There is no cure for lymphoedema, but it is usually possible to control the main symptoms using techniques to minimise fluid build-up and stimulate the flow of fluid through the lymphatic system.
The standard approach includes wearing compression garments, having specialised bandaging, taking good care of your skin, moving and exercising regularly, and using Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) techniques.
But most sufferers do not like having to wear compression garments – they are uncomfortable and unsightly, whilst bandaging and MLD are labour intensive techniques, which take time, money and have to be repeated frequently.
However a new technique has been devised which shows great promise in the treatment and management of Lymphoedema
Reflexology Lymph Drainage (RLD)
Reflexology Lymph Drainage(RLD) is a technique developed by Sally Kay, and used by specially trained reflexologists to provide relief from symptoms of secondary lymphoedema. Sally’s work and clinical trials focused initially on treating Breast Cancer patients. Up to 20% of breast cancer patients develop lymphoedema symptoms such as painful swelling, stiffness or difficulties with body image.
RLD mimics the effects of manual lymphatic drainage techniques and is effective in alleviating the swelling, pain and stiffness associated with lymphoedema.
Reflexology is a complementary therapy which uses the stimulation of areas (reflexes) on the feet or hands which it is believed are related to different parts of the body. RLD is given via the reflex points of the feet, and targets the body’s lymphatic system to promote correct drainage of lymphatic fluid.
My experiences with RLD
Over the last few months I have been using RLD as part of my treatment regime for patients suffering from the effects of Lymphoedema. I am continually amazed at the dramatic effects this quick and simple technique brings about. Not only are reductions in swelling effective immediately, but the effects appear to be long lasting.
Here are a couple of examples:
Ian, a 63 year old man, diagnosed with kidney cancer and having further tumours in his upper chest area. Treatment has included surgery and radiotherapy which has led to poor lymph drainage in this area. Lymphoedema was present in his right arm, and also his legs and feet. He wore a compression sleeve on his arm, and had restricted mobility of the right arm and shoulder.
After the 1st treatment he immediately had more mobility of the shoulder and arm. His shoes, which had been tight fitting before the session, went on easily.
On arriving for his 2nd session Ian reported that the swelling in his legs and feet had disappeared.
Over the next few treatments Ian continued to report improvements in his arm and shoulder.
By the 5th treatment Ian reported that the swelling in his right arm had almost gone, that the mobility of his arm and shoulder had improved considerably and that he no longer had to wear his sleeve all the time.
At the 6th appointment some 3 months after we started, the lymphoedema was all but gone and Ian only had to use his sleeve on rare occasions.
Pat is an 80 year old lady, who has had extensive thoracic and abdominal surgery due to her treatment for Cancer. Her main problems were peripheral neuropathy in her feet which made walking very difficult and extensive swelling to her legs and feet. She reported that at times she could gain almost 1 stone in weight due to fluid accumulation. After just 1 treatment, Pat judged that she had regained 75% of the feeling in her feet and the swelling was greatly reduced. With regular maintenance treatments she continued to make steady progress.
What is Lymphoedema?
Lymphoedema is swelling that develops because of a build-up of fluid in the body’s tissues. This happens when the lymphatic system, which normally drains the fluid away, isn’t working properly.
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and glands distributed throughout the body. Its major functions are helping to fight infection and drain excess fluid from tissues. Unlike the cardio-vascular system it does not have a ‘pump’ to maintain circulation, but relies on movement, gravity and pressure instead. Therefore it can easily become blocked or sluggish.
Lymphoedema develops when lymph nodes or vessels become damaged or blocked. The lymph fluid is unable to drain away leading to congestion and overload of the lymphatic system. Fluid then builds up between the tissues and causes swelling. Surgery, injury, infection, medical treatments and lack of movement are the most common causes of lymphatic system blockage and damage.
Lymphoedema can occur in any part of the body, but is most likely to affect an arm or a leg. Other symptoms can include an aching, heavy feeling in affected body parts and difficulty moving them.