MLD and Qi

Lately I’ve been seeing more clients for MLD in my practice, in addition to increasing its presence in my own self-care; and an idea is forming in my mind about MLD from an energetic perspective. Way back in massage school we were always talking about how whenever you are moving blood, you are moving Qi. So why wouldn’t that be the case with lymph as well?

Part of the reason that I’ve only just started thinking about this is because of how Western ideology based my MLD training was. The discussion was limited to our current understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the lymphatic system. No doubt that’s part of why the Vodder style of MLD is the most widely recognized in the medical profession.

Still, I’ve found that the most of my clients who really gravitate towards MLD are either themselves energy workers of some sort, or they are really sensitive to energy work in general. Obviously, this is a teeny, tiny sample, but this post is tagged “Musings” rather than “True Science Facts” so I think I’m okay.

Since it’s summer in the Midwest, many clients are coming in with Qi stagnation. The humidity causes dampness to build up in the body, and the Qi can’t flow freely (from a TCM perspective). This frequently presents as pain. So far, I’ve gotten a positive response using MLD (either exclusively or in combination with massage) in my clients who are looking to relieve stagnation.  As the summer continues, I’m curious to see if my practice will continue to support this idea, or if I’ll look back on this post in September and feel silly.

In unrelated news, Sphere has a proper website now. These are exciting times!

March MLDness

A few weeks back I wrote about my upcoming promotional offer, and shamelessly plugged my newsletter. That email went out on March 10th, so for those of you who missed it (and for the curious who didn’t miss it, per se) here’s the offer:

From now through April 11, 2014, get 15 minutes of free Manual Lymphatic Drainage added on to a 60 or 90 minute massage. All you have to do is mention this offer when booking the appointment.

Ta da! MLD for everybody (except for anybody with certain health conditions, like untreated congestive heart failure).

Here’s a quick reminder of the general effects of MLD:

  • It decongests tissues;  by increasing the uptake of fluid into the lymphatic system
  • It’s soothing; the gentle strokes promote a parasympathetic response
  • It’s analgesic; the nociceptive substances get pulled away from your tissues with the fluid
  • It can move fluid out of blocked areas (as in lymphedema management)

Even a 15 minute treatment to the neck is going to deliver some of these effects. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: MLD is one of my favorite modalities to receive. In fact, on the day I wrote this post I had a treatment to my neck and right arm to reduce the wrist pain flare-up I’m currently experiencing. It knocked my pain down from an 8-9/10 with certain movements down to a 5/10. That’s an excellent result!

Client Education: a Massage Bonus

One of the biggest possible side effects of cancer treatment is the risk of lymphedema (LE). Unlike many of the other side effects, this one is for life. If you had lymph nodes removed, irradiated, or tested from your neck, axilla, or groin as part of your treatment, you run the risk of developing LE.

I see it as my responsibility to help educate clients about LE. What it is, what it does, and how I can help support the work of a Complete Decongestive Therapist (CDT)* with Manual Lymphatic Drainage. But I think my most important job is to educate clients on how to minimize their risk of triggering it. The National Lymphedema Network’s position paper on LE risk reduction is the number one resource that I give to all oncology clients who may be at risk for developing LE. You can check it out for yourself here.

It is a long document. I find it a little overwhelming to read through sometimes, and I have no reason to worry about developing LE personally. Sometimes I feel almost, well, guilty for sending people who are already stressed out and overwhelmed a link to this big document. As if I’m overburdening their system with information, the same as I could do if my massage were too forceful.

I squash those worries by thinking of my nightmare scenario: someone coming to me with LE saying, “If only I would have known…”. I warn people that it’s a long document, and to read it in pieces if need be. But I’m going to give it to every single person I see who might need it. And recommend that they check out the rest of NLN’s website. Because there is so much information about the topic, and I hope that people find comfort and empowerment there too.

*As a Certified Manual Lymphatic Drainage Therapist I do not meet the minimum basic standards to treat someone with LE. I am trained and qualified to give MLD to someone with LE, but they need to be under the supervision of a CDT to get exercise, bandaging, and other therapy. This is my dream certification, but I need a to achieve a pretty high level of success in my business before I can justify going for it. The blog post announcing that will require GIFs. Really big, sparkly ones, and a space background (and a midi-player, I will transform this blog into a  90’s website when I’m ready celebrate signing up to take that class).

‘Tis the Season…

… for nasal congestion, increased perception of pain, and a general feeling of “blah”. In other words: It’s the season for Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)!

The general effects of MLD applicable to those conditions (adapted from the Klose Training & Consulting, LLC manual):

*Decongests  tissues by encouraging lymph capillaries to increase fluid uptake.

*The light pressure of the strokes used in MLD has a soothing effect, promoting a parasympathetic nervous response.

*MLD has an overall analgesic effect, possibly because the increased fluid movement flushes away the noxious substances that stimulate your nociceptors. Also, a decrease in inflammation is believed to decrease the sensitivity of nociceptors in people with hyperalgesia (an increased sensitivity to pain).

I originally wanted to become a certified MLD therapist because of the implications for my oncology clientele, but once I experienced the work for myself it became one of my favorite treatments to receive. The gentle, rhythmic, repetitive strokes are incredibly relaxing. Some of the conditions that we’re seeing respond favorable to MLD besides lymphedema include: anything with inflammation/swelling (sprains, bruises, post-surgical, etc.); fibromyalgia; chronic fatigue syndrome; complex regional pain syndrome; migraines and sinus headaches; and many others.*

I honestly cannot speak highly enough of this work. Gaining this certification was one of the best decisions of my life, and I’m grateful to have another way to help people feel better.

* This is my disclaimer that the rigorous scientific study of massage and MLD is still in its infancy.  This information is based on people with these conditions reporting that they felt improvement following MLD treatments. Some of these used control groups, and possibly some of them didn’t. We’ve got a long way to go to get good, mechanistic data. I still feel that it’s worth including, because as much as I want to know the why and how as exactly as possible, my larger priority is helping clients gain an increase in perceived quality of life.