Talking lymphoedema and the benefits of hypnosis
What is lymphoedema?
Lymphoedema is a chronic or on-going condition that causes swelling (oedema) in body tissue. It can affect any part of the body and often develops in the arms and legs. The extent of the swelling can vary from Grade 1 [mild oedema] to Grade 4 [gigantic oedema]. Consequently, patients with lymphoedema can be thought to be morbidly obese by those who lack knowledge and understanding because it’s a condition we hear little about.
In a nutshell, lymphoedema develops when the body’s lymphatic system doesn’t work effectively. The lymphatic system is a network of channels (vessels) and glands (lymph nodes) throughout the body that help fight infection and remove excess fluid. Injury, inflammation or lack of mobility results in a blockage in your lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining well, and the fluid build-up leads to swelling/disfiguration.
Unlike the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump (heart). Instead, it relies on the respiratory system (breathing) and muscle movement [diaphragmatic breathing and exercise] to support the effective transportation of lymph fluid. This in itself can be problematic - swelling impedes mobility, lack of mobility affects breathing (oxygen flow), shallow breathing adversely affects lymph circulation, lack of circulation, as well as debris/blockages, causes swelling. A vicious circle, as some would say.
Lymphoedema is thought to affect around 200,000 people in the United Kingdom and 140 million people worldwide.
Primary lymphoedema is genetic and can start at any age.
Secondary lymphoedema is caused by damage to the lymphatic system. This can be due to a range of issues including cancer treatment, injury, inflammation of a limb, lack of mobility.
Common symptoms of lymphoedema
- significant swelling in a single limb, multiple limbs or another body part
- increased weight and associated discomfort
- aching/pain or heavy feeling
- back pain due to increased weight and decreasing mobility
- mobility issues, difficulty moving the affected limb/s, e.g. walking, carrying
- skin infections, e.g. cellulitis
- hard, tight skin
- folds in the skin
- wart-likes on the skin
- leaky skin (seeping fluid)
- psychological issues associated with body image and self-efficacy
Treatment of lymphoedema
The NHS notes that although there is no cure for lymphoedema it is usually possible to minimalise swelling by minimalizing fluid build-up and stimulating the flow of fluid through the system. This includes: Wearing compression garments, skin care, manual lymphatic drainage.
Hypnotherapy and lymphoedema
Visualisation and suggestion therapy, as well as a range of NLP techniques, can support associated conditions and behaviours including but not limited to:
- anxiety/state management
- confidence, self-image and limiting beliefs or thoughts that hold you back
- pain management
- exercise and mobility
- weight management
Therapists who use psychoneuroimmunology will create imagery that will support their patients to 'see' their system working effectively.
NLP master practitioners trained in using Richard Bandler’s Design Human Engineering (DHE), will support clients/patients to use their own imaginary control panel. With practice, you can influence sensations that previously you may have thought as being out of your control. That is to say, you can achieve a temporary loss or reduction of pain using a very simple technique.
Living with lymphoedema
I recently interviewed a woman called Annette. Her personal experience of lymphoedema made a profound impression on me. Lymphoedema is a big deal, both emotionally and physically. There are numerous ways in which Hypnotherapy can help. When asked how hypnotherapy has helped her, this is what she said...
You’ve got to stay mentally right. My hippy days help me. We learnt to control our feelings, to control our minds; so, I apply it to pain and sensory aspects, the hot, cold and itchy sensation. It’s like you go into a deep calmness; it helps with sleep and migraines too!
Pain is on the surface; managing it requires deep meditation, [In hypnosis, we call this an altered state.] I think in pictures, I take my mind so far inside that I see nothing and everything calms down. It takes time! I took painkillers too, but I did not want to become dependant on them. Manual lymphatic drainage – this made me feel so much better!
Hypnotherapy helped me to visualise my lymphatic system working well and see myself overcoming barriers to success. Hypnotherapy has quite simply changed my life!
It’s given me confidence. I’m taking on a new job, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that in the past. Before, if things seemed out of my comfort zone, I could always see a reason not to do it! It’s like it’s tidied my thinking up. When you’ve got so many things on, you get jumbled. Now, I’m no longer anxious about them. That is, all the things I have to think about with my lymphoedema. Everything’s easier, it’s taken the anxiety barrier away.
After Hypnosis, you do things without thinking about them. Taking away the anxiety means you can do anything you want. I can sleep when I want! Getting dressed – compression tights now take two minutes whereas previously it took 20!
The content in this article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare advisor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have seen on a website.
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