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Risks of Massage after Liposuction and Surgery

Updated: May 22, 2022

In the last post, we learned that lymphatic massage reduces swelling after surgery and liposuction. This supports the body in healing quickly, reduces the formation of scar tissue and fibrosis, and relieves feelings of pain, tightness, and heaviness.

But how do you choose a lymphatic massage therapist?

Table of Contents:

Risks of massage after lipo:

The body is vulnerable after an invasive procedure like liposuction. There are incisions that need to heal and gaps in between tissue layers (where fat used to be) that need to adhere together.

An aggressive could rip incisions open, pull tissue layers apart, increase risk of seroma, increase swelling and inflammation, and increase scar tissue formation. This would prolong your recovery. To prevent this, you should not tolerate any pain when receiving lymphatic massage after surgery.

A story of "Lymphatic Drainage" gone wrong

The visual example on the left was captured by Amare from @amarehealingarts, a lymphatic drainage therapist in New Jersey.

Look at the "before" picture and notice all the swelling and fibrosis that are bloating the right side.

This patient got lipo and then signed up for post op massage like she was supposed to, but unfortunately, it wasn't true lymphatic massage. Why did this happen?

They were doing "incisional drainage/squeeze massage," which means the therapist was pushing the fluid to the right side and squeezing it out of her incision (you can see the gauze still on). This is associated with increased complications like fibrosis and infection.

This incisional drainage technique should not be performed by massage therapists in a non-sterile environment.

True lymphatic massage supports how your body wants to heal naturally, which is to take all this swelling that's floating around, suck it back up into lymphatic vessels, and pee it out.

You can see in the After image that Amare was able to work with this patient and through true lymphatic massage, she's on her way to a beautiful, symmetrical end result.

Post op massage red flags to watch out for

Body sculpting VS lymphatic massage
Being rubbed with sticks will NOT help your post surgical swelling.

True lymphatic massage does not involve external fluids. They should never squeeze fluid out of an incision or drain an area with a needle (only your doctor should do that).

True lymphatic massage is not painful. If you go get a post op massage and it feels like you're getting beat up, you are getting beat up. And that is not going to help your body heal after surgery. Protect yourself by ending the session immediately and finding a new therapist. Do not accept any pain or deep pressure in the months after your surgery.

True lymphatic massage does not use tools like wooden sticks, machines, jade rollers, dry brushing, electro-lymph therapy, or ultrasonic cavitation. These are nice sensory treatments with their own benefits, but they're not lymphatic massage. They may be ineffective or even unsafe immediately after surgery. Don't go to a Body Sculptor for post op massage.

True lymphatic massage does not use oil or lotion. Part of the lymphatic massage technique is gently stretching the skin to dilate lymphatic vessels located on the underside of the dermis. Any oil or lotion will make that impossible. (For this reason, you should also avoid moisturizing in the hour before your lymphatic massage.)

So if your "lymphatic drainage massage" is painful, oily, or done with sticks, you are not getting what you paid for.

A note about terms

Most certification programs have their own trademarked term they use to refer to their lymphatic massage technique. In your search for your lymphatic therapist, you may find...

MLD or Manual Lymphatic Drainage (from the Klose or Vodder schools)

Lymphatic Drainage Therapy (from Chikily school)

Lymphatic Facilitation

Lymphedema therapy

These are all respected programs.

Lymphatic massage available in Seattle

Here are some of the procedures we've worked with at Sage Bodywork:


Tummy Tuck (abdominoplasty with or without Diastasis recti repair)

Face lift

BBL (Brazilian Butt Lift)

Breast lift

Breast reduction

Breast augmentation

You can schedule your lymphatic drainage massages online. We offer procedure-specific recovery programs with a discount which you can purchase here.

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