Manual Lymphatic Drainage: Pre and Post-Operative

Choosing to have cosmetic or reconstructive surgery can be one of the most difficult decisions you will ever make. You put time into researching the best surgeons and surgery centers, but have you thought about your after care? Who can help you with swelling, bruising, and scar tissue that risks the benefits of the surgery you just received?  A Certified Therapist in Manual Lymphatic Drainage may be your answer.

The Lymphatic System is naturally compromised after the trauma of a surgery. The incisions made cut through lymphatic vessels that are crucial for carrying away excess fluid and cellular debris.  These vessels will begin to regenerate in about 2 weeks. Until then,  Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) will reroute lymph to healthy vessels which will reduce swelling, clear bruises faster, and minimize scar tissue.  All this will accelerate your healing time during this critical recovery phase. MLD is also preferred because of it’s gentle techniques. The light pressure and rhythmic flow of the procedure is very calming, even sedative.  It is recommended to have 2-5 sessions per week beginning 24-48 hours following surgery.

MLD is also beneficial before surgery. 2-5 treatments are recommended with the last session 24-48 hours prior to surgery. Treatments will prepare your body by clearing fluid accumulation,  detoxification, and removal of cellular debris. This will reduce the chances for infection by cleansing the tissues at the site of the future incisions.  MLD also accelerates the production of lymphocytes which are small white blood cells that play a large role in fighting disease in our bodies.

All this in mind, it is important to find a therapist who is properly trained to do these procedures. Each area of the body requires an exact sequence of precise hand movements applied in a specific series of repetitions.  MLD is not taught as general education to licensed massage therapists. Beware also of equipment and gadgets that are being used by untrained technicians claiming to give the same results as MLD.  A certified therapist will have completed at least 135 hours of training and had to pass exams to qualify for this title. Receiving treatment from a less trained practitioner could be ineffective or even harmful.  Done correctly, Manual Lymphatic Drainage is a necessary complement to your cosmetic or reconstructive surgery.

The Difference Between Manual Lymphatic Drainage and Massage Therapy

Manual Lymphatic Drainage(MLD) and massage therapy are two very different manual treatment modalities. The only similarity is that both have techniques that require the therapist to put their hands on the client’s skin. The word “massage” originates from the Greek word “massain” which means to knead. This describes techniques such as effleurage, long gliding strokes, and petrissage, kneading strokes. Pressure is also applied to reach underlying muscle tissue.

The pressure used when giving a MLD session is of much lower intensity. The intent is to effect lymphatic structures located in the subcutaneous tissues. To do this, strokes are used to stretch the skin and then a directional stroke to send lymphatic fluid toward the regional lymph nodes. This technique should be sufficient enough to stretch the subcutaneous tissue against the fascia but not manipulate the muscle tissue in that area. The amount of pressure needed could be compared to the pressure you would use to stroke a newborn’s head.

The purpose for MLD is to increase the rate at which the lymphatic system pumps. The accelerated drainage promotes pain control and the light pressure is soothing and sedative. In a case of Lymphedema, the lymph is rerouted around blocked areas to centrally located healthy vessels to relieve chronic swelling. This increase of drainage is also beneficial for detoxification. The lymph nodes produce lymphocytes which are white blood cells. Their job is to attack foreign invaders. The antibodies produced travel through the body by way of lymph fluid to assist the immune system. Both MLD and massage therapy are beneficial treatments. Discuss with your massage therapist which treatment will bring the desired result you need.