Pioneered at Cardiff Metropolitan University by Sally Kay, Reflexology Lymph Drainage (RLD) is a technique used by specially trained reflexologists to target symptoms of secondary lymphoedema. Lymphoedema in the hand, arm or around the shoulder can follow treatment for breast cancer which has damaged the lymph vessels or lymph nodes. 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 simple manual lymph drainage techniques which alleviate 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 feet reflex points and targets the body’s lymphatic system to promote correct drainage of lymphatic fluid. View Sally’s video:
Early indications are that RLD can result in:
- significant reduction of swelling
- reduction in pain and discomfort
- increase in arm mobility and strength
- improvement of wellbeing and body image
These pictures taken before and after a treatment as part of the most recent research trial illustrate reduction in swelling.
Can having a treatment on the feet really help the swelling in an arm or hand?
The RLD technique has been developed in outpatient clinics. Following an initial study, Sally Kay and a team from Cardiff Metropolitan University carried out a research study on 26 women with lymphoedema funded by Tenovus Cancer Care. This indicated that 4 sessions of RLD significantly reduced arm swelling and reduced patients’ concerns about pain and mobility and improved their wellbeing. These improvements appeared to last for at least six months. Because the treatment is given on the feet rather than via direct MLD over the affected areas, it can avoid discomfort that may be experienced during the MLD treatment. Cancer Research UK has summarised the results of this research on their website.
What happens in a RLD reflexology treatment?
I will take a medical and personal history. You will be asked to remove any compression garments so that the size of both your arms can be measured. The reflexology treatment will then be given with you resting comfortably in a recliner. Your feet will be massaged and precise pressure techniques used on specific areas. These techniques should not be painful but you may feel tender points indicating imbalance in the relevant reflexes. At the end of the treatment your arms will be measured again in order to assess the effects of the treatment on the swelling. The treatment will usually take from 30 to 60 minutes.
How many treatments should you have?
In the initial study, the first treatment gave the biggest reduction in swelling with following treatments helping to further reduce the swelling and improve other symptoms. It is usually recommended to have 4 to 6 weekly treatments initially with a regular (less frequent) maintenance plan thereafter. The recent research study indicated that effects can last for up to six months. Please contact me if you would like to discuss this further.
Other Applications of RLD
RLD trained reflexologists have also been working with clients with other conditions such as lower limb lymphoedema, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, ME, migraines and headaches, PMS and hayfever. As always I am happy to discuss your particular needs without obligation.