When you have certain types of surgery, especially surgery that removes lymph nodes, your doctor may recommend you get a post-surgical lymphatic drainage massage. You might even need a series of these massages to help control swelling after surgery.
This type of therapeutic massage is given by a trained massage therapist using techniques to move lymph fluid through your body, so the experience is different from a massage that relaxes you or helps heal injured muscles. Here's what you need to know.
Lymph Fluid Removes Bodily Waste
The lymphatic system in your body circulates lymph fluid through lymph nodes that filter out bodily waste, proteins, and cells so clear lymph is back in circulation to pick up more waste. When lymph nodes are removed, the lymph isn't filtered and it can even back up in your tissues and cause swelling. This can cause pain and interfere with your mobility when the fluid builds up in your legs.
Since swelling is common with any surgery, even when you have all of your lymph nodes, your doctor may recommend a post-surgical lymphatic drainage massage to control the swelling and promote healing by removing waste and toxins from the surgical area.
A Lymphatic Massage Pushes Lymph Along
A lymphatic massage isn't uncomfortable to undergo since the therapist uses long strokes that stretch the skin. Different massage techniques are used to encourage lymph to start moving, such as pumping, scooping, and making circles on the skin.
Breathing techniques can be used along with the massage to help with lymph movement. It takes skill to perform a post-surgical lymphatic drainage massage so you'll want to work with a massage therapist who is certified in manual lymphatic massage.
You May Not Need A Doctor's Referral
Check with your insurance agent to see if your policy pays toward a post-surgical lymphatic drainage massage. If so, you may need to get a doctor's referral for the therapy. However, a doctor's order isn't always needed.
You can go to a lymphatic massage therapist yourself, just like you can go to any other massage therapist. However, it's important to give the therapist your complete medical history since certain medical conditions may not be suitable for the massage.
Post-surgical lymphatic drainage massage is popular after cosmetic surgery. Your doctor may recommend you have the massages done and then you can choose your own therapist. You might need a lymphatic drainage massage after breast cancer surgery when your lymph nodes are removed and you have swelling in your arm. This type of massage might even help arthritis and other medical conditions that cause swelling.