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Will lymph drainage massage help after a Facelift?

Dr. Dean Kane Q & A.

Q.  I have heard a Lymphatic Massage helps against swelling after a facelift. Is this true or just performed because of the placebo effect? It is quite expensive and the Danish doctor says at least 5 treatments are needed? Is there any research proving this?

A.  ​It is a natural and expected side-effect following surgery or injury to develop swelling and scar. If fact, this is how the body heals itself. In some patients, the swelling may be quite uncomfortable and compromise the result of the surgery.

​I, too, recommend massage following surgery but it must be performed by you with proper instruction or a well trained individual who understands the post-surgical and healing process.

​The warmth of your hands improves circulation, the pressure placed and the technique of massage applied changes during the process of healing. I have developed and recommend 3 basic techniques and variations:

  1. ​Swedish massage: light moisturizing or gentle washing – like upward touching of the skin. This will assist in sensitizing or de-sensitizing the skin as the sensation returns. It is very useful for individuals who are reluctant to touch the surgical site as well.
  2. ​Lymphatic, “squeegee” massage: firmer compression or moving pressure pushing a wave of fluid out of the swollen area of surgery or injury. It is likened to squeezing water out of a sponge. Studies have shown that retained swelling or edema creates a cycle of lymphatic obstruction and persistent swelling. Retained swelling over many months also creates more lumpy scarring and collagen bundles. Lymphatic swelling, I believe, will assist in remodeling collagen in the direction to best match your facial contour, so massage firm but gently always in an upward direction.
  3. ​Shiatsu, deep pressure or deep scar massage: directed deeper accentuated pressure with a rolling or rocking character to break up the lumpy collagen scar formation. Such lumpy scar, if it forms, does not occur for 3-4 weeks after surgery so do not use this technique unless your surgeon directs you too. It is followed by long strokes of lymphatic massage.

I recommend these techniques 3 to 5 times a day for very short periods of time.​

​Lymphatic and Shiatsu massage may also create different levels of trauma to the tissues or break sutures placed specifically to suspend or hold tissues in place.

​More IS NOT better.

DO NOT perform such therapy without the specific instructions of your surgeon. If deep scarring or reduced function occur, your surgeon may recommend physical therapy for other alternative techniques and ultrasound therapy.

​Higher protein, low carbohydrate diets also assist in healing and swelling reduction due to the hormones this dietary balance generates in the body.

Most importantly, consult your surgeon regarding the use of these or other techniques in assisting your healing following facelift or any other surgery or injury.

​I hope this has helped. All the best!

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