After undergoing a cosmetic surgery or procedure, we’re all eager to heal and get back to our normal routines as quickly as possible without compromising results, right? Case in point: our overview of post-procedure exercise guidelines.
As it turns out, it’s not just gentle movement, proper rest, and a healthy diet that benefit healing. In fact, a spa staple may very well deserve a spot in your recovery process thanks to its ability to reduce swelling, promote healing, and improve results. What is it, you ask? A manual lymphatic drainage massage. Here’s the scoop…
What Is the Lymphatic System?
The lymphatic system is composed of a series of lymphatics (read: channels) that run throughout the body and lead back to larger lymph nodes. The job of the lymphatic system is to rid the body of toxins, waste, and unwanted materials, in addition to transporting lymph — a fluid containing white blood cells — throughout the body to help fight infection.
Regular Massage vs. Lymphatic Massage
Regular massages target the muscles, whereas lymphatic drainage massages address the skin in order to improve the efficiency of the lymphatic system. “A lymphatic drainage massage is different than getting a regular massage in the sense that long, rhythmic, wave-like strokes are used to open and then shut the lymphatics, leaving little time for that lymph to get sucked down along the vessel,” explains Leyla Valladares, manager of Health in Hands Spa in Hoboken, NJ.
But that’s not all. “An appropriate rhythm will also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, causing the client to relax,” she says. Other benefits include reducing the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness and decreasing swelling, muscular fatigue, weakness, and pain.
Benefits of a Post-Op Lymphatic Massage
After cosmetic surgeries like liposuction, tummy tucks, or arm, thigh, and Brazilian butt lifts, the lymphatic channels are disrupted and take about two to three months to make new connections. Plastic surgeons agree that adding a series of lymphatic massages to a patient’s post-op care routines can benefit their recovery.
The massage technique helps to reduce swelling and improve aesthetic results by decreasing congestion of the tissue. “The masseuse will massage extra fluid towards the lymphatic tissue, so that it is more quickly absorbed by the body,” says Melissa Doft, MD, a New York City-based double board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon. And that can also help to prevent infection. “When there is lymphatic congestion, infection is a much higher risk and you can have healing problems due to the swelling of tissue,” explains Richard Brown, MD, a double board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Scottsdale, AZ. “That, in turn, can lead to pressure on incision lines.”
While lymphatic massages may be most closely associated with body procedures, Dr. Doft is known to recommend them for patients undergoing facial surgeries (think: facelifts), too. Since all types of surgeries result in swelling, they can all benefit, she says.
When to Schedule a Lymphatic Massage
It’s recommended that patients who underwent surgeries like liposuction or tummy tucks start with three to five massage sessions beginning two weeks after the procedure. “The timing is ideal because the bruising will be gone, so it won’t be painful,” Dr. Doft shares.
It should be noted that lymphatic drainage massages aren’t recommended for patients if they have any of the following conditions:
- Congestive heart failure
- History of blood clots or stroke
- Current infection
- Liver or kidney problems
As with any treatment, expertise is key. Your surgeon will likely be able to recommend a licensed massage therapist in the area. And, of course, be sure to consult with your doctor before booking a series of lymphatic drainage massages to make sure they’ll benefit your post-operative plan.
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