Dr. Bruce Katz is featured in an article entitled, How Important Are Lymphatic Drainage Massage Post-Liposuction? Experts Weigh In.
How important is a lymphatic massage after liposuction?
“When there’s an ‘injury’ to the body—in this case, liposuction—the body stimulates lymphatic flow to the area. It’s bringing in white blood cells to the tissue and carrying away waste,” explains Dr. Su. “It’s doing what it is supposed to do, but this extra fluid is what causes the swelling that inevitably occurs after liposuction.” Cobb adds that the tissue in the area that’s liposuctioned can also produce excess lymphatic fluid as the body reacts to the trauma of the fat being removed. And while the subsequent swelling is totally normal, it is one of the biggest things patients have to deal with after the fact.
Enter this unique type of massage, which essentially helps the body push through and flush out fluid buildup. “Lymphatic drainage massage speeds up the recovery process by reducing swelling,” says Dr. Bruce Katz, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
However, not all doctors feel the same way. “I’m not an advocate of lymphatic drainage massage. In my opinion, the way liposuction is performed makes far more of an impact than any type of massage or garment you wear after the fact,” says Dr. Thomas Sterry, a board-certified plastic surgeon in New York City. He doesn’t recommend lymphatic drainage massages to his patients (though he does point out that about 50% of them do end up having them). “These massages don’t change the outcome of the surgery. They may reduce swelling temporarily, but you’re still going to have swelling as the body continues to heal itself,” he explains, noting that he doesn’t think they drastically impact the recovery process.
All the doctors we spoke with were quick to note that not getting post-op lymphatic drainage massages isn’t detrimental. Dr. Su also takes a more conservative approach, noting that while many doctors do routinely recommend them, he suggests them only as an option for patients whose swelling isn’t resolving naturally after a few weeks. “I’ve seen no problems in patients who haven’t done it as part of the recovery process, but I do see benefits in those who do,” he says. Dr. Katz agrees that it’s not harmful or dangerous to forgo lymphatic massages, though he does think they can speed up the recovery process by a matter of a few weeks.
How often should you get one?
This depends somewhat on your particular doctor’s recommendations, though the typical recommendation is about four to six massages post-surgery. Dr. Katz suggests biweekly massages for two weeks, starting the week after surgery. Dr. Su recommends biweekly massages for two to three weeks, starting two weeks post-surgery. You’ll also see the effects pretty quickly, definitely after one or two sessions max. “The reduction in discomfort and swelling almost immediately afterward is what makes this type of massage an even more pleasurable experience,” points out Cobb.
How much do lymphatic drainage massages cost?
Expect to shell out anywhere between $70 and $145 per massage. This isn’t something that will be included with the cost of liposuction, so bear that in mind for financial planning purposes. Plastic surgeons who routinely recommend lymphatic drainage often have a massage therapist on staff. (To this point, Dr. Sterry notes that if your surgeon is really pushing lymphatic drainage massage, it’s worth inquiring as to what kind of financial benefit they stand to receive. He feels that many doctors are financially incentivized to promote lymphatic massages as an “essential” part of the recovery process.)
Otherwise, ask your doctor for a referral, since it’s paramount to see someone who is trained in this unique technique. Seeing a massage therapist who doesn’t know what they’re doing and inadvertently ends up performing a regular massage can be very problematic. “It’s very important for the skin to heal back to the muscle underneath after liposuction. If a massage is performed too aggressively or too deeply, it can hinder the recovery and may even result in the formation of seromas,” cautions Dr. Katz.
Are there other procedures where lymphatic drainage massages should be a part of the recovery process?
Yes, plenty. Dr. Katz recommends massage to any patient undergoing liposuction or “any type of procedure where there’s going to be a lot of swelling,” he says. This includes things such as a Brazilian butt lift, BodyTite, and even noninvasive fat reduction treatments, such as SculpSure. Dr. Su notes that it can be helpful after other surgeries, including breast augmentations, as well. (Though of course, it’s always essential to consult with your doctor.) While these are obviously all different, the ensuing swelling is caused by a similar mechanism; lymphatic drainage can be helpful in reducing that and ultimately speeding up the recovery process—though again, it’s not an absolute necessity.