition, eg, sinus (again, treatment cannot be administered during an infection, but once the acute phase is passed then it is very beneficial)
  • Lymphedema in all it’s forms, whether primary (usually inherited, it can appear at birth, during the teenage years or may come on later in adulthood) or secondary (after some sort of trauma to the nodes – surgery, radiation, accidents)

ImageLymphedema of the arm

The lymphatic system is also your detoxification system.  As mentioned earlier, the lymph carries away waste products from the tissue to the elimination organs – kidneys in particular.  So it is very helpful alongside any detoxification programs being undertaken.

Lymphatic drainage can help to normalise hormones, helping to reduce acne, or painful periods.  It can also help with hormone related headaches.

There are however, some absolute contra-indications to having lymphatic drainage and at the first consult with every client I see I take a detailed history.  Anyone with cardiac or renal insufficiency cannot be treated.  I will treat clients with other heart or kidney conditions, but depending on the case I will insist on a doctor’s referral.  If you’re in the acute phase of an illness (ie, you’re running a temperature, are absolutely streaming with snot, or have a raging rash) it is not advisable to have manual treatment of any type.

Who do I see most?  Women who have been through breast cancer mainly, but also melanomas, cervical or other gynecological cancers.  Some come along pre and post surgery.  Sinus issues present themselves fairly regularly too. I also see clients who are on a detox diet or regime, who want a little extra cleansing.  And there are some who come along just because they find it relaxing and it keeps their immune system in check.


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