From the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Expert Advice,” by Bruno Chikly, in the July 2010 issue. Article summary: Lymph techniques are generally thought about when you are dealing with such conditions as swelling, chronic inflammation, chronic pain and muscle spasms. Lymphatic techniques are also particularly effective when applying them to detoxification, esthetics, immune-system disorders and the maladies associated with aging.

by Robert Harris

Specializing in lymphatic drainage can mean many things, depending on where you received your training and in which area your interest lies. A therapist may want to focus her practice, for example, on clients with orthopedic problems; those with edema problems, such as those found in post-breast-cancer patients; clients with vascular issues; or those with dermatological problems.

No matter what your focus is, establishing good networks with other health professionals is one the one of the best ways to build your practice, once you have finished extra training in lymphatic therapy.

Before establishing your networks, make sure you are well prepared. In my experience, physicians, physical and occupational therapists, nurses and chiropractors will listen to a colleague (and treat him as a colleague) who is knowledgeable and comfortable with medical terminology and can speak with confidence about his specialty.

In our enthusiasm, we may be tempted to overstate the benefits or generalize the effects of treatment, and this will soon lose the interest of good potential referral sources. Again, knowledge and confidence come back to your training and how up to date you stay on a subject; for example, by attending conferences, workshops and lectures and staying current on research in your field.

Here are some suggestions for building a network with medical professionals once you are certified in lymphatic drainage:

1. Talk to patient support groups, such as through a local cancer agency, or contact a lymphedema support network and give a demonstration treatment or lecture on lymphatic drainage.

2. Encourage your clients to tell their physicians where they receive treatment and to talk to them about the successes gained from treatment.

3. Contact a referring physician and invite her out to lunch to discuss the types of clients she might refer to you. Be prepared to provide the evidence behind lymphatic drainage.

4. Do an in-service at a local hospital, such as the oncology department, palliative care unit, hospice or vascular unit, describing how lymphatic drainage can benefit these patient groups.

5. Have an open house at your clinic and give a demonstration treatment using actual clients who can speak from experience about the benefits of treatment. Clients with lymphedema are often the best advocates of this treatment.

6. Become part of an interdisciplinary team that meets on a regular basis to discuss treatment approaches.

7. Document your results through objective measurements, including photography and quality-of-life questionnaires. If you are trying to convince a health professional the work is effective, then documentation, especially pictures, is the best way to do so.

We do not work in isolation, and so networking with other health-care professionals is an essential step on the path to becoming a mature practitioner.

Robert Harris, H.N.D., R.M.T., C.L.T.-LANA, is director and senior instructor at the Dr. Vodder School–International (