Breast Massage for Lyme Disease related Lymphadenopathy?

It can't be a coincidence that LYMe and LYMph are almost the same word! But to drain or not to drain, that is the question.

I'm seeing some online chatter about completely avoiding lymphatic drainage for patients with Lyme disease. On the other hand, some therapists are considering these patients be treated with lymph drainage therapy, as if they had Stage 0 lymphedema (like they have had lymph nodes removed). This article seems to have spurred some of this discussion.

The research delineates that live Borrelia burgdorferi spirochetes (from ticks) accumulate in the lymph nodes, disrupting their function and potentially their structure. Damaged lymph nodes bad!

I am keeping this in mind for its potiential effects on breast tissue. A build up of Lyme affected lymph nodes in the underarm could lead to significant congestion in the breasts and cause breast pain, similar to that experienced after lumpectomy with lymph node dissection. What if some of the benign "breast lumps" that women experience were enlarged lymph nodes from these bugs?

In my practice at Holistic Healing Arts, I work with several "Lymies" and found this very insightful. My experience is that lymphatic massage can in fact reduce some of the detox or Herx reactions that patients experience from other treatments, as they are trying to eliminate the Lyme infection. As far as protocol for lymphatic drainage with these patients, I do a thorough lymph assessment (mapping) and carefully correlate this with their symptoms (every patient is unique).

From there I treat very slowly and minimally in the symptomatic areas until I know how the patient will react. I also stay in close communication with the rest of the health care team and make sure the patient has a good plan for self-care and access to Lyme-experienced medical care if they do have a symptom flare. And no deep tissue massage - my patients with Lyme disease seem to all report having had bad reactions after deep tissue massage.

I hope this is useful. Please comment below with your thoughts on this issue. Or you may schedule a complementary phone consultation, if you have questions about receiving lymph drainage massage to optimize your detox treatments.

If you are interested in advancing your treatment skills, I am teaching a "Love Your Lymph" continuing education class (open to all health professionals). Click here for registration information.

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