Sometimes it is darkest just before the dawn

I don’t like to send patients home after their first session with anything negative in their heads, so normally just suggest that they email or call if they have any concerns. I’ve had a few people lately have quite strong reactions, often involving a flare-up of a chronic condition to a more acute feeling.

This can happen in many therapies, but I tend to notice it mostly in Bowen, and to a lesser degree in Lymphatic Drainage. In naturopathic terms, it is known as a healing crisis, whereby the body (that has long since settled into a chronic disease pattern) is suddenly working its way back to health and often relives some of the more acute symptoms that may have died down or changed over time.

In Bowen this can be noticed as nerves “coming back to life” after settling in to a duller signal or muscles pulling as the body realigns itself. It is no cause for panic and will normally right itself with time and some more sessions until things are properly realigned. If you feel that the pain is impacting on your ability to function normally, feel free to use whatever painkillers you normally would but it is important to not apply hot or cold packs to the area or massage yourself (or get someone else to!) as this will interrupt those clever little impulses that the Bowen Therapy sets up and possibly leave you in your painful place. The exception to this is if you re-injure yourself. If you find yourself in pain due to an acute injury or following the very activity that brought you to me in the first place, you may need to come back in sooner rather than waiting for the full week to elapse. If in doubt, ask!

In regards to Lymphatic Drainage, most of the more dramatic responses have been due to people who have had more serious conditions to start with. Those who have a difficult-to-treat infection such as Lyme (or similar) may have an initial worsening of symptoms. A history of tropical diseases, such as malaria, Ross River or Dengue Fevers, may bring a strong response after treatment. If you’ve had any of these, working in small doses will be the best approach. Other than that, it is normally those who’ve fully enjoyed all the world has to offer that tend to respond more dramatically – people who may already have a lot of stress on the liver can sometimes feel quite off afterwards.

My point is that there is no reason to fear feeling bad after treatment – it is often a really good sign! If ever in any doubt, please get in contact so we can discuss your individual symptoms and be sure.

Taking Responsibility for Your Lymphatic Condition

Anyone who’s ever been to the physio and been given “homework” will know where I’m going with this. When you return to the physio and they ask if you’ve done your exercises or stretches, you can see that they are ready to sigh. All too often, people are “too busy” or “forget” and expect their health practitioner to do all the work for them. When in the realm of physical problems and treatments, taking a pill isn’t enough. It often requires lifestyle adjustments, such as a change to diet or exercise, or even engaging with a variety of specialist practitioners to achieve the best possible result. It requires the person to “own” their condition and work to improve it.

This is just as true for lymphatic problems. As your lymphatics interact with so many bodily systems, it is vital to explore possible interactions with your practitioner and to consider lifestyle adjustments when suggested. The patients who listen to suggestions and make changes to their lifestyles achieve much greater results than those who continue as before and come for the odd treatment.

I’ve already written about the importance of nutrition and inflammatory conditions of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) in lymphatic drainage, it is important that people consider this, especially in the case of fluid retention in the legs. I’ve had several patients who have tested positive for coeliac, but were told that they could still eat wheat if they didn’t think it affected them. Of course, it did, just not really obviously. This is just one example – it could be all sorts of things. This is best addressed by a good doctor, naturopath or nutritionist. As are conditions that some poor ladies are lumped with, such as endometriosis that also cause inflammation the abdomen.

Similarly, I’ve found over the years that a lot of people with lymphatic problems are highly stressed and prone to over-thinking everything. Some active relaxation or meditation (not just watching telly) will often make a big difference to the level of a lymphatic problem.

But when you come for your consultation we’ll also talk about appropriate exercise levels, workplace factors, when it’s appropriate to wear compression garments and all the various things that can encourage or help fluid build-up in your tissues. If you take this information to heart and look to make positive changes to how you live day-to-day then you should achieve much better results than relying on treatment alone.

Is your fluid retention related to your gut?

I’ve noticed that quite a few patients coming in with fluid retention in the legs or bloating in the belly have a common factor of gastro-intestinal tract (GIT) problems. This can be anything from a food intolerance (often the usual suspects of wheat, dairy, yeast and fructose) to more serious conditions such as colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Why is this? Well, for those unfamiliar with the lymphatic system, the lymphatics empty back into your blood in the sub-clavian vein (in most people) near your clavicle or collar bone. This means that all lymphatic fluid in your body must make its way back to your neck. As the lymphatics have a large role in immune response and an allergic reaction or auto-immune problem is based in the immune system, this will lead to inflammation and various white blood cells and pro-inflammatory factors rushing to the gut. This clogs everything and water comes to surround the proteins in the immune reaction. The result is a bloated tummy and possible back-log right down to the ankles as the fluid from your legs must make its way through the abdomen to the thoracic duct under your sternum. You can think of it as trying to get out of a shopping centre car park at 5 when the shops shut. There are limited exits and all lanes feeding to them. The traffic jam eventually passes right back up to the other levels of car park.

Working with a naturopath or nutritionist can help you to understand food allergies and there are treatments, both medical and herbal, for inflammation of the bowel. Manual lymphatic work can help to clear out the old blockage and free the flow again. Obviously this isn’t the case with all lower body blockages – some are from surgery (C-section, appendicectomy, cancer, traumatic birth, varicose veins) and congenital causes, but it certainly makes a difference to a vast number of my patients.