Reflexology Lymph Drainage (RLD)

What is Reflexology Lymph Drainage (RLD)?

RLD is an award winning reflexology technique which focuses on stimulating the lymphatic reflexes on the feet. The aim is to cause an effect on the lymphatic system in the body. It is a unique sequence that has been researched and developed by Sally Kay BSc(Hons), whilst working in Cancer Care.

Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is a specialised form of massage aimed at moving fluid from the swollen areas to the working lymph nodes where it can be drained.

Reflexology lymph drainage (RLD) can be used in a similar way to MLD.  MLD may also be useful for the following conditions:

Arthritis. Asthma. Chronic Fatigue. Eczema. Fibromyalgia. Headaches.  ME. Migraines. Muscular Tension. Premenstrual Syndrome.

I undertook the specialist training in 2016 and since then have included RLD techniques in my treatments. I have treated many clients for swollen feet and legs and people often report that after treatment their feet feel lighter and the swelling has improved.  The photos below show my 92 year old client who had had severe swelling in her left leg for almost a year which can be seen in the first picture.  She had a monthly treatment for 3 months and the second photo was taken after the third treatment.  She has experienced a significant difference in the level of discomfort and swelling.

What is Lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is a condition that causes swelling in the body’s tissues due to the failure of lymph drainage. It can affect any part of the body, but usually develops in the arms or legs.

It develops when the lymphatic system doesn’t work properly. The lymphatic system is a network of channels and glands throughout the body that helps fight infection and remove excess fluid.  Unlike blood circulation, the lymphatic system has no central pump, such as the heart, to move fluid to the lymph glands. Instead, it uses the massaging effect of surrounding muscles to move the fluid.

There is sadly no cure for lymphoedema but a range of treatments can help to manage symptoms and keep it under control.  These include wearing compression bandages, keeping the skin in good condition and exercising and Massage Lymph Drainage (MLD). RLD works in a similar way to MLD.

Primary lymphoedema is caused by alterations (mutations) in genes responsible for the development of the lymphatic system. The “faulty” genes cause the parts of the lymphatic system responsible for draining fluid to not develop properly or not work as they should.

Secondary lymphoedema develops in people who previously had a normal lymphatic system that then becomes damaged.


What can cause secondary lymphoedema?

Infection and illness

Conditions that can cause lymphoedema include cellulitis, rheumatoid arthritis, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), eczema and varicose veins.

Diseases that affect the flow of blood through the veins can cause fluid to overflow from the veins into the tissue spaces. This overwhelms and eventually exhausts the parts of the lymphatic system responsible for draining this fluid.

Movement and exercise help lymph drainage because muscle activity surrounding the lymphatic vessels massages fluid into and along them.  Obesity may also cause secondary lymphoedema.  It’s not clear exactly why this is, but it’s been suggested that the extra fatty tissue affects the lymphatic channels in some way, reducing the flow of fluid through them.

Cancer treatments

People who have had treatment for cancer might have surgery to remove sections of the lymphatic system.  There is a risk of lymphoedema occurring after treatment for any cancer where lymph glands are removed.  If radiotherapy is needed to destroy cancerous cells in your lymphatic system, there’s a risk that the lymphatic system could become permanently damaged and unable to drain fluid properly.

Trauma and injury

In a small number of cases, it can be caused by an accidental injury to the lymphatic system. For example, it can sometimes occur after a road traffic accident where there’s extensive bruising or soft tissue loss.