For a good explanation of lymphedema and what it is see reference 1 below. See also my article above. One day, modern science will finally come to the conclusion that excising lymph nodes only creates more problems than it cures. In the meantime, while there is no cure for the secondary lymphedema caused by lymph node removal during breast cancer surgery, there are certainly a number of things you can do for yourself to ease the symptoms and severity of it and I discuss many of those options in my article referenced in the first paragraph above.
The focus of today’s post is to share with you a really excellent massage oil recipe which helps to ease the pain and swelling of lymphedema. Here it is:
Lymphedema Massage Oil
In a dark glass bottle, combine 2 oz/60 ml organic carrier oil (this can be almond, fractionated coconut, olive, or hemp but make sure it’s organic) with 5 drops each of the following medicinal grade essential oils :
Lemon – has antiseptic properties, is excellent for improving microcirculation, and is anti-tumoral (yes I have research on that if you’d like to see it)
Rosemary – has anti-bacterial properties, it improves circulation, helps with liver detoxification
Juniper – cleans the blood of toxins, removes extra water from the body through the urine (natural diuretic), increases circulation
Just make sure to shake the bottle gently prior to each use to combine the oils.
A Little Info About Essential Oils
Essential oils have long been recognized for their wonderful healing properties and they have been used for centuries. There are many references to essential oils in the ancient Judeo-Christian religious texts. Essential oils are created from a variety of plant constituents including flowers, leaves, roots and bark, and the oils are extracted through specific distillation methods.
Although not oils in the sense that olive oil, almond oil or coconut oils are oils, “essential” oils are termed this because they have the distinctive scent or essence of the plant from which they are derived. They are also essential to life (both ours and the plant’s!).
GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
If you’ve had a lymphedema diagnosis (or lymphoedema, if you’re British, Australian or Canadian) after having lymphatic vessels removed during the course of your breast cancer treatment, you’ll know it’s painful, you’ll never want it back and will do everything in your power to banish it forever.
I only ever struggled with it once and this was on a hot Australian summer day when I was going through chemotherapy. At first I thought I had a sunburn, but my skin wasn’t red. My arm felt really sore from elbow to wrist and it wasn’t until I compared one wrist to the other that I could see the swelling on the affected side. I was rather surprised because I’d only had three lymph nodes excised!
Unfortunately, lymph node removal and/or radiation often damage the lymphatic system. As a result, fluid backs up and limbs or other parts of the body swell up, kind of like a clogged drain pipe, which is a good analogy because the lymphatic system is the body’s waste removal device.
What Exactly Is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is (according to dictionary.com) “the accumulation of lymph in soft tissue with accompanying swelling, often of the extremities: sometimes caused by inflammation, obstruction, or removal of lymph channels”. Lymphedema, as it relates to breast cancer, sometimes occurs after some (or all) lymph nodes are removed on the side of the body where the cancer occurred.
Lymphedema symptoms can include any or all of the following:
a feeling of heaviness or tightness
restriction in range of motion of affected limb
aching or discomfort in affected limb
recurring infections in affected limb
We are very fortunate to be living in the age where the sentinel node biopsy is performed. Years ago, the standard of care for women with breast cancer was to undergo mastectomy and complete axillary clearance of any lymph nodes (the removal of most or all lymph nodes on the affected side).
For those who have lost more lymph nodes – which often happens if the sentinel node biopsy indicates that the disease has progressed beyond the breast – lymphedema is much more prevalent and can vary from mild to severe cases. Not long ago I witnessed a case of elephantiasis – the poor people going through this! One arm appears to be completely normal, while the other is swollen almost beyond recognition. I can’t imagine how painful that would be – prompting me to write this article.
Natural Alternatives for Lymphedema
Manual Lymph Drainage – this is generally performed by a licensed specialist or specifically trained massage therapist (make sure yours is certified and knows exactly what they’re doing). MLD is non-invasive, very relaxing and gentle, and a key preventive measure. MLD practitioners gently palpate at key points of the body to determine the state of lymphatic circulation, evaluating for poor flow, and with treatment, encourage the proper rhythm, direction, strength, and quality of lymphatic flow. More than 80 years of research have shown the benefits of Manual Lymph Drainage. Please note: regular massage is generally NOT a good idea for lymphedema – it must be the specific Manual Lymph Drainage, a much slower and gentler technique.
Compression Sleeve – specially designed sleeves help to decongest the backed-up fluid by pressing down on it. The sustained pressure then stimulates the fluid to flow more freely through your system. Your MLD practitioner (see #1 above) may recommend the use of compression bandages which are non-elastic, because the added strength of a more rigid fabric adds more pressure against the affected limb. Interestingly, the non-elastic quality also makes it easier for lymphedema sufferers to wear for longer periods of time. These are especially useful when you are flying somewhere or going up to the mountains as lymphedema tends to worsen at high altitudes.
Detox Regularly – both inside the body through the use of particular herbs (best recommended by your naturopath), as well as externally through epsom salt baths which help to draw impurities out of your body through your skin. Since the lymphatic system is your body’s internal “cleaning crew” a regular detox helps to keep it cleared out and operating optimally.
Increase Circulation of Lymph – this can be done in many ways. Yoga, brisk walking, the use of a rebounder (like a small trampoline), cycling, hiking, lifting small hand weights, skin brushing with a loofah for a few minutes each day – all of these can help to increase the circulation of lymphatic fluid.
Keep Weight Down – Being overweight makes the body and all of its various components work harder because the extra fat is a burden. The higher your body mass, the more difficult it becomes to manage your lymphedema. It’s also true that people with unhealthy body masses are more prone to lymphedema.
Clean Up Your Diet – your lymphatic system copes better with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, lean and unprocessed organic meats, herbal teas. Get processed foods and artificially sweetened drinks out of your diet – too many chemicals cause your lymphatic system to work that much harder. Reduce salt intake because salt makes you retain fluids that much easier. Probiotics are helpful to keep friendly bacteria in the intestines thriving, support the immune system, and aid in toxin removal. An excellent book to buy would be Healing Diet: A Total Health Program to Purify Your Lymph System and Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease, Arthritis, and Cancer by Dr Gerard Lemole.
Freshly Ground Flaxseed – a great natural anti-inflammatory, flaxseed is also a gentle blood thinner, which helps lymphatic fluid to flow better.
Elevation – simply elevating the affected limb can be helpful.
Lymphedema Pump – a specialized piece of equipment that plugs in, has a pneumatic pump which gently compresses the affected limb and helps to improve lymphatic flow. Just “google” the words lymphedema pump and you’ll get quite a few manufacturers’ websites.
Meditation & Visualization – your brain is more powerful than you think. You can stimulate your lymphatic system with meditation and visualization. If you need help with meditation, see my page about it.
Energy Medicine – the use of acupuncture, Reiki, Healing Touch – all are energy-based techniques that can help to stimulate the flow of lymph within the body.
Herbal Medicine – contact your naturopath for the best herbs to assist the lymphatic system. Something easy you can do is drink ginger tea daily – simply get some fresh, organic ginger and peel about a 1″ piece of it, pour hot water over it and let it steep for 5-10 minutes. Ginger is a wonderful natural anti-inflammatory.
If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-books and newsletters on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark Breast Health Coach). It is my honor to help you through this.
Subscribe For Extra Support
Receive my informative newsletter PLUS my gift to you, these 2 eBooks valued at $47. My subscribers also get a treasure trove of info on nutrition, supplements and lifestyle tips on surviving breast cancer.
You have Successfully Subscribed!
your details are kept 100% private
Search the Site
About Marnie Clark
Hi I'm Marnie Clark, breast cancer survivor, and breast cancer coach. I have 20+ years of experience in natural medicine. In 2004/05 I battled breast cancer myself. You can see more about my journey on my page Breast Cancer Diary.
I've been healthy and recurrence-free since 2004 and in 2012 I became a Breast Cancer Coach because I became aware of the fact that whilst there is now a wealth of information on the Internet, much of it is confusing, conflicting, and sometimes just wrong!
Why should you work with me? Because:
(1) You don't want to go through this journey alone, feeling unempowered, frightened or just plain
clueless about what to do to help yourself.
(2) You will have someone working tirelessly on your behalf, putting together a healing plan for
you so you don’t have to lose your precious energy researching what food you should eat,
what supplements you should take, and what other things you can do that will give you the
best chances for survival. Instead you can spend that time resting, meditating, healing.
(3) You will learn what questions to ask your doctor (and have someone to turn to for the
questions they can't or won't answer).
(4) You will be armed with the tools and strategies you will need to get through the therapies you
choose so you can make your body hostile terrain for cancer.
You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.