Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Lymphatic Massage Therapy or Manual Lymphatic Drainage (LMT or MLD) is a specialized massage technique that is recommended by plastic surgeons, after cosmetic surgery (mainly liposuction), to accelerate the recuperation period.

The science behind why these massage techniques work is fairly simple. Stroking the areas of the body that process the lymph fluid, and the lymph nodes, causes the fluid to drain.

This massage procedure works well and has been demonstrated to show positive results after only a couple of treatments; however, most patients need 10 to 20 treatments to remove most of the excess fluid. Patients can expect noticeable relief from swelling after the 6th treatment.

Some patients will experience lumpiness in the areas affected by liposuction. This is normal for most patients after surgery. The lumpiness is caused by inflammation and trauma from the surgical instrument used under the skin to extract the fatty tissue. The tunnels and channels created by the surgical instrument fill with fluid and become swollen with fluid and left-over fat. This fluid and left-over fat tend to begin to harden between one week and three weeks after surgery. lymphatic massage will help move the fluid by gently pushing it back into the lymph passages.

Doctors may advise their patients that, without lymphatic massage, there is a risk that the swelling and inflammation could turn into fibrosis, which is a permanent hardening of the area. lymphatic massage ensures you’ll achieve the best results possible from the surgery.

Carolina Pintos

Carolina Pintos

Texas Licensed Massage Therapist with a B.S. in Physical Therapy

My name is Carolina Pintos and I am a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT), Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD), and Physical Therapist (PT) here in Houston, Texas. I have more than 10 years’ experience working as a Physical Therapist and helping pre and post-surgery patients, pregnant clients, and customers concerned with their aesthetics, where I help them better shape the contour of their body. I’ve helped more than 2,000 clients with their therapy needs, and now I’m here to help you!

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have general questions or specific concerns. ¡Se Habla Español! 



Q: Why do I need lymphatic massage therapy after my liposuction, 360-lipo, breast implants, BBL or other types of cosmetic surgery procedures?

A: You may notice a hardness or lumpiness after cosmetic surgery. This is normal right after your procedure. Post-surgical lymphedema is caused by inflammation and trauma from the cannula (an instrument that sucks out the fat) moving under the skin. Channels are formed by the cannula that can fill up with fluid and the tissue also becomes swollen. Lymphatic massage helps to move the fluid by gently pumping it back into the lymph vessels. Reducing the swelling can reduce discomfort. Without Lymphatic Massage Therapy or sometimes known as Manual Lymphatic Drainage (LDT or MLD), the inflammation can evolve into fibrosis (a permanent hardening of the tissue) or a seroma ( pocket of serum) can form. Many doctors prescribe Lymph Drainage Therapy after liposuction or other plastic surgery procedures to make sure their patients get the best possible results from their procedure.

Q: Is a lymphatic massage essentially the same as a deep tissue massage?

A: No, although it may seem that deep massage would assist in decreasing the hardness following liposuction, it would actually increase the circulation to the treated areas making it harder to evacuate the lymph fluid. Even though lymphatic massage is extremely light work, it is the most efficient way to reduce swelling and bruising. It is based on scientific knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the Lymphatic System. It is a myth that deep massage and heat are beneficial in healing after liposuction. The Vodder Method and the Chikly Technique are widely accepted forms of lymphatic massage performed in hospitals and clinics all over the world. So, even though it may seem to you that a deep massage or other forms of therapeutic or Swedish massage would be helpful, it is not.

Q: Does lymphatic massage help get rid of bruising?

A: Yes. That is one of the best applications of lymphatic massage. Bruises are an accumulation of cellular debris and old red blood cells in the tissue. Lymph Drainage Therapy greatly reduces the healing time for bruises by cleansing the extracellular spaces where these substances are trapped.

Q: Is lymphatic massage painful?

A: Performed properly it is not painful. The Vodder Technique is the most respected method of lymphatic massage in the world. It is NOT a traditional massage. It is a specialized, advanced bodywork modality that uses a gentle, rotating, pumping motion that moves the lymph fluid without increasing the blood circulation. Increasing the blood circulation with deep massage and heat can actually inhibit the movement of lymph fluid by changing the permeability of the lymph and blood vessels. Do NOT receive a general therapeutic, deep tissue, or Swedish Massage in lieu of a lymphatic massage.

Q: How many treatments will I need?
A: It is ideal to receive at least one or two MLD treatments prior to a procedure. There are many different things that can influence healing. Some patients get 1-6 treatments post-operatively and that is enough, especially if the only area of liposuction was the legs, knees, or flanks. People getting liposuction to the abdomen often find they require up to 12 sessions. Occassionally a client will need more than 12, especially if they had “Smart-lipo”. Also, patients who get multiple procedures at the same time (lipo and a tummy tuck, or lipo and a buttock enhancement; Brazilian Butt Lift) may need more sessions than someone who only gets one procedure. Sessions may be paid for individually, or in discounted packages of 6.
Q: What is an lymphatic massage like?

A: After an initial consultation, you will undress, lie down on a massage table in the face-up position, covered modestly with a sheet. The atmosphere is the same as a massage treatment room with dim lighting and soft music. Although you are in a massage setting, it is important to understand that a lymphatic massage is a specific form of bodywork designed to efficiently move lymph fluid in your body. MLD is completely different from deep tissue, Swedish, or relaxation massage that you may be expecting or have had in the past. Stimulation of the Lymphatic System activates the para-sympathetic nervous system producing an automatic physiological relaxation response. Many clients fall asleep. Only the area being worked on is undraped at any time. Gentle, rotating, pumping motions with the therapist’s hands and fingertips begin at the collarbone area, then focus on areas where there is a concentration of lymph nodes…the underarms, abdomen, groin, and back of the knees. Usually, the entire session is performed with you lying in the face-up position because all of the areas of lymph nodes that need to be decongested are located on the front of the body, although some surgeries do require the patient to turn side to side or face down for a short time if tolerated. Starting on the back (even for fat injections to the buttocks) would not be indicated because it is necessary to open up the major lymphatic areas on the front of your body before the backside of the body can drain. It is very important to decongest the areas of drainage in the groin, abdomen, underarms, and collarbone areas before sending extra lymph fluid to them. Directing lymph fluid to nodal areas without opening the lymph nodes up first increases the discomfort and overwhelms the nodes, leading to increased recovery time. Each session is one hour, although those who have several procedures at the same time might prefer a 90-minute session.

Q: How often is lymphatic massage after surgery or a liposuction?

A: The first week it is suggested that sessions be daily or every other day, if possible. The second week, every other day, reducing in frequency after that. It is not possible to get too much lymphatic massage and the sessions can be scheduled at your convenience.

Q: How soon after my surgery can lymphatic massage begin?

A: It is possible to begin within 48 hours. Most people wait until they can comfortably drive themselves to appointments.

Q: It has been over a month since I had my procedure. Is it too late to begin lymphatic massage?

A: No. The healing process after these types of procedures is several months. If it has been over a month since your procedure you can still get the soothing benefits of lymphatic massage. If it has been over 6 months since your procedure and you are still feeling lumps and hardness you should contact your doctor to make sure you have not developed fibrosis or a seroma.

Q: Do I need a prescription for a lymphatic massage treatment?

A: No. Although many doctors recommend lymphatic massage, it is also perfectly fine to self-refer.