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Lymphatic massage involves gently manipulating specific areas of the body to promote the movement of lymph fluid. It is done to relieve swelling that occurs following a medical treatment or illness that blocks the lymphatic system.

At Butts By Design, lymphatic massage is part of our post-surgical treatment program called Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy (DLT). The DLT program includes:

  • lymphatic drainage massage
  • compression garments
  • exercise
  • skin care and scar care

Together, these measures help promote healthy healing after cosmetic surgery. We recommend lymphatic massage for our patients’ comfort as well as to help you achieve the best possible results from your procedure.

What Does the Lymphatic System Do?

The lymphatic system is a “roadway” network consisting of tubular vessels, lymph nodes and organs that transport a clear, water-like fluid called lymph. Lymph is fluid that has collected outside your blood vessels (bloodstream). The lymph system works to move this fluid back into your vascular system or bloodstream. In addition, the lymphatic system reduces cellular waste and cellular toxins from tissue.

Why Is It Important to Have Lymphatic Massage After Surgery?

After a surgical procedure, lymphatic fluid builds up in the areas of surgery because the lymph fluid helps transport white blood cells to begin the healing process. From a clinical standpoint, the collection of excess lymph is called swelling, edema or firmness.

In addition, surgery temporarily reduces the lymphatic system’s ability to “move” or “transport” lymph. The combination of increased lymph collection and decreased lymph transport results in swelling, inflammation and soreness after surgery.

What Are the Benefits of Lymphatic Massage?

Lymphatic drainage massage improves lymphatic circulation by manually stimulating and moving the lymph tissue. This reduces swelling, inflammation and pain after surgery, and with consistent sessions, results in decreased scar tissue formation and improved skin or soft tissue. Lymphatic massage also decreases the risks of fibrosis and contour irregularities.

Does Lymphatic Massage Really Work?

We believe lymphatic massage is extremely important to liposuction recovery, and we recommend liposuction patients start lymphatic massages as soon as possible after surgery.

A lymphatic massage is different from the typical massage you would find at a spa. Lymphatic massage involves a very specific technique that incorporates long, rhythmic strokes designed to move lymph from the tissues to the lymph nodes. This can help speed up your recovery time and improve your cosmetic results.

In our experience, self-massage cannot be done effectively right after surgery. Patients benefit from working with a trained, experienced lymphatic masseuse before beginning self-massage techniques.

How Often Should You Get A Lymphatic Drainage Massage?

The frequency and number of lymphatic massages we recommend vary depending on the specific cosmetic procedure.

For patients who have only liposuction or liposuction and fat transfer, the goal is to begin lymphatic massage the following day. Patients who have a tummy tuck and liposuction need more recovery time before starting the massage protocol; therefore, lymphatic massages start one week after surgery.

In general, we recommend planning for four weeks of lymphatic massage after your surgery. Tummy tuck patients typically have weekly lymphatic massage sessions, while liposuction patients undergo roughly 15 treatments.

As an example, let us look at lymphatic massage after liposuction:

We typically recommend utilizing a lymphatic masseuse starting the day after surgery and continuing for four weeks after surgery. The average number of sessions is 15 over the four-week period, with more massages during the earlier parts of healing:

  • Week 1: 4 – 6 lymphatic massages
  • Week 2: 3 – 5 lymphatic massages
  • Week 3: 2 – 4 lymphatic massages
  • Week 4: 1 – 3 lymphatic massages
  • Week 5+: as needed

The specific start date, frequency and number of projected massages will be reviewed during your consultation and pre-operative appointment.

How Should I Prepare for a Lymphatic Massage?

The primary purposes of preparing for lymphatic massage are relaxing your body and helping to stimulate your lymphatic system. The following exercises should be performed before professional lymphatic massages and self-massage.

Step 1 –  Lymphatic Breathing

Deep, purposeful breaths relax the body and create a pump that helps move lymph fluid through the lymph vessels and lymph nodes. Follow the steps below:

  • Inhale slowly through your nose, expanding your stomach and keeping your shoulders still
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth
  • Rest at least three seconds between breaths

Step 2 – Prepare the Front of the Neck

  • Place your index and middle fingers from each hand on either side of your neck, slightly above your collarbone
  • Stretch the skin by gently sliding your fingers toward the middle of the collarbone

Step 3 – Prepare the Side of the Neck

  • Place the palms of each hand on the sides of your neck below your ears
  • Slowly move both hands down toward your collarbone

Step 4 – Prepare the Back of the Neck

  • Place your fingertips on the back of your neck at the hairline
  • Slide your fingertips together down from the hairline toward the base of your neck, parallel to your spine

Step 5 – Prepare the Armpits (Axilla)

  • Lift your arm straight up, exposing your armpit and the lymph nodes in the armpit
  • Cup your palm under the armpit
  • Gently put pressure from your palm on the armpit and move your palm toward your body
  • Repeat on the other arm

Step 6 – Prepare Behind the Knees

  • Place both hands behind your knee with your fingertips together
  • Gently press your fingertips into the back of your knee and move them upward toward your body
  • Repeat on the other knee

Can I Perform Lymphatic Massage On Myself?

We strongly recommend adding self-directed massages to your professional lymphatic massages around three to seven days after surgery. The specific start date depends on your healing. Self-massage should be performed twice a day, once in the morning and once at night, for roughly five to 15 minutes per session.

Please remember these important tips when performing self-massage:

  • The goal is to move lymph fluid under the skin. The goal is NOT to massage the muscles. Therefore, light pressure should be utilized. You should NOT be pressing firmly enough to feel muscles.
  • Your hands should be relaxed to allow soft pressure.
  • Focus on the liposuction areas. These areas will feel firmer and more swollen than areas where surgery was not performed.
  • Do NOT massage areas where fat was transferred during the first six weeks of healing.

How to Perform Lymphatic Self-Massage

Below are lymphatic massage techniques we encourage you to use while you heal. This information is not meant to replace your professional lymphatic massages but instead to augment the professional massages.


Upper Body Massage Techniques

Lymphatic massage for the tummy (abdomen):

  • Relax your abdominal muscles
  • Place your fingertips together from your hips on the edge of your abdomen
  • Move your fingertips toward the middle of your abdomen and then upwards toward your heart
  • Repeat this technique starting your fingertips slightly higher each time until you reach your ribcage

Lymphatic massage for the waist (flanks):

  • Place your palm flat on the outside of one hip
  • Move your hand up toward your armpit
  • Repeat this technique starting your hand slightly higher each time until you reach your armpit
  • Repeat on the other side

Lymphatic massage for the chest:

  • Place your palm flat on the opposite side of your chest against the pectoralis major muscle, slightly above the breast
  • Move your hand up your chest and over your collarbone toward the base of your neck
  • Continue up your neck until you feel the chest skin release

Lymphatic massage for the shoulder:

  • Rest your arm on cushion/padding
  • Place your palm on your shoulder
  • Move your palm over your shoulder and toward the base of your neck

Lymphatic massage for the upper arm:

  • Rest your arm on cushion/padding
  • Place your fingertips on the inside of your upper arm below your shoulder
  • Softly slide your fingers toward the outside of your upper arm
  • Wrap your hand around the outside of your upper arm
  • Gently move your hand back toward the inside of your arm
  • Alternate fingertips and wrap your hand around your arms, progressing from your elbow toward your shoulder

Lower Body Massage Techniques

Lymphatic massage for the thigh:

  • Start at the top of your thigh, just below your groin
  • Place one hand on the inside of the opposite thigh near the groin
  • Place the other hand on the buttock
  • Gently move the hand on the inside of the thigh toward the outside of the thigh and up toward your heart
  • Move your hands down the thigh and stop above the knee
  • Repeat the movement above

Lymphatic massage for the leg:

  • Start below the knee
  • Place one hand on the front of your leg and the other hand on the back of your leg
  • Softly move your hands up above the knee
  • Move your hands slightly down your leg and continue the movement described above
  • Always use upward movements

Want To Learn More About Lymphatic Massages?

We are dedicated to providing the best possible experience at Butts By Design, from your first consultation through your healing process. We’re excited to include lymphatic massage in our post-surgical treatment program to improve our patients’ recovery and help them feel and look their best more quickly.

For more information about how we integrate lymphatic massage after surgery, how you can prepare for lymphatic massage and how you can continue to perform this type of massage at home, please schedule a consultation at our offices in Newport Beach, CA or Upland, CA. Dr. Nykiel offers digital virtual consultation.

Contact Butts by Design today at (949) 416-0038 or our contact page.