Breast health is a huge concern within Women’s Medicine. Any mention of breast disease often invokes extraordinary fear in any woman. With one in eight women being affected with breast cancer, our focus should not only be on a cure and treatment but also prevention.
So, why can the breasts be a target for difficulties? The breasts are very lymphatic organs. The lymphatic system is responsible for housing our immune cells and returning cellular debris and fluid from the tissues back to the blood stream. The lymph vessel walls have a weak contraction to pulse the returning fluid along. Therefore, it requires nearby muscle contractions to apply pressure to the vessels to further push the lymph to its destination. This is why many of us can notice swelling in our legs or arms after periods of sedentary activity. There is a very unique difference with the breast’s lymphatics as there are no external forces (such as muscle contractions or joint motion) to aid in lymph movement. Therefore, lymph tends to collect in the breasts and the area becomes slow to drain. Couple this physiological challenge with the use of tight fitting bras and underwires which further traps the lymph within the breast.
CranioSacral Therapy can help by easing tension in the nervous system and connective tissues. The other modality that I practice is Lymph Drainage Therapy. It is gentle manual therapy that works to promote lymph drainage patterns and to decongest tissues. It is helpful with cases of acute or chronic swelling, injury, organ function, immune support and wellness. These two modalities can help. First of all, the breasts drain towards the collar bones, underarms and abdomen. If there are any strains in these areas due to scar tissue resulting from injury, surgery or radiation, there will be compromised lymph drain. Using CranioSacral techniques to ease the connective tissue at the drainage destination will help the breasts to effectively drain. Secondly, using Lymph techniques to drain these same destinations will cause a vacuum effect to the breasts which can help to decongest them. The combination of these two techniques can be used in cases of cancer, cystic and fibrous breasts, lactation difficulties and overall wellness and prevention.
What can you do at home?
- Update your bra collection. Buy bras that fit well and are not constricting. Absolutely throw away your underwire bras! They do more harm than good!!
- Move! Movement helps the lymph not to stagnate. Upper body activities are key.
- Skin brushing. Our lymphatics are largely superficial. Light stroking of the skin aids in lymph return. Using a soft bristle brush or netted loofah, stroke across dry skin lightly. There should only be a light pinking of the skin. Always move towards the heart (normal lymph pattern). This habit feels great and should be applied to arms, legs and torso.
- Stop using antiperspirants. Antiperspirants clog the sweat glands of the underarm. This traps waste and could contribute to breast disease (as the breast largely drains to this site). Sweating is normal! Deodorants work great!
- Sleep. As Dr. Quinn mentioned in her blog, sleep hygiene needs to be practiced. Good, quality sleep aids in stress relief, overall improved organ functioning, including better lymph drainage.
- Schedule a session. Prevention is easier than disease. Be good to yourself!