Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage?

I have letters after my name which are sometimes confusing: CMLDT. This stands for "Certified Manual Lymphatic Drainage Therapist," and it is one of my favorite modalities.  Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is vastly under-utilized.  I am making it one of my goals for the coming year to introduce this work to a broader audience.

MLD is a gentle technique designed to increase the movement of fluid through the lymphatic system.  The lymphatic system is our waste removal system, transporting fluid from spaces between body tissues into the cardiovascular system for delivery of nutrients and removal of wastes.  The lymphatic system also serves immune system functions. 

MLD has a number of applications.  Most people hear about it in reference to cancer treatment where lymph nodes are removed and the risk for lymphedema is increased.  MLD is certainly a powerful part of lymphedema treatment and prevention, but it has many applications for everyone.

For example, MLD was initially developed by Dr. Emil Vodder and Estrid Vodder as a method of treating the chronic colds displayed by English visitors to their clinic in Cannes.  Their techniques showed dramatic successes, relieving colds and sinus congestion almost immediately.  I have also seen this effect with clients who use MLD to manage chronic allergy-related sinus congestion. 

MLD Is also effective as part of the treatment for whiplash, injury-related swelling and post-surgical swelling.  The techniques are so gentle that they can often be applied very early in the healing process, even before traditional massage techniques can be used.  

MLD can also help with management of chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis.  In addition, people who suffer migraines or sinus headaches often find relief with MLD.  

My clients report that the experience of MLD is profoundly relaxing.  Even a brief, 15-minute head, neck and face treatment can help alleviate overall tension and stress.  I have also noticed decreases in post-workout swelling and recovery time if a client receives MLD right after a training session.  

In short, MLD can benefit you, right now.  I'd love to tell you more about it, and talk about how you can incorporate this work into your overall wellness plan.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


I was talking with a friend about the venues in which I teach, expressing love for the teaching, but ambivalence about the venue.  And then she said something brilliant: "You don't have to be in that classroom to be a teacher."

Yes.  Silly me-- I thought the place defined who I was, but I forgot that definition comes from within.  So, now one of my goals for the next year is to find new, supportive venues to be who I am -- educator, massage therapist, kindness-bearing human.

In the grand tradition of what you send out comes back to you, a beautiful opportunity came to me.  Starting in January, I will be teaching an ongoing muscular anatomy class at a local dance and fitness studio.  I am excited and a little overwhelmed.  There is always that moment of "Am I the right person to do this?  Couldn't someone else do it better?"  I remind myself -- I am the best person for this, because I am the one pouring my heart and energy into it.

I can't wait to introduce a whole new audience to their own bodies.  It's like Schoolhouse Rock said, way back when:  "It's great to learn -- 'cause knowledge is power!"

Here we go.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Teacher's Pet Syndrome

Some people read WebMD and suddenly discover that they have multiple serious diagnoses.  Me, I I don't need WebMD.  I come up with my own fake syndromes all the time.  Today I have diagnosed myself with a serious case of TPS, or Teacher's Pet Syndrome.

Symptoms of TPS include: fluctuations in self-esteem, general discomfort around uncertainty, and unexplained desire to receive approval.  TPS is usually identified before the age of 10, although some rare cases may have an adult onset.  Once infected with TPS, the patient can experience long phases of disease inactivity, but flare-ups do occur, often without warning.  TPS manifests most seriously when the sufferer encounters questions for which she does not have an answer.  

Today, I suppressed a mild TPS flare up.  My client asked me to check a bump on the back of her neck.  "I mean, I know you're not a doctor and you can't diagnose," she said, "But I just want to know what you think.  If you think I should see my doctor or whatever." I was seized with uncertainty.  I palpated the bump on her neck.  I had no idea what I was feeling.  I just didn't know, and this made me extremely nervous. As a person who knows lots of other stuff, and enjoys teaching this stuff to people, it feels distinctly unsafe to admit when something is beyond me.

But it is even more unsafe not to admit when something is beyond me.  So, with my heart racing, I told her, "I don't know what that could be, but if you're concerned about it, you should see your physician." My misguided TPS instincts wanted to make up a plausible story about what it was, so that I could receive even more approval for the knowledge I have acquired.  Had I done so, I could have persuaded her not to see her physician at all, and who knows what that bump could have been.  

I often tell my students to be confident in what they say, even if what they say is "I don't know."  The point is that you don't build trust by making up semi-plausible explanations about health questions outside your scope.  You build trust by admitting when something is beyond your expertise, and gently suggesting someone seek the advice of a professional who knows.  

I am happy to say that my TPS is largely in remission now, so I will be saying "I don't know" whenever it is appropriate -- because I am confident in my knowledge, and in my limitations.