Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) Massage Healing After Cosmetic Plastic Surgery

Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) (sometimes referred to as lymphatic massage) is frequently recommended by plastic surgeons during the recovery phase following cosmetic liposuction. This specialized form of massage is generally believed to decrease recovery time and improve results, by reducing post-surgical swelling and fibrosis (scar tissue formation).


Liposuction Recovery

During the early period following liposuction surgery patients will experience swelling, bruising and discomfort. This is to be expected since liposuction is a relatively invasive procedure. Common forms of liposuction involve either injecting a significant amount of medicated fluid into the area (‘tumescent’ or ‘super wet’ techniques) or using ultrasonic vibration or laser to liquefy the fat, before suctioning it out using a sharp-ended vacuum tube. These procedures can create significant tissue damage.

Removing fat by liposuction causes damage to blood and lymphatic vessels as well as the destruction of cells and connective tissue. This has the double effect of causing blood and lymph fluids to accumulate, while also creating more space for it to pool.

Judicious adherence to your surgeon’s recommendations, including follow-up, is the best way for you to minimize your recovery time, optimize your results, and avoid potential complications. Surgeons often recommend that their patients supplement their recovery with manual lymphatic drainage as early as possible, ideally within the first few days post-surgery.

Breast Surgery Recovery

All surgeries have risks, and breast augmentation is no exception. Capsular contracture occurs when scar tissue forms around the implant, resulting in painful breast stiffness and possible leakage of the fluid inside the implant.

Women often fear this common complication because it is difficult to predict when it will occur and who will develop it. Most women start having symptoms around three months after their breast surgery, but you can develop capsular contracture at any time, and it can recur after it is treated.

After breast augmentation surgery, your immune system will respond to the foreign materials inserted into your chest. Your body builds a “capsule” around each breast implant. The capsule is made from interwoven collagen fibers, or scar tissue.

In some cases, the capsule tightens over time. This is called capsular contracture.

When this happens, the collagen “fabric” around the implant shrinks due to a buildup in fibers. This tightening can squeeze the implant, making it feel hard and painful to touch.

To help prevent this from happening, your plastic surgeon will likely recommend that you perform a daily breast massage in the first few months after your surgery. There are benefits to learning how to properly massage the area, but it isn’t guaranteed to eliminate your risk of capsular contracture entirely.

After Breast Cancer

For breast cancer surgery patients, studies show that manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) massage effective in the prevention of secondary lymphedema after treatment of breast cancer. This study demonstrates that regardless of the surgery type and the number of the lymph nodes removed, MLD effectively prevented lymphedema of the arm on the operated side. Even in high risk breast cancer treatments (operation plus irradiation), MLD was demonstrated to be effective against arm volume increase. Even though confirmatory studies are needed, this study demonstrates that MLD administered early after operation for breast cancer should be considered for the prevention of lymphedema. Read more about the study.

Mommy Makeover Recovery

The Mommy Makeover causes bruising, swelling, and scarring. These physical side effects often contribute to emotional ones such as anxiety, stress, and even depression.

Even though you chose plastic surgery to improve your self-image and self-esteem, it often gets worse before it gets better. This is where massage therapy comes in.

Massage therapy manipulates the soft tissues of your body, including the muscles, tendons, connective tissues, and ligaments. This manipulation alleviates muscle tension, which not only reduces stress (and, therefore, anxiety and depression) but also reduces pain and breaks up scar tissue.

A lymphatic drainage massage helps to eliminate built-up waste in your body after a surgical procedure. This therapy can reduce swelling and stimulate the immune system.

Facelift Surgery Recovery

A MLD massage after a facelift helps to:

  • Ease pain. Gentle, upward massaging can inhibit pain receptors sending signals to the brain. The warmth of the masseuse’s hands can also improve circulation, decreasing the pain in the affected area.
  • Decrease swelling. Massage helps fluids move from the facial tissue into lymphatic vessels, reducing facial swelling and stimulating the immune system.
  • Softens skin and reduces scarring. When the body heals from an injury, it produces a scar to protect the injured site from future harm. Massage on and around the open wound can cause infection and pain – massage only once the wound is closed. Local massage on newly healed scar tissue can reduce further tissue buildup, and can soften the skin around the scar tissue.
  • Expedite the healing process. Post facelift massage helps to prevent the buildup of toxins in the affected facial area, and helps bring nutrients to the skin and tissue by improving blood circulation. Gentle, upward massage helps nourish the affected area and helps to improve facial flexibility.

The patient should be cleared from his or her surgeon before participating in a facial massage after a facelift. Massage can begin a couple days after surgery, or a month later – it depends on the patient’s specific case.

Tummy Tuck Recovery

For procedures such as liposuction, massage starting as soon as the patient can tolerate will help decrease the swelling and edema faster and allow for a faster recovery. However with an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), the skin and fatty tissues of the abdomen are lifted up and undermined and then advanced. The plastic surgeon then sutures the abdominal flap back down to the abdomen where it has to "reattach" itself back to the muscles and this takes time. Anything that causes the skin and the muscle layers to shear against each other can cause pockets to form in between these layers and that can lead to a difficult problem to treat, seromas. By allowing enough time for the tissues to re-adhere and then starting massage at around six weeks or so, the risk of developing a seroma is significantly decreased. You can start lymphatic massage earlier at other areas such as the flanks or the legs if you had liposuction at the same time as your tummy tuck.

Fat Transfer/ Brazilian Butt Lift

In order to improve the appearance of the buttocks, a Brazilian butt lift surgery can be performed. This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that encompasses liposuction, the purification of fat from various parts of the body, and the injection of the extracted fat into the buttocks to enhance its shape and size.

Post-operative care should be carefully done not only on the buttocks, but also on the other areas that were involved in the procedure. It is imperative to keep in mind that the patient should not exert pressure on the buttocks. This is why it is not advisable to sit down or lie on your back after the operation.

Post-operative care for the liposuctioned areas includes making use of compression garments in order to ease the swelling. A lymphatic drainage massage can also be done to help reduce the accumulation of fluid and to make any lumps and bumps to go away.

Only the liposuctioned areas are to be massaged because kneading the buttocks will only distort the arrangement of the newly grafted fat cells that have yet to settle into their new environment. Putting pressure on the buttocks will not only change its contour, but also induce fat reabsorption by the body.

Contact Lymphatic Drainage Massage Clinic

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To schedule an appointment with Licensed Massage Therapist and Certified Advanced Manual Lymphatic Drainage Therapist, Jacqueline Bosco CMLDT, CLT, please call (813) 298-5603.   We believe nothing is more important than human touch.

Providing massage services to patients in The Villages, Florida, Sumter County, Leesburg, Eustis, Mount Dora, Tavares, Lady Lake, Fruitland Park, Wildwood, Bushnell and surrounding areas.