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lymphatic drainage massage
lymphatic drainage massage

Lymph Massage after Liposuction

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why do I need Lymph Drainage Therapy after my liposuction, Smart-lipo or other cosmetic surgery procedure?

A: You many notice a hardness or lumpiness to the areas treated with liposuction, especially in the abdominal area and even more so if combined with other body contouring procedures (such as fat injections.)  This is normal right after your procedure. This post-surgical lymphedema is caused by inflammation and trauma from the cannula (instrument that sucks out the fat) moving under the skin. Channels are formed by the cannula that can fill up with fluid and the tissue also becomes swollen.  Lymph Drainage Therapy helps to move the fluid by gently pumping it back into the lymph vessels. Reducing the swelling can reduce discomfort. Without Lymph Massage the inflammation can evolve into fibrosis (a permanent hardening of the tissue) or a seroma (pocket of serum) can form. Many doctors prescribe Lymph Drainage Therapy after liposuction to make sure their patients get the best possible results from their procedure.

Q: Is Lymph Drainage Therapy a deep massage?

A: No, although it may seem that deep massage would assist in decreasing the hardness following liposuction, it would actually increase the circulation to the treated areas making it harder to evacuate the lymph fluid. Even though Lymph Drainage Therapy is extremely light work, it is the most efficient way to reduce swelling and bruising. It is based on scientific knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the Lymphatic System. It is a myth that deep massage and heat are beneficial in healing after liposuction. The Vodder Method and the Chikly Technique are widely accepted forms of Lymph Drainage Therapy performed in hospitals and clinics all over the world. So, even though it may seem to you that a deep massage or other forms of therapeutic or Swedish massage would be helpful, it is not.

Q: Does Lymph Drainage Therapy help get rid of bruising?

A: Yes. That is one of the best applications of Lymph Drainage Therapy. Bruises are an accumulation of cellular debris and old red blood cells in the tissue. Lymph Drainage Therapy greatly reduces healing time for bruises by cleansing the extracellular spaces where these substances are trapped.

Q: Is Lymph Drainage Massage Painful?

A: Performed properly it is not painful. Lymph Drainage Therapy is
not traditional massage. It is a specialized bodywork modality that uses a gentle, rotating, pumping motion that moves the lymph fluid without increasing the blood circulation. Increasing the blood circulation with deep massage and heat can actually inhibit the movement of lymph fluid by changing the permeability of the lymph and blood vessels. Do NOT receive a general therapeutic, deep tissue or Swedish Massage in lieu of Lymph Drainage Therapy.

Q: How many treatments will I need?

A: It is ideal to receive at least one or two Lymph Drainage Therapy treatments prior to a procedure. There are many different things that can influence healing. Some patients get 4-6 treatments post-operatively and that is enough, especially if the only area of liposuction was the legs, knees, or flanks. People getting liposuction to the abdomen often find they require up to 12 sessions. Occasionally a client will need more than 12, especially, patients who have multiple procedures at the same time (lipo and a tummy tuck, or lipo and a buttock enhancement).

Q: What is Lymph Drainage Therapy treatment like?

A: After an initial consultation, you will undress down to your underwear, lie down on a massage table in the face-up position, covered modestly with a sheet. The atmosphere is the same as a massage treatment room with dim lighting and soft music.  Although you are in a massage setting, it is important to understand that Lymph Drainage Therapy is a specific form of bodywork designed to efficiently move lymph fluid in your body. Lymph Drainage Therapy  is completely different from a deep tissue, Swedish or relaxation massage that you may be expecting or have had in the past. Stimulation of the Lymphatic System activates the para-sympathetic nervous system producing an automatic physiological relaxation response. Many clients fall asleep. Only the area being worked on is undraped at any time. Gentle, rotating, pumping motions with the therapist's hands and fingertips begin at the collarbone area, then focus on areas where there is a concentration of lymph nodes...the underarms, abdomen, groin and back of the knees. Usually the entire session in performed with you lying in the face-up position because all of the areas of lymph nodes that need to be decongested are located on the front of the body. Starting on the back (even for fat injections to the buttocks) would not be indicated because it is necessary to open up the major lymphatic areas on the front of your body before the backside of the body can drain. It is very important to decongest the areas of drainage in the groin, abdomen, underarms and collarbone areas before sending extra lymph fluid to them. Directing lymph fluid to nodal areas without opening the lymph nodes up first increases the discomfort and overwhelms the nodes, leading to increased recovery time. Each session is one hour.

Q: How often is Lymph Drainage Therapy applied?

A: The first week it is suggested that sessions be daily or every other day, if possible.  The second week, every other day, reducing in frequency after that. It is not possible to get too much Lymph Drainage Therapy and the sessions can be scheduled at your convenience.

Q: How soon after my procedure can Lymph Drainage Therapy begin?

A: It is possible to begin as soon as 24 hours post-op. Please ask you doctor when you should start Lymph Drainage Therapy for your procedure.  Most people wait until they can comfortably drive themselves to appointments, which is usually about a week post-op.

Q: It has been over a month since I had my procedure.  Is it too late to begin Lymph Drainage Therapy?

A: No. The healing process after these types of procedure is several months. If it has been over a month since your procedure you can still get the smoothing benefits of Lymph Drainage Therapy.  If it has been over 6 months since your procedure and you are still feeling lumps and hardness you should contact your doctor to make sure you have not developed fibrosis or a seroma.

Q: Do I need a prescription for Lymph Drainage Therapy?

A: No. Although many doctors recommend Lymph Drainage Therapy, it is also perfectly fine to self-refer.


Upledger CranioSacral Certified
California Massage Therapy Council

Kathryn Reeves • 406 Chinn Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95404 • Call: 707-953-6744