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.
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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.
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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.
How to Perform Post Liposuction Massage
A professional LDM massage therapist will know exactly what to do. He/she will massage in right place and with the right amount of pressure. However, this can be a DIY project at home, if you so choose. Here are some high-level instructions on how best to perform a ‘Self-Lymphatic-Massage’.
. Place index and middle fingers in the indent area, just above the collarbone.
. Gently move the fingers up onto the neck area.
. Gently rub in a clockwise fashion in the direction of your chest.
. Make sure to drive the lymph toward the node. This will encourage the lymph fluid to flush throughout the body.
. Press and pull, firmly, the skin under the armpit in the direction of the neck. Repeat this motion several times.
. Using a flat hand, massage the complete thigh area in the direction of the inner knee. Do not apply heavy pressure, as this will risk flattening the nodes.
. Finally, massage the back of the knee in a pushing, and scooping, motion.