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Manual Lymphatic Drainage Following Liposuction

What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage?

The Lymphatic System is the system of tissues, vessels, and organs that work in conjunction to maintain fluid levels in our body, support immune function, and keep blood circulating. The system carries lymph fluid, a clear fluid that contains proteins, waste, fat cells, and metabolized cells through the body; the fluid is filtered through lymph nodes. Waste is removed from the body as clean lymph circulates back through. When the lymphatic system isn’t moving properly, excess fluid in the body builds up causing edema. Lymphatic drainage was developed to treat lymphedema, a condition of accumulated fluid within the body due to an impaired lymphatic system. A trained therapist can manually massage the body in a way to push lymph through the body, breaking up areas of swelling and reducing excess fluids in the body.

Postsurgical Manual Lymphatic Drainage is a gentle yet powerful form of bodywork that is intended to stimulate and encourage natural movement of lymph fluid, which carries waste products away from the tissues back towards the heart (and eventually out of the body). It is a technique based on gentle movements that mimic the rhythm of the body’s lymphatic system. During a postsurgical MLD session, the therapist gently manipulates (or massages) the lymph nodes and guides post surgical edema towards correlating lymph nodes.

Post-surgical Manual Lymphatic Drainage is NOT deep tissue massage. Deep tissue massage can crush the lymphatic system and after surgery can contribute to more damage, bruising, and swelling (even seromas). When performed correctly by a Certified Lymphatic Therapist, it is gentle, not painful, and soothing. Lymphatic Drainage is meant to be light because the lymphatic vessels are directly underneath the surface of the skin. MLD is also NOT opening up incisional wounds to push fluid out.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage after your Cosmetic or Orthopedic Surgery

Oftentimes after surgery, the body will swell with excessive edema both at the surgical site as well as proximal and distal. This postoperative swelling, while completely normal, can be quite uncomfortable. Certain procedures like liposuction (or abdominoplasty or “tummy tuck”) often cause additional swelling as excess fluid and fat cells will harden or fibrose within a few weeks after surgery. Liposuction causes damage to blood vessels and lymphatic vessels as well as the destruction of cells and connective tissue. Sluggishness, decreased range of motion, increased pain and sensitivity, and the overall sense of heaviness and puffiness can occur during the surgical recovery process. Without proper management of the side effects of any surgery, poor aesthetic outcomes can result, along with the possibility of longer recovery times, greater pain, and health complications. Because of its ability to directly move excessive postsurgical edema while using the most gentle of touch, MLD is frequently regarded as an imperative part of the surgical recovery process by surgeons worldwide, and it is often recommended to start within the first few days following liposuction surgery.

Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage after Liposuction:

  • Enhances circulation
  • Improves lymph flow, which decreases swelling/ edema
  • Decreases bruising
  • Prevents and decreases the severity of fibrosis
  • Decreases scarring
  • Decreases pain
  • Improves comfort and movement
  • Improves sleep
  • Improves recovery time
  • Eliminates toxins from the body including anesthesia and cellular debris
  • Promotes incisional healing
  • Carries white blood cells and proteins to the blood
  • Improves overall results of liposuction surgery
  • The skin are tissues are better hydrated, thus achieving an improved appearance
  • Improves overall health of the body


How many MLD sessions will I need?

The answer depends on the extent and location of your surgery. There are many variables that can influence healing. Most surgeons will recommend a series of 2-3 sessions during the first 2-3 weeks after surgery. Most people benefit from at least 12 sessions within the first 4-6 weeks post op and then re-evaluate. It is possible to begin MLD within 24 hours of the surgery.

Contact us for more information or to schedule MLD sessions after your surgery!

Magic City Physical Therapy

Hoover, Alabama

Phone 205-202-0874

Magic City Physical Therapy

Holistic Care That Gets Results.

Pelvic Health, Lymphedema, & Orthopedic Physical Therapy for Every Body Across the Lifespan