When East Meets West

I often find myself pondering on the little nuances of my practice. Those little subtleties that signal you to the next revelation or lead you onto another level of awareness.

My recent pondering takes me down both the reflexology and the acupuncture avenues and meets to bring another level or dimension to my understanding.

I have been using the Reflexology Lymph Drainage (RLD) technique a lot lately, and really focussing a lot of attention on this sequence; looking at the particular reflexes and how the areas of the body represented by these points actually function. One of the key points of the RLD sequence is the reflex point for the Subclavian Vein (SV). This point is on the dorsal of both feet and is situated exactly at the same acupoint Liver 3.

The SV is an important point for the RLD sequence, as this is where the lymphatic system, once finished cleaning and transporting lymph through the body, will return it back into the cardiovascular system i.e. the blood. This point gets used A LOT during the RLD sequence; after every sweep and general movement, we ask the body to deposit the lymph back to the cardiovascular system via the techniques of reflexology. It is gently stimulated a minimum of 18 times on each foot, plus additional linking at the end.

From an acupuncture point of view, this point is known as Liver 3. The energy of the Liver is to govern “spreading and draining”. By this we mean that it is responsible for maintaining the free flow of Qi (energy). Liver Qi can be restricted emotionally by anger, and physically by damp-heat. “When Liver Qi stagnates, it gives rise to sensations of pressure, distention and pain”. So these are the same symptoms that we are addressing in the RLD sequence; pressure and distention from oedema, and subsequent pain that this causes. Oedema is a “damp” symptom; fluid starts to stagnate and that is what is known as “damp”. If it stagnates for long enough it can start to warm up which is known as “damp-heat”.

On each acupuncture meridian, there is a principal or “source” point which is known as the most powerful point of that particular channel. Liver 3 is the source point for the Liver channel and it is the main point we would chose to promote free-flowing Qi. In addition, this point (or points if we are thinking bilaterally) combined with Large Intestine 4 (Li4) on the hands, make up the “four gates” which are used for the relief of pain. What is interesting to me is that Li4 is the exact same point we would use for the SV in RLD on the hands!

We might ask what this all means? It just consolidates for me that what we do from either angle, whether its from a western medical viewpoint or whether it is from a Traditional Chinese Medicine viewpoint, it all slots together. The two approaches fit neatly together side by side. They both make sense.

Lymphatic Drainage using Reflexology on the Feet

I have been using the well established Reflexology Lymph Drainage technique for 6 years now. This technique isolates the reflexes of the lymphatic system using gentle circling and sweeping techniques with the intention of moving fluid in the body.

During September I have been treating a client with unilateral secondary lymphoedema in the arm, wrist and hand. We took some basic measurements in the distal (lower) arm before and after the sessions each week.

The graph below presents the results over the 4 week period. As you can see, the percentage difference in millilitres of excess fluid volume in the swollen arm compared to the unaffected arm reduces significantly after the first session, then continues to adjust then plateau after the 4th session.

Over the 4 weeks my client also noticed an improved range of motion in the wrist, and more normal sensations with the skin on the back of hand; reduced tightness and more elasticity.

My client has enjoyed the sessions so much, finding them deeply and surprisingly relaxing, and has booked another course which begins in a few weeks time.

If you are interested in trying this technique with me, or know someone who suffers with secondary lymphoedema, please get in touch for an initial chat. I offer 4 weekly sessions at a discounted price of £120.