Reflexology for treating Secondary Lymphoedema

It's been almost a year since I studied RLD - Reflexology Lymph Drainage in the UK.  Since then I've treated a number of clients using this spectacular and highly effective form of Reflexology.  At the risk of sounding like a 'stuck record' I cannot praise enough, the impressive results they get from the treatment, so I think you'd be interested to here about it too.

Here's a story I'd like to share with you.  A particular case study of mine, a lovely middle-aged lady that suffers with bi-lateral Secondary Lymphoedema of the legs, as a result of cervical cancer some 15 years ago.  This is what the power of RLD did for her physically and psychologically.

This wasn't a client that felt helpless and in utter despair with her condition. She had spent a great deal of time, money, determination and commitment to making sure that the secondary lymphoedema didn't take over her life and she wanted to feel well enough, strong enough and confident enough to live her life as normally as possible despite the condition.

At our first treatment session, it became quite clear early on that my clients expectations were low.  Not because she thought RLD wouldn't work, but because she managed her Lymphoedema with a text book efficiency.  Over the years, she'd learned how to improve her diet and lifestyle to control the swelling in her legs and lower abdomen, she had MLD, wore multiple compression tights 24/7 (and was proud and relieved that she could still get into fashionable, size 10 clothing as a result. Read: skinny jeans) and months earlier, she'd had liposuction treatment on both legs with the only surgeon in the UK to pioneer this type of lympho surgery.

All of this activity helped a great deal in her management of this incurable, inoperable condition and enabled her to lead a relatively normal life.

Quite simply, because she was so strict with managing her secondary lymphoedema, she didn't see what more could be done.  She told me her concern and said that it would be totally fine if I decided that her condition and situation wasn't severe enough to warrant treatment.

Don't you just love a challenge?  I thought... right, a reduction in swelling and lymph fluid or not, it makes no difference. I was keen to get cracking as the study was a useful exercise and a result is a result, whatever the outcome.  So we went ahead with a set of 4 sessions, taken weekly.

Initial volume measurements pre-treatment, showed that my clients left leg was larger and more swollen than the right. So, when it came to doing the actual RLD treatment, we started the Reflexology on the right foot first, then left, then back to right to finish.  The theory for starting with the opposing foot is to clear the lymph on the right side to 'make room' so that we can then encourage the larger volume of lymph in the left side into the less swollen right side before working it out of the body via the lymph duct reflexes.  Interestingly, my client believed that her right leg was worse than her left, at least she reported having more problems, it behaved more erratically and was often more sore than the left.

The whole treatment from initial measurements to closing Reflex moves and a re-measure post-treatment takes around 1 hour.

I have to admit that I was a bit surprised and a little disappointed that leg volumes went up slightly comparing pre to post 1st treatment.  My client, having reflected on her thoughts about the scepticism of treatment, was not fazed at all.  She felt apologetic for the time spent on the session for a negative result.  However, she reported that her limbs did not feel any different or worse, but she went away from the session feeling content and relaxed, having enjoyed the therapeutic effects of Reflexology.  Onwards and upwards... we committed to getting together again 7 days later.

Week 2 arrived and the initial pre-treatment measurements threw up some serious changes! Not only had those week 1 gains in swelling disappeared, incredibly there was a marked loss in lymph swelling in both limbs. 

The interesting point to note was that as the measurements indicated, RLD seems to be effective long after a treatment takes place, like a continued benefit to the client, even though just after a treatment, lymph movement was evident in each limb and volume appeared to be worse. Had my client changed her routine, was there anything healthwise like a cold or infection that could affect the result? Notably, she had not changed anything diet or lifestyle wise, at least there was nothing she could put her finger on what would help or harm positive changes to her lymphoedema outside of RLD.

So on to Treatments 3 and 4 over the following 2 weeks. The results gave some interesting lymph volume measurements, largely a fantastic reduction in lymph swelling but the odd-looking figure that was in complete contradiction. Lymph seems to move around the body in weird and fascinating ways.  I'm no doctor or lymph specialist but perhaps these skewed figures are indicative of blockages in the vessels that take more time and effort for the body to resolve.

During these weeks, my client reported feeling much better in herself.  With some serious family health issues to contend with, not only was she dealing with her own condition but supporting her closest family members with theirs too.  Her outlook on life and what might happen long term became calm, more measured and philosophical.  From an RLD perspective, she felt that there was a slight improvement in the heaviness of each limb, that they were perhaps feeling lighter than before treatments.  RLD results aside, we enjoyed some client-therapist 1:1 time, where we talked about life, family, marriage, health, jobs and fashion.  It became a way for my client to take some time out of her daily routine of looking after the family, she looked forward to the Reflexology treatments each week.

After being measured and leaving my treatment room for the last time, I calculated the treatment 4 figures and compared them to the figures pre-treatment 1.   Week after week, despite small improvements in lymph swelling measurements overall, my client remained convinced that the end result would show that her lymphoedema swelling would not have improved. 

As the top line figures show below, there was a reduction in lymph swelling in both legs in just 4 weeks.  The volume in the right leg had the biggest improvement, it reacted better than the left which is the leg my client has the most issues with. 

In summary, my client lost a total of 1795 millilitres from both limbs during the 4 treatments, so in laymans terms, almost 1.8 litres or a large plastic bottle of supermarket water.

The client couldn't argue with the facts and figures.  She was both surprised and pleased with the result.  She now also felt confident that during times when she would have a setback in her condition, there was another treatment she could turn to, to help manage it.  Plus, she got the added bonus of feeling really well at the same time since Reflexology is a holistic therapy that works to heal the body as a whole.

This is just one client story, and I must say that in the time I have been using RLD technniques in my Reflexology treatments, every client has experienced some relief in their condition as a result.  These clients have had a number of issues, largely related to the lymphatic, digestive or endocrine systems, all of which have involved a level of inflammation or swelling. 

I think this case study demonstrates that whatever level of self-management a client has of their condition, there is a very real possibility that RLD can further improve it physically and the effects of it.  Ultimately offering the chance for the client to lead a happier, more confident, comfortable way of life.

Any questions?  Please get in touch or comment below.

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