Lymphatic Drainage Massage Therapy after Plastic Surgery

Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage Massage Therapy after Plastic Surgery

Are you planning on having surgery and are you worried about the recovery? You might have heard of lymphatic drainage massage for quicker recovery. Many health care experts and plastic surgeons swear by lymphatic drainage massage post-surgery. But does it work? Let’s find out.

The Body’s Natural Lymph System

Before we go any further, let us explain what the natural lymph system of the body does? It is a cleansing mechanism of the body that gets rid of toxic fluids. Because of these fluids, our body can experience pain and swelling. We might also feel lethargic along with numerous other health problems. A functional lymph system ensures that our body gets rid of all the toxins frequently. As a result, we feel healthier and energized.

A Lymphatic Drainage Massage:

  • Drains the excess fluid which is close to the lymph nodes
  • Reduces bruises dramatically and at a much faster pace
  • Minimizes pain, discomfort, and swelling
  • Speeds up the overall process of healing
  • It May help to improve the appearance of the scars and make them less visible
  • And it may also help reduce indentations, rippling, and hard lumps in the body.


A Few Things to Know About Manual Lymph Drainage

  • It is a gentle treatment that involves extremely gentle hand strokes, which are quite relaxing.
  • It should be pain-free.
  • You might still be asked to wear your compression garments after the treatment.
  • It is not a one-time treatment. It involves multiple sessions to achieve optimal results.
  • You will have to take your clothes off for the massage.

What Is Lymphatic Drainage Massage or MLD?

If our bodies have a natural lymphatic system, why do we need a massage for lymphatic drainage?

Think of it as manual assistance to the body’s natural drainage system. This technique originated in Germany for treating lymphedema (body swelling).  This is caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system, part of the immune and circulatory systems. Lymphedema is most commonly caused by lymph node removal or damage due to cancer treatment. The massage is not only used to drain excess fluids in the body but also to eliminate swelling and pain. Sometimes, patients might experience excessive water retention and swelling due to other reasons. Over the years, the technique became widely popular amongst patients of cosmetic surgery and people struggling with the dysfunctional lymph system. The top benefits include:

  • Lymphatic drainage massage eliminates excess water, toxins, bacteria, and metabolic waste from the cells of the body.
  • It is known to significantly reduce body pain, which gives you both mental and physical comfort after the treatment.
  • The Manual Lymph Drainage Massage supports the sympathetic nervous system and works wonders to reduce stress and anxiety levels.
  • Lymphatic drainage massage also minimizes stiffness and pain in the body.
  • It significantly reduces bruising. (Which is always a plus with any kind of cosmetic surgery). Cells are transported at ten times faster rate, as a result, bruising disappear in a fraction of a time.
  • Furthermore, it can help prevent infections after surgery. Draining excess toxin-loaded fluid makes sure that your body heals seamlessly.
  • It can help to boost your immunity
  • As well as assist in quicker healing and faster recovery after surgery
  • And, it can help minimize the appearance of scars.

Importance of Lymphatic Drainage Massage aka MLD

A functional lymphatic system of the body is critical for its ability to function optimally. It regenerates the body tissues, filters out the toxins, detoxifies the body, and maintains a healthy immune system.

The entire lymphatic system comprises various vessels and nodes that are constantly working to keep your body in a healthy state. The lymph itself is made up of fatty acids, immune cells, toxins, proteins, and hormonal cells, which are processed by the nodes. If the body is under any kind of stress, surgery, infection or illness the entire process slows down.

The benefits of MLD are not only limited to health. In fact, lymphatic drainage massage has proven to be beneficial for improving the quality of the skin and can help keep you looking young for longer. Moreover, it can boost the radiance of the face and minimize the early morning swelling some people struggle with. All in all, one cannot deny its importance for both health and beauty reasons.

Lymphatic Drainage Massage and Cosmetic Surgery

We are all aware of the fact that all cosmetic surgeries come with some form of swelling. This is fairly normal as this is how our bodies heal. Certain surgeries such as liposuction and tummy tuck disrupt the natural pathways which are used by the lymphatic system for drainage. In these cases, lymphatic drainage massage can be great.

Choose Post-Surgery Garments Wisely

There is a reason why your surgeons ask you to wear a compression garment for a specific amount of time after the surgery. They help with the entire lymph drainage process as well as the swelling. These garments help to prevent the build-up of toxins carrying fluids in one area. Moreover, it is a great pre-MLD measure to take as it helps prepare your body for the massaging process. Listen to your surgeon’s advice in this regard and ask them to recommend some great options for compression garments.

Always Consult Your Surgeon

After reading this post, you might be convinced that going for a lymphatic drainage massage is the best thing you can do for your body post-surgery. While it can be amazing if done right, you should always, always, and always consult your surgeon before going ahead with anything. Only your surgeon can give you the final word of whether it will be beneficial for you or not. If your surgeon is ok with it, ask him/her about how many weeks post-surgery you should get it done.

What to Expect During the First Lymphatic Drainage Massage?

During your first session, your therapist will ask you about your medical history as well as what type of surgery you have undergone. These details are necessary to treat the condition effectively. The massage itself is a simple process that involves only a massage table and a few clean towels. It will be a very relaxing experience. The therapist will use gentle, rhythmic motions all over your body to aid the drainage.

Once the massage is complete, the therapist will ask you to put on compression garments along with some post-care instructions.

Duration of the Session

Most people are curious about how long the massage will last. It typically lasts anywhere from thirty to ninety minutes. After your first session, you might be asked to come in every other day for the first few weeks. After that, the therapist will perform a massage once a week for four to six weeks. Eventually, it will be done only once a month for four to five months.

Please note that it is a general guideline. Your experience can vary drastically depending on the condition of your body and the therapist you see.

Preparing for the Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Any treatment or health care practice requires a little bit of homework to achieve the right results. Here is how you can prepare for the MLD treatment;

  • Make sure that you are getting a lymphatic drainage massage from a qualified therapist. Do not go to any random person for the massage. An untrained person can do more harm than good.
  • Get ready for some relaxation. The massage involves gentle strokes, which can cause you to dose off. So, don’t feel embarrassed if you fall asleep, it’s fairly common. MLD is a very relaxing technique.
  • Do not apply moisturizer or lotion to your body or face before coming in for a massage. The lymphatic drainage involves minor skin stretching and therefore you should avoid applying anything which hinders this process.
  • Always use the restroom before going for MLD. In other words, empty out your bladder one last time before the massage starts.
  • Your massage therapist will instruct you to do a bit of walking before coming for the massage. Always perform all the steps as instructed.
  • Do not eat a huge meal before coming in for treatment. Stick to something light and easily digestible.
  • Try to avoid processed food and eat healthy a few days before coming in for a massage.

Lymphatic Drainage Massage Post Care

Here are the few simple steps you should follow to get the most out of your lymphatic drainage massage:

  • Drink plenty of water as you will feel very thirsty immediately after the massage. Keep yourself hydrated at all times.
  • If you can, take the day off as you will feel extremely tired after the massage. All you will want to do is sleep and rest.
  • Eat plenty of clean and healthy food. You should also limit the intake of processed food.
  • Continue to wear compression garments as instructed by your surgeon.
  • After one day of complete rest, Choose a gentle walk to keep things moving.

Lymphatic Massage FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions about Lymphatic Massage and Surgery

Here is a list of frequently asked questions we receive regarding lymphatic drainage massage and the answers to them:

How often should you get a lymphatic drainage massage after surgery?

  • Initially, the frequency will be a lot more (if your surgeon gives you the go-ahead). The frequency will most likely be every other day, then it is reduced to once every week and finally to once a month for four to five months after the surgery.

What are the benefits of lymphatic drainage?

  • It minimizes swelling, gets rid of toxins, boosts immunity, and promotes faster recovery.

How long does lymphatic drainage take to work?

  • After the massage, the flow rate will be approximately 100 to 120 bpm which gradually lowers over the following 48 hours.

What helps lymphatic drainage after surgery?

Does lymphatic drainage massage really work?

  • Yes, it is based on our body’s natural drainage system.

How do you feel after a lymphatic drainage massage?

  • You will feel tired immediately after the lymphatic drainage massage.
  • Don’t force yourself to do any high-intensity activity and slowly ease back to your daily routine.
  • Some patients also feel extreme thirst, immediately after the massage.

Can I get sick after lymphatic drainage?

  • No, you will feel tired after the massage, but you won’t feel sick at all.

What are the symptoms of poor lymphatic drainage?

  • Here are the major symptoms of poor lymphatic drainage:
    • Swelling in arms and legs
    • Changes in the condition of the skin
    • Changes in the skin colour
    • Blisters
    • Fluid leaking

Who should not get a lymphatic massage?

  • People struggling with acute inflammation, malignant tumours, thrombosis, and heart problems should not get a lymphatic massage. Even if you don’t have any of these conditions, it is good to ask your doctor before you proceed.

How often should lymphatic drainage be done?

  • Each body is different and has different requirements. The need for lymphatic drainage can vary drastically from once a month, to once a week or four times a week.

Can I manually drain my lymphatic system at home?

  • This is possible but not recommended, especially post-surgery. You must visit a professional for a lymphatic drainage massage after the surgery.

How do I prepare for lymphatic drainage massage?

  • Follow these six simple tips to prepare yourself for the lymph drainage massage:
    • Always select a trained therapist to perform lymph drainage massage
    • Prepare for relaxation/slow calm day, the day of your massage
    • Do not eat large meals before the treatment
    • Do not apply lotion or oil prior to the treatment
    • Always empty your bladder

Is lymphatic massage painful?

  • No, lymphatic massage is a pain-free technique and won’t involve any pain after the surgery.

Lymphatic Drainage Massage Services available in Melbourne VIC

Further Reading and Medical Research


Getting a lymphatic drainage massage can be helpful post-surgery but can also be an important part of your ongoing self-care routine. However, before you make any decisions, it is important to consult with your surgeon and doctor. If you need expert advice, feel free to fill out the consultation form. Happy healing!

Last updated: 24/10/2023
Author profile image
Dr Patrick Briggs
Dr Patrick Briggs is an experienced Specialist Plastic Surgeon Now based in Melbourne, Australia. He is an expert in Breast, Body and Blepharoplasty Surgery with a special interest in Gender Surgery - Top Surgery. Dr Briggs has been published widely in surgical literature; he is trained and experienced in all aspects of Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery. Dr Briggs’ extensive experience across multiple surgical fields has allowed him to refine his skills to produce optimum results for his patients. Combined with his experience, Dr Briggs continually attends conferences and seminars to extend his knowledge and training surrounding the latest and best surgical techniques and equipment. By doing so he is able to provide his patients with the highest level of care and skill ensuring quality results.

Specialist Plastic Surgeons and ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Surgeon

With a wealth of experience and training, our Specialist Plastic and ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Surgeons are dedicated to best-practice patient care and education, customising Surgery for each and every patient to best meet their needs and desired surgical outcomes.

What to do next?

Our Patient Liaison Team can assist with any questions you may have when considering a procedure. You can send in an enquiry form below or call our Melbourne Clinic between 9 am – 5 pm Monday to Friday.

Phone 1300 599 990, Email us: or Book a FREE 15-minute Phone Chat with our Patient Liaison Manager or a Consultation with a Surgeon.

Disclaimer: Results depend on individual patient circumstances and can vary significantly. Results may also be impacted by a variety of factors including your lifestyle, weight, nutritional intake and overall health. Consult your Specialist Plastic Surgeon for details. This information is general in nature and is not intended to be medical advice nor does it constitute a doctor-patient relationship. Surgery risks and complications will be covered in detail during a consultation with your Surgeon.