What is Lymphatic Drainage?
Lymphatic Drainage Massage (Manual lymph drainage)
Manual Lymph Drainage Therapy (MLD) is a gentle, non-invasive bodywork technique that stimulates the flow of lymph fluid in the Lymphatic System. As a scientifically proven and accepted from of treatment MLD have been administered in clinics, hospitals and spas for many years. Physical Therapists, Massage Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Estheticians may provide this service. Manual Lymph Drainage Therapy (MLD) is NOT massage, but an advanced modality based on the most efficient methods to move lymph.
The Lymphatic System
The Lymphatic System is composed of a network of lymph vessels, tissue and nodes that is very similar to the Circulatory System. However, compared to the circulation of blood (propelled by the heart at amazing speed), the flow of lymph is extremely slow and easily obstructed or congested. The purpose of the Lymphatic System is to transport lymph through the lymph vessels, tissues and nodes, filter metabolic waste products, recover important substances from the interstitial space, help regulate the Fluid Balance System and maintain a healthy Immune System by producing and delivering anti-bodies and antigens.
Lymph is the fluid carried in the lymph vessels. All cells are bathed in lymph. An essential component of the immune system, lymph removes waste and toxins from the body.
Similar to many other body rhythms that can be felt or measured, like the pulse or respiratory rate, the Lymphatic System has its own subtle rhythm. With practice and patience, fingers can “learn” to palpate the wave-like flow of lymph through the lymph vessels.
Many things can hinder the flow of lymph, resulting in swelling within the tissue and a sensation that the affected area is “tight” or “hard”. Common causes of lymph stagnation are trauma from surgical procedures or injuries and a lack of physical activity.
The Goal of MLD
The goal of MLD is to increase the efficiency of the Lymphatic System, thereby decreasing pain & discomfort and providing a healthy cellular environment.
A feather light touch that follows the direction of the lymph flow stimulates the stretch receptors of the lymphatic system, causing the lymph to move more efficiently. This basic technique is repeated, following a sequence that is based on a thorough anatomical knowledge of the Lymph System. The gentle manipulations are painless and can easily be tolerated 24 hours after a surgical procedure. MLD is so pleasant and relaxing that many people fall asleep during their session.
Although MLD is a form of manual therapy and is often administered to a client on a massage table in a relaxing setting, it is not massage. The technique can stand alone, or can also be integrated into a traditional massage session to enhance the benefits of Massage Therapy.
MLD is often recommended for pre and post-op Cosmetic Surgery procedures such as liposuction, breast enhancements, body contouring and facelifts. MLD can begin as soon as 24 hours post-op. (Check with your surgeon). In a healthy individual with no medical complications, 5-10 treatments are usually adequate to assist in the healing process and relieve the discomfort of swelling and speed the healing of bruising. For those who wish to return to an active, public life as soon as possible, he/she may opt to continue with a more aggressive regimen until swelling and bruising subside. Packages are available at a reduced rate.
Lymphatic Drainage Massage after Liposuction
FAQ About Lympatic Drainage
Q: Why do I need Lymph Drainage Therapy after my liposuction, Smart-lipo or other cosmetic surgery procedure?
A: You many notice a hardness or lumpiness to the areas treated with liposuction or Smart-lipo, especially in the abdominal area and even more so if combined with other body contouring procedures (such as fat injections for what is popularly known as the Brazilian Butt Lift) This is normal right after your procedure. This post-surgical lymphedema is caused by inflammation and trauma from the cannula (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. Manual Lymph Massage helps to move the fluid by gently pumping it back into the lymph vessels. Reducing the swelling can reduce discomfort. Without Lymph Massage (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 to make sure their patients get the best possible results from their procedure.
Q: Is Lymph Drainage Therapy a deep massage?
A: No, although it may seem that deep massage would assist in decreasing the hardness following lipo, it would actually increase the circulation to the treated areas making it harder to evacuate the lymph fluid. Even though MLD 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. 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 MLD help get rid of bruising?
A: Yes. That is one of the best applications of MLD. Bruises are an accumulation of cellular debris and old red blood cells in the tissue. Lymph Drainage Therapy greatly reduces healing time for bruises by cleansing the spaces where these substances are trapped.
Q: Is Lymphatic Drainage Massage Painful?
A: Performed properly it is not painful. Lymphatic drainage massage is NOT traditional massage, it is a specialized 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 MLD.
Q: How many treatments will I need?
A: It is ideal to receive at least one or two MLD treatments prior to a procedure, in order to prepare the tissue for the trauma of surgery. 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. Occasionally 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.
Q: What is an MLD treatment like?
A: 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 MLD is a specific form of bodywork designed to efficiently move lymph fluid in your body. MLD is completely different from a 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. 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 in 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. 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.
Q: How often is MLD applied?
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 MLD and the sessions can be scheduled at your convenience.
Q It has been over a month since I had my procedure. Is it too late to begin MLD?
A: No. The healing process after these types of procedure is several months. If it has been over a month since your procedure you can still get the smoothing benefits of MLD. 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 MLD?
A: No. Although many doctors recommend MLD, it is also perfectly fine to self-refer.
Lymphatic Drainage Benefits
Having a lymphatic drainage massage after cosmetic surgery helps with the reduction of the following:
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