safety, Self-care, Treatments

Should You Try Manual Lymphatic Drainage After Surgery

The lymphatic system helps to filter excess fluid and return it to your circulatory system.  Manual lymphatic drainage is a specialized massage technique (taught in Canada by Dr. Vodder School International) which systematically stimulates your lymphatic system to reduce congestion and swelling.

Even before we had research demonstrating the benefits of manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) for surgical recovery, therapists who practice MLD used the techniques successfully to help their patients recover. We get referrals from plastic surgeons who know that their patients are dedicated to making sure that their surgery has the best results possible.

In research, we see studies that show the benefits of manual lymphatic drainage:

  • after knee replacement surgery¹
  • after liposuction²
  • after cancer surgeries³
  • And for other conditions not requiring surgery such as Fibromyalgia, concussions, headaches, and sinus pain more studies are always being investigated

As a Registered Massage Therapist and Vodder Certified in Manual Lymphatic Drainage/Combined Decongestive Therapy, I believe that patients benefit from MLD after surgery because we are able to gently help the body to continue it’s natural healing process.

While many studies are done in the hospital immediately after surgery, I find that patients in my clinic prefer to wait a week after surgery before they leave the house and come in for their first treatment. We schedule initial appointments close together (more than once a week) to get the most dramatic results.

It is normal to have swelling after surgery, swelling and inflammation help your body to start the healing process. When manual lymphatic drainage helps to remove excess fluid it isn’t interfering – it’s helping you to move on to the next stage. It stimulates your natural ability to remove excess fluid, and that fluid also contains waste products and inflammatory chemicals. From that point, your body can lay down healthy collagen and elastin fibers to heal your wounds and repair or replace any blood vessels, nerves and skin cells that were injured during surgery. A faster healing process with less scar tissue leaves you with an improved appearance post-surgery, less pain, and increased ability to return to your normal activities.

  1. J. R. Ebert et. al. Randomized Trial Investigating the Efficacy of Manual Lymphatic Drainage to Improve Early Outcome After Total Knee Arthroplasty. Arch Phys Med Rehab. Nov. 2013. Vol. 94 (11). pp 2103-11
  2. I. Masson, B. de Oliveira, A. Fernanda Perez Machado et. al. Manual lymphatic drainage and therapeutic ultrasound in liposuction and lipoabdominoplasty post-operative period. Indian J Plast Surg. Jan-Apr 2014. Vol. 47 (1). pp. 70–76.

2 thoughts on “Should You Try Manual Lymphatic Drainage After Surgery”

  1. Hi Jennifer,

    I know you’re on leave, but I am having liposuction in early November and looking for someone in Oakville to help me with post-op massage for the first few weeks while I recover. Is there someone in the area you recommend if you aren’t available?

    1. Hi Karen! I reached out to you by email with the names of a few Vodder trained therapists in the area, and some information about booking with me.

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