Going with the flow

OP. DR. YUNUS DOĞAN

Brain over break

After all the poking and prodding of surgery, the last thing you feel like you want is someone to touch your body. You have had blood tests, mammograms and EKGs. Your body is covered with old scars, new scars and bruises. Your immune system is trying to close up internal and external incisions and accept synthetic sutures, breast implants and fat injections. You have a lot going on!

What’s a girl gotta do to get some rest around here? Your comfortable mattress is calling your name. The soft couch cushions and pillows seem like heaven and all you want to do is take a load off. Your intuition might be telling you to find a quiet spot and lay down. You can’t wait to pull a blanket over your head, hide out and rest for a few days. If that’s what your body is telling you right now, don’t listen!

This is not a spa situation

What your body may not be telling you is that it wants and NEEDS to be touched. You need lymphatic drainage massage, also known as lymphatic massage. Different from the average massage, lymphatic massage has the goal of moving excess lymphatic fluid (also known as lymph) through your body so it can drain. The Cleveland Clinic explains more about what this type of massage does.

When you think of a massage, you may envision some Zen time at a spa amidst eucalyptus and ylang ylang-infused air with a calm, peaceful masseuse stroking away your tension. Or maybe you’re an athlete and you imagine a sturdy massage therapist kneading your tired post-workout muscles to work out lactic acid buildup.

There’s a third scenario you might not be familiar with: the post-surgical patient whose swollen body has too much lymphatic fluid in it for comfort. Usually this fluid would circulate through the body, moving from swollen tissue and back to the lymph nodes, where it would be processed and filtered naturally. Sometimes we have too much fluid in our tissues for our normal lymphatic system to handle. We need a little massage to keep that fluid moving along.

The laying of hands

Lymphatic massage reduces swelling and pain as well as promotes healing and quickens recovery time. You will find it easier to move your body when it is not swollen. Moving and walking are also important for recovery, so remember that when you are feeling like you want to hide under a blanket. If you want some tips for healing fast, read this post, where we suggested some ways to shorten your recovery time. Spending all your time in a blanket fort was not one of our recommendations.

Will it hurt?

Probably! (Honestly though, is there anything in your everyday life that does not hurt at the moment? If you are able to move a body part sans pain, rejoice! And know that the rest of your body will follow suit in time.)

You may experience some mild pain during your massage due to the buildup of lymph or from the manipulation of your fresh surgical scars. Comparatively, lymphatic massage is gentler than other types of massage. You will also notice any swelling will decrease and you might physically feel lighter after the massage is finished.

If the saying “beauty is pain” is true, then lymphatic massage can be attractive. Find some mental relief in Singaporean Kosme Aesthetics’ article if you’re concerned about the level of physical discomfort you’re feeling. They tell you what to expect and how to react if your experience seems unusual.

Who and how?

Seek out certified massage therapists. They may also be able to share techniques for you to perform self-massage later in your recovery. Research online and watch videos on YouTube. There are many reputable resources out there who can help you find relief and teach you a thing or two about proper technique.

We are fond of our manager Kim’s videos. A former patient, she easily draws from her experience and imparts her knowledge of self-massage technique on Instagram. Medical News Today also has some advice on technique, based on recommendations from the National Health Service (NHS). They provide a step-by-step plan to prepare your body prior to receiving lymphatic massage.

The last stitch

While it is possible to recover from plastic surgery without lymphatic massage, we don’t recommend it. Without these therapeutic massages, you may experience greater swelling with little relief. In the long term, failure to get lymphatic massage could result in seromas, which are pockets of fluid trapped inside scar tissue. You may also have difficulty getting your scars to heal smoothly.

An intangible result and benefit of lymphatic massage is reduced stress. Many patients report feeling less stressed after their massages, almost as if the massage helps anxiety flow out of the mind as it draws lymph out of the body. Any patients who are prone to blood clots or have heart or kidney disorders should check with their doctors before seeking out lymphatic massage. Unless you have one of these health conditions, you should go with the flow, now that you know.

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