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Benefits of Post-Surgical Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Are you planning on undergoing surgery in the near future? If so, it’s wise to consider incorporating post-surgical lymphatic drainage massage into your rehabilitation plan for a variety of benefits. Lymphatic drainage is a type of massage therapy that can help reduce swelling, pain, and inflammation after surgery. It can also improve circulation and promote healing, ultimately leading to a quicker recovery time.


Post-surgical lymphatic drainage is a technique that has been gaining popularity in recent years as a way to speed up post-surgical rehabilitation. This technique stimulates the lymphatic system to remove excess fluid and waste products from the body more rapidly. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of post-surgical lymphatic drainage and how it can help reduce swelling, promote wound healing, enhance mobility and joint function, and reduce pain and discomfort after surgery. Learn more about how post-surgical lymphatic drainage can help to improve your recovery and overall quality of life.

What is Post-Surgical Lymphatic Drainage Massage?

Post-surgical lymphatic drainage is a specialized massage technique that helps to reduce swelling and inflammation. It is a gentle, non-invasive treatment that targets the lymphatic system, which is responsible for removing excess fluid and waste from the body. By stimulating the uptake of fluid that surrounds the tissues, post-surgical lymphatic drainage maximizes the processing of excess fluid and waste, which in turn helps to reduce swelling and inflammation.

Benefits of Post-Surgical Lymphatic Drainage

Post-surgical lymphatic drainage is a highly beneficial therapy that can aid in the recovery process after surgery. One of the most significant benefits of post-surgical lymphatic drainage is its ability to reduce swelling and inflammation. This is particularly important after surgery, as swelling can cause discomfort and limited range of motion, compromising the ability to perform daily activities. Additionally, the process accelerates wound healing by increasing blood flow to the affected area and delivering vital nutrients to the tissues. By reducing pain and discomfort after surgery, post-surgical lymphatic drainage can improve the quality of life during the recovery period.

Decreasing Swelling and Inflammation

Decreasing swelling and inflammation is one of the most significant benefits of post-surgical lymphatic drainage. This type of therapy can help reduce the buildup of fluids that cause swelling and inflammation, which can be especially problematic after surgery. Lymphatic drainage helps remove excess fluids and waste products from the body, which can help reduce swelling and inflammation with proper stimulation. A recent study conducted in 2022 by Dr. Andrea L. Cheville from The Mayo Clinic found that post-surgical lymphatic drainage significantly increased rehabilitation of the upper limb lymphedema and hand and arm mobility constraints during breast cancer treatment. This experiment included 457 breast cancer patients, along with a control group, who received manual lymphatic drainage. Research from the study showed that patients who received 20 sessions and underwent treatment for more than two weeks had greatly reduced swelling.

Promoting Wound Healing

One of the key benefits of post-surgical lymphatic drainage is its ability to promote wound healing. This technique helps to increase blood flow to the surgical site, which in turn brings oxygen and nutrients to the area, promoting the growth and health of new tissue. By stimulating the lymphatic system, post-surgical lymphatic drainage also helps to remove excess fluid and waste products from the body, reducing the risk of infection and other complications such as hematomas and fibrosis. Additionally, this technique reduces bruising, scarring, and improves the appearance and function around the surgical wound.

Enhancing Mobility and Joint Function

Post-surgical lymphatic drainage can enhance mobility and joint function. After surgery, it is common to experience stiffness and limited range of motion due to the body's natural response to inflammation. Lymphatic drainage helps to reduce these symptoms of inflammation and swelling to improve range of motion. This is especially important for those who have undergone joint replacement surgery or other procedures that may affect mobility. By promoting lymphatic drainage, patients may experience increased flexibility and range of motion, allowing them to move more freely and comfortably during the recovery period as well as preventing future complications.

Another study on post-surgical lymphatic drainage included a group of participants who received a half hour of post-surgical rehabilitation and a half hour of manual lymphatic drainage compared to the control group who just received a half hour of rehabilitation. Each persons’ medical condition was analyzed before surgery and intervention as well as when patients were released from the hospital which included the Visual Analog Pain Scale (VAS). Factors that were assessed included neck and shoulder range of motion, ultrasonography and face distance for lymphedema, and the Foldi and Miller lymphedema scales.

The study found that each of the participants’ VAS pain score, mobility, and right shoulder range of motion was improved thanks to lymphatic drainage massage therapy. “Early intervention with MLD (manual lymphatic drainage) and the rehabilitation program were effective in improving ROM of the neck and controlling lymphedema in acute-phase rehabilitation,” researchers noted. Overall, post-surgical lymphatic drainage is an effective way to improve mobility as well as lead to a smoother and more comfortable recovery process.

Reducing Pain & Discomfort After Surgery

Post-surgical lymphatic drainage promotes the flow of lymphatic fluid to reduce swelling and inflammation which are major contributors to pain and discomfort. This technique also helps to stimulate the immune system which can aid in the healing process. Patients who receive this treatment often report a significant improvement in their quality of life during the recovery period. Incorporating this technique into your recovery plan can help you to feel more comfortable and get back to your normal activities more quickly.

Improving Quality of Life During Recovery Period

Recovering from surgery can be a challenging and uncomfortable experience. However, post-surgical lymphatic drainage can help improve the quality of life during the recovery period. This technique involves a gentle, hands on technique that stimulates lymphatic system function to reduce swelling and inflammation. By decreasing these symptoms, patients can experience less pain and discomfort, which can enhance mobility and joint function. An added bonus of this technique is that it calms the sympathetic nervous system, reducing anxiety and invoking deep sleep. Furthermore, post-surgical lymphatic drainage assists wound healing by increasing circulation and delivering oxygen and nutrients to the affected area. This can help speed up the recovery process and improve overall well-being. Post-surgical lymphatic drainage is a safe and effective way to improve the quality of life during surgical recovery, and a worthwhile addition to any post-surgical care plan.

How to Prepare for Your First Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Speak with your doctor to ensure you are cleared for post-surgical lymphatic drainage to check if they have any recommendations or restrictions. Generally, post-surgical lymphatic drainage can be scheduled as soon as 72 hours post surgery. However, depending on the type of surgery and the patient’s condition, the surgeon may recommend waiting for two weeks post-surgery before receiving lymphatic therapy. Lymphatic drainage should not be performed if infection is present or blood clots are suspected. Be sure to inform your therapist of any medical conditions or specific areas of concern. Remember, lymphatic drainage massage therapy is very gentle and although some areas may be tender to the touch, it should not be painful. Always let your therapist know if you are uncomfortable in any way!

Clients are able to receive post-surgical lymphatic massage even if they still have drains in, as long as they are covered and secured. Always follow your surgeon's instructions. It is important to note that post-surgical lymphatic drainage is not the same as incisional drainage.

Incisional drainage is a medical procedure performed by a physician to extract fluid from an incision. This procedure should only be performed in a medical facility, by authorized staff and where biological waste (biohazards) can be disposed of properly. It is out of the scope of practice for massage therapists to perform this medical procedure and puts them at risk of losing their license and incurring fines. Physically expressing fluid from a healthy incision is not a typical or necessary post-surgical procedure and can actually be detrimental to healing. Clients who seek literal drainage for their incisions outside of a medical facility risk infection, scarring , delayed healing, and exposure to hazardous waste. Post-surgical lymphatic drainage requires advanced training so be sure to inquire about your therapist's education and experience.

Most surgeons guide a patient on the number of post-surgical lymphatic drainage sessions they recommend, with six to ten, 60-minute sessions being the normal recommended frequency.


In conclusion, post-surgical lymphatic drainage is a highly effective technique that offers numerous benefits for patients who need post-surgical rehabilitation. By reducing swelling and inflammation, promoting wound healing, enhancing mobility and joint function, reducing pain and discomfort, and improving quality of life during the recovery period, post-surgical lymphatic drainage can significantly improve a patient's overall outcome. While there are other methods available to manage post-surgical swelling and inflammation, lymphatic drainage is a non-invasive, drug-free option that has proven to be highly effective. If you are considering surgery, or have recently undergone a procedure, it is worth discussing the benefits of post-surgical lymphatic drainage with your healthcare provider. By incorporating this technique into your recovery plan, you can help ensure a smoother, faster, and more comfortable recovery period, and get back to your daily routine as quickly as possible.

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