About 70% of what I do is lymphatic drainage. Strange then that I didn't speak about it first up. Today's the day.
And that's prompted by a client I saw this week. It was his third visit, but I hadn't seen him over the Christmas/New Year period as he was busy. He's not my typical MLD client - they're usually middle-aged women who have been through breast cancer. He had some vascular surgery a couple months ago, the result of which was swelling and tightness in his calves and his surgeon suggested some MLD - that in itself is an unusual event - surgeons aren't usually up on the benefits of MLD, a fantastic start to our relationship. I find that when I treat blokes I go through the mechanics of how the treatment works and the rationale of the treatment, their minds like to see how things happen and it was no different with him. We had planned weekly treatments at the start to bring the condition under control with the aim being to get to monthly sessions.
Yesterday when he came in, he seemed a little disgruntled. When I asked how he felt after the treatments, he replied that he hadn't noticed any change. After I pointed out that we hadn't done any work in three weeks and we have had blisteringly hot weather (41 degrees a few days prior) he calmed down a bit and I explained again the aim of what we were trying to do.
So. In a case where there's swelling in two legs (worse in one) post surgery, what is the plan? Simple. MLD is all about clearing the main collections of nodes in the body, then pushing fluid towards the cleared nodes. Easy! But where are the main nodes I hear you asking (well, that's what I would ask). Here's a brief biology lesson for you ...
The most important nodes are at the base of the neck in the little triangle between your neck and your shoulder. That's where the lymphatic and venous systems join. Here's a photo (you have no idea how hard it is to find an appropriate one, so this is a selfie as I have a really prominent "triangle"). You make small, gentle circles to open up the nodes.
Next, we move to the axillas (that's armpits to those not familiar with the correct terminology). More circles there. No need for a photo, we all know what those look like. Then there are a number of deep lymphatics in the abdomen and finally the inguinals (when I explain what those are I usually say "along the panty line"). In the graphic below (not a selfie!), I've put the red oval over the area ...
Once all the main nodes are cleared then I do some work in the chest and abdomen to make sure the trunk of the body is clear.
In the case of this client, the next step was to create a pathway away from the affected/damaged nodes in the inguinals up towards the axilla. This encourages the body to create new lymphatic pathways, taking the pressure away from the affected area. Once the pathway was established I started to clear the leg, from the topmost part, pushing fluid along the side of the body up towards the armpits, then working my way down the leg. In a normal, remedial massage, the stroke usually starts from the bottom of the leg, pushing up towards the body. With lymphatic drainage the direction is still up towards the body, but it's done incrementally, starting from the top of the leg. It's like unblocking a drain - you clear the blockage then move little bits at a time so that you don't reclog the area you just cleared. As you work down the leg the tightness begins to release and the lymphatic flow increases. The client can sometimes feel tingling or sensation as the fluid begins to flow again. Heaven. This whole process can take up to an hour, longer sometimes. At the end of the treatment I clear the main nodes again, along the panty line, the abdomen, the armpits and the triangle at the base of the neck.
The result? Less swelling, less tightness and less pain and lots of running to the bathroom! Huh? Where did that come from? Well, when you remove fluid from the tissue it rejoins the blood supply and is filtered through the venous system - through the heart then through the kidneys then, you guessed it, you find yourself running to the bathroom.
Next post - what can MLD be used for? What are the other benefits?