Archives for posts with tag: lymphatic drainage

I’m just back from a week in Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia having attended the 2016 Asia Pacific Lymphology Conference.  I’ve made a very short video giving a few highlights for you to view  here.  I’ll be working on a few blog posts over the coming weeks to talk about what I learnt at the Conference.  I’m still processing all the information – my brain hurts!

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I had a request after my last video for one that dealt with legs post cancer surgery, so here it is. Feel free to ask any questions if you need clarification. And if you would like to see videos on any other topics I’m open to suggestion.

http://www.lisahiggins.ntpages.com.au

People are often surprised when I tell them that the number one function of the Lymphatic System is to transport immune cells around the body.  Basically, your lymphatic system IS your immune system.  And yet if you go to the doctor because you are constantly getting sick you could be offered a script for antibiotics because they “may” help, but if you ask them about getting a Lymphatic Drainage treatment their response generally goes along the lines of … “well, it can’t hurt you I guess”.   You can’t blame the doctors though, my lecturer (Neil Piller, himself a Doctor and lecturer in medicine) says that GPs have one class on the lymphatic system in all of their training.  That’s one class, not one semester – four hours.  I have no words for this.  It makes my blood boil.  Apparently it’s exactly the same for nutrition – one class.  OK, I’m going to move on because I get really riled up thinking about that.

So, what does it mean to say the lymphatic system transports immune cells?  Immune cells are stored in lymph nodes for the most part, though there are also some circulating immune cells that do exactly that – circulate around the body looking for infection.  Lymph nodes can also be referred to as “glands” and that’s probably how you are most familiar with them – your can sometimes feel your glands come up when you are sick, particularly in illnesses like glandular fever (or Mono if you’re from the US) or tonsillitis.  You go to the doctor and he has a feel in your neck, under your armpits or in the groin area to see if the nodes are “up” (these are some of the areas where there are large collections of nodes).  And this is a normal thing to happen when your body is fighting infection – the body is signalled to produce more antibodies so the nodes kick into action to make them (getting bigger in the process) and then circulate them through the body to the site of the infection, via you guessed it – the lymphatic system.

immunesystem

Photo courtesy http://www.humanvitaminhealth.com on google images

What can happen is that with the winter weather our lymphatic systems can become sluggish and inefficient.  That can be due to lots of different things e.g. cold temperatures or exercising less.  When this happens the immune cells circulating around the body aren’t cleared out and replaced with new ones as efficiently as they should be, so the body is slower to respond to an attack of a virus and we succumb to illness.

A regular maintenance session of lymphatic drainage massage helps to stimulate the immune system, increasing circulation and moving out the old immune cells and replacing them with freshly produced immune cells which are more effective at fighting off the viruses.  Immune cells circulating in the lymphatic system can target a pathogen and transport it to the nearest lymph nodes where that cell is neutralised and then the waste material is transported through the heart and kidneys then excreted out of the body.  It’s a very efficient system when it is fully functioning.

I suggest that people who want to keep on top of their immune systems have a regular Lymphatic Drainage massage.  If you are generally healthy and are looking to maintain that health, then I suggest a session at the change of season, so once every three months.  If your immune system is more compromised, then I’d aim for once a month, at least during the colder months when we can all be a little more run down.

If you’d like more information on ways to build your immune system using lymphatic drainage please send me a message or visit my website here.

I was reminded the other day that I do actually do other forms of massage, not just Lymphatic Drainage.  I mean, of course I knew that, but a colleague sent me a message to ask if I did “normal massage” because she’d been reading my blog and it all seemed pretty specialised and she wanted to buy a gift certificate for someone for a relaxing massage.  Could I do that?

Yes!  Of course.  But somehow it’s much more exciting talking about the dramatic results with Lymphatic Drainage.  That’s not to say that I haven’t achieved some beautiful results while giving a “normal massage”.

Here is a beautiful comment that one of my clients, a naturopath, posted on her own business Facebook page …

“I just have to give a plug because this woman is the BIZ for massage. It takes a lot for me to rate someone in the massage stakes but after a particularly stressful time, I relinquished and made an appointment after about a year since last seeing her. Nothing short of spectacular in energy, flow, technique and physical genius. Lisa Higgins, Massage and Lymphatic Drainage in Brookvale. Do it.”

For me, it’s very much listening to what the client wants when they walk through the door.  We discuss how they would like to feel at the end of the session so I can tailor the massage to their particular needs at that time.  And I do have regulars who come in and say, “well, today I think I need something that’s going to energise me” or “I really need to relax and let go of some stress” or “I’ve had some intense workouts this week, you’ll need to get your elbows out”.  Each day is different.

It’s quite funny when I’ve had someone who’s only experienced me with Lymphatic Drainage then they ask for a Remedial Massage because they have some pain and could I really work the area.  It can be a real shock when I do “work the area”, it’s nothing like the gentle Lymphatic Drainage they are used to, but it’s effective.  Of course, I am sensitive to their needs and don’t apply more pressure than they can cope with (I check in regularly to see if they need more or less).

I’m also sensitive to having the right music playing in the background while I’m working as that can enhance a massage tremendously and I have a wide selection available so that I can chop and change between clients.

And I let the client lead in the talking.  For some people a massage is all about zoning out and relaxing and that means shutting the eyes and not talking.  Others talk the whole way through.  Or start off at a pace then after some time the words just trail off into silence.  If someone talks to me I always answer but I never initiate a conversation.  For me it’s all about creating the best environment for you to relax in.

So do I do “normal massage” – absolutely!

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Visit my website here for more information on all the therapies I offer.

I often ask my clients to write guest posts for the blog and most of the time they say, “you do it”.  This week however, I’m posting for one of my clients, Cathy.  Cathy has a real “can do” attitude, she does all she can to help keep her lymphoedema under control and she’s on a mission to spread awareness wherever she goes.  Here’s a short recount of her story …

 

The lump is early Breast Cancer!

On the table are all the cards – fright, fear (and some anger – why me!), surgery, with removal of 23 lymph nodes, chemotherapy drugs, radiation treatment and more importantly, expected cure.

Good news – I’ll be better next year!

That was the plan and yes I did it all.  Lymphoedema from the surgery was the most unpleasant surprise and it was there by the time my drain came out.  All my care givers were most reassuring and early physiotherapy started.  After six months I was attending a “lymph clinic” and measured for compression garments – ugly things but good for control!  A few lessons for self drainage techniques, my swollen and uncomfortable arm became a daily focus, there must be more I can do!

 compression sleeve photo

Compression sleeve and gauntlet photo courtesy Google Images, http://www.justcallushealthsolutions.ca

Google remedial massage – and I found Lisa Higgins – my lifesaver in so many ways.

Regular professional massage treatments have controlled my discomfort, mobilised my lymph flow and with her encouragement and happy outlook I feel good.  The compression garments continue, swimming and exercise do help.

Happiness is my friend,  Cathy

 

Visit my website here for more information

Somehow the word itself gives me the heebie-jeebies.  Hmm, does that say something about me?  No comment.

I seem to have a few ladies who are at that special time of their lives … you know the one … too little sleep and too many hot flushes.

Not many people realise that lymphatic drainage can help ease some menopausal symptoms.  Lymph fluid is made up of many different components – immune cells, waste matter, fatty acids and hormones (to name a few) so when you stimulate your lymphatic system you are making sure that everything is working optimally, including the circulation of your hormones.

T came to see me a few weeks ago.  She was recommended by a mutual friend who had a few sessions and found it beneficial on many levels (better sleep, felt lighter, skin looked amazing).  T had come through menopause but was still suffering from night sweats and waking three or four times every night and had the sweats happening throughout the day too.  Sleepytime tea helped a bit but not enough.  She was exercising lots and eating healthily.

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Image courtesy google images

We started the session with her face down so I could clear the nape of her neck, back and particularly the buttocks area.  Then she turned over and I cleared her neck fully, her abdomen superficially and her face (best way to end a treatment, very relaxing).  She floated off the table.

She came in the following week and sat down exclaiming “oh my God”, I felt like I was in an episode of “Friends”.  Secretly I was thinking … oh my God good or oh my god bad?  She said that about once a year she gets a fantastic night’s sleep and it’s heaven.  After the treatment she had three great nights’ sleep!  She was almost jumping off the chair.  I cheekily asked if she’d like the same again … duh!

She came in for her fifth session this week and said that after each session she gets two or three good nights’ sleep and the following nights she still wakes two or three times.  But during the day now she’s only having one flush and when it happens she has to ask herself if it’s because she’s cooking or doing some sort of heat producing activity.

I think lymphatic drainage has become part of her life now.

This post was orginally going to be written by my very tolerant friend, A.  She’s been my test dummy since I originally started my massage study back in 2004 – she had a lumpectomy a few years before and had developed lymphoedema as a result.  She’d get on my table and let me practice all my lymphatic techniques on her (and her husband donated his body to my remedial massage practice – man they were great friends).

A. has been coming to see me over the years to help her keep her lymphoedema under control.  Sometimes regularly, sometimes not.  Life has this habit of jumping in the way of best intentions.  She was going to write this post, but again, life has jumped in and the time has slipped away, so I offered to write it from her feedback.

When I got my laser a few months ago, A. was one of the first on my table as guinea pig.  We were amazed at how well she responded, there was significant softening of the fibrosis at the top of her forarm and her skin felt soft for the first time in ages.

After the third week of my Vodder course I persuaded A. to let me again use her body in the pursuit of my studies and she duly rocked up on a Sunday afternoon and let me run wild with her.

I explained that the most significant difference in the treatment protocol was the treatment of fibrosis.  I would normally go in a bit firmer with her fibrosis but really kept in mind the idea that lymphatic drainage should always be gentle.  But with Vodder, “aggressive” is the word they use in relation to fibrosis.  Can you believe it?  I still have bruises on my leg from where the lecturer demonstrated the fibrosis treatment on me – on someone without an issue it’s really painful, for someone with an issue, it feels normal.  Ouch.

So, I watched with anticipation as I started giving her the “aggressive” treatment.  Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped.  Luckily she trusts me.  At the end of the session she had a feel of her forarm and couldn’t believe how much it had reduced and how great it felt.

Then, because she is so lovely, she let me bandage her.  She’s never had bandaging done before, nor does she want it again, so she’s going to be very regular with her treatments from now on to avoid the possibility of ever having to undergo it.   Here’s her beautiful arm …

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A’s beautifully bandaged arm

I spoke with A. on the following Wednesday.  She said that she actually felt sort of bruised on Monday and Tuesday but that on Wednesday it felt normal again, but that the arm was still soft and feeling great.  Normally she says that she’s ready to rip her compression sleeve off by about 8pm, but she was able to leave it on until bedtime.  And normally within a couple days she starts to feel congested again, but not this time.

She came in for a follow up after ten days.  Progress report – her eczema on her hand was playing up, she had a paper cut (man do those hurt!) and a torn “quick” on one of her nails, all on the affected side.  Normally that would mean big swelling and heaviness.  While the arm wasn’t as good as the week before, it really wasn’t that bad, considering all the things that had gone on during the week.

We did another treatment and towards the end my comment to her was “your arm’s squidgy”.  She looked at me like I was a little deranged.  Maybe I am?  She sat up at the end of the treatment and investigated her arm … “you’re right, it is squidgy, and I have wrinkles”.  Her sleeve just slid on.  She had the cheesiest grin on her face – love it.

UPDATE 28/8/13

So, had third treatment today and at the end she was so amazed she said we should have taken a video of the treatment.  Well, too late for that, but we could take a video of her enjoying her soft arm – her favourite spot is the indent that she now has in her elbow, she hasn’t seen that for a long, long time.  The video’s a bit dark, but that reflects the subdued ambience of my treatment room – it’s all about comfort!

This is new territory for me  – I’ve just created my first youtube video!  Here’s the very supple movement of her arm …

http://youtu.be/u3so183HeMs

Gee, those aren’t exactly the words you want to hear when you ask a client how they felt after their last treatment.  “It felt really weird”.  Hmm.  Let’s backtrack a bit.

“A” came in for her first treatment in May.  She’d had a lumpectomy in 2012 and eight weeks of radiation.  She’d had some nodes taken but they were all clear.  She’d noticed swelling in her breast right after surgery but had enough on her plate and didn’t give it much thought.  It hadn’t gone down and had got a little worse.  She goes to the same cancer support group I go to and I had given her my business card a while back and she decided to give me a go.

When she came in, she had some pain and stiffness in the shoulder on the side of the surgery that was impacting on her exercise routine so I did some Emmett Technique quickly to release that then went on to the lymphatic work, clearing pathways away from the affected side and showing her how to clear her own nodes and tissue as well.  At the end of the session her shoulder felt better but she seemed a little skeptical about any difference in the fluid in her breast.  We booked her in for two weeks later.

Two weeks later she came and said that her shoulder still felt better but that the breast didn’t feel any different.  We did some more Emmett, but to both shoulders this time so that she would feel more balanced, then went on to the lymphatic drainage.  This time, while I was working, I felt like we had achieved good clearance and she said it felt pretty good.

 

She came for her next appointment and that’s when she greeted me with “it felt really weird”.  Luckily she followed that up with … “I woke the morning following the treatment and felt my breast and it felt really weird … there was no fluid … it was just breast!  And it felt like just breast for a full week and when it started to get fluidy again I got my husband to clear it away from the breast like you showed me.”  I had to smile, I think her husband clearing her breast is good on so many different levels, not just to move the fluid along but also to empower him to be part of her recovery, not to mention a bit of intimacy.  I think she’s a convert!

P has struggled with eczema all his life.  After 20 years of applying topical steroids prescribed by his doctors he decided he’d had enough and stopped them cold turkey.  Bad idea.

That little stunt put him in hospital, fighting for his life and the first thing they had to do was put him back on the steroids.  Coming off them after all that time is not something you can do without medical supervision – weaning off them slowly and building up the immune system at the same time is the safest way to go, UNDER MEDICAL SUPERVISION.

When P came in to see me initially we had a very long discussion about what had happened when he tried to come off the steroids before and what he was doing to manage it this time.  He was referred to me by his homeopath Debbie Rayfield (http://www.fountaincentre.com.au/).  I have a good working relationship with Debbie, her clinic is downstairs from mine and I am registered to practice there as she’s on the ground floor and some of my clients just can’t make it up the stairs to my clinic.  So we were able to have a good chat about P’s case afterwards.

P had started his supervised withdrawal six weeks prior and was seeing Debbie as well as an integrative doctor at Your Health (http://www.yourhealth.com.au) in Manly.  He was taking numerous supplements and using natural creams on his skin, ate no meat (though still had some fish in his diet) and did not drink alcohol.

When I first saw him he was purple.  And he looked sore.  And a bit scary.  His skin was peeling off and was very dry, particularly on his stomach.  He hadn’t been able to work during that phase as he is a musician and as he looked and felt so awful he went into a depression and didn’t leave the house for some time.

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photo courtesy of eczemasource.com, copied from google images

It was actually a month before I worked with him.  In the first treatment I mainly did some craniosacral work to help with his stress levels.  At the end of the session I spent ten minutes clearing his main collections of nodes and his stomach (he was able to tolerate both deep and superficial work) using manual lymphatic drainage.

P is a very spiritual person and is able to tune into what is going on in his body on an energetic level which always makes it interesting working with him.  I could be working on something physical and he’d say something like “yes, that’s an old hurt from childhood that I’ve been holding on to”.  Great!  If you can consciously release things on an energetic level while having your physical body worked on then the whole treatment is more effective.  Each time he came we’d use a different combination of therapies, depending on what he presented with.  If he had some aches and pains, we’d throw in some Emmett Technique releases.  If he was feeling run down, more lymphatic drainage.  While doing craniosacral work he’d have all sorts of releases – there’d be smiling or laughing, burping, coughing and overwhelming thoughts of what affirmations he needed to say or things he needed to bring into his life (to name a few).

I’ve been seeing P for nearly eighteen months now, off and on.  Our last three sessions have all been remedial massage!  I use coconut oil as I know his body can tolerate it without a flare up.  Remedial massage is the thing he’s missed the most during his recovery and he’s thrilled he can now have some. 

Because he is compliant (that is, he takes his vitamins/herbs/creams regularly) he is well on his way to a full recovery.  He’s been told it could take two to three years for his skin to become normal again and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get himself there.  What a long way he’s come already.

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 About.com Breast Cancer, http://breastcancer.about.com/od/reconstructivesurgery/tp/tram_flap.htm

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.