Change in Policy Regarding Lymphatic Care for Post-Operative Cosmetic Surgery Clients

Effective immediately, Whole Body Therapeutics no longer accepts clients seeking lymphatic drainage after cosmetic surgery.  This determination comes after months of research and thought, as well as dialogue with colleagues in the massage and lymphatic care industry.  This conclusion was reached for the following reasons:

Cosmetic Surgery Clients Underestimate the Importance, Cost, Need, and Length of Post-Operative Care.

Over the years, I’ve seen many clients who were either misinformed about the recovery process or thought that, for them, it would somehow be easier.  After surgery, movement is restricted and often painful.  A caregiver is necessary to help with basic “activities of daily living,” as well as getting and out of compression garments.  A driver is required for follow-up appointments with surgeons or primary-care physicians to check for infection, and to remove stitches.

The average Liposuction surgery costs approximately $8,000.00, and involves time off work for recover.  Additional costs include garment purchases, BBL pillows (if necessary) and also funds for post-op massages.  Many times, clients are caught off guard by added expenses.

Liposuction recovery is painful!  Pain is usually managed with medication, but these medications can cause issues of their own in terms of restricted activity, nausea, and constipation.  And then there’s the itching that sets in during recovery.  There’s also numbness in surgery areas.  So many times over the years, I’ve had clients say, “I didn’t know I’d feel like this,” or “I didn’t know it would be this bad.”

Given the above reasons, the time to plan for post-operative care is when you schedule your surgery, not when your plane lands back on U.S. soil from the DR or Colombia or Mexico.

Clients have unrealistic expectations when it comes to post-operative swelling.

During liposuction, saline is injected into the surgery site(s), which creates swelling.  This swelling takes 1-3 months to diminish depending of the amount of liposuction performed.  According to Dr. Jill Murphy at UPMC Altoona Plastic Surgery, “Liposuction can cause significant swelling. In some cases, this lasts a few months, and your final result will not be visible until then.  The majority of swelling does improve after four weeks, though.”  And while compression garments and treatments such as lymphatic drainage help eliminate the swelling, it’s simply part of the surgery process and no amount of lymph drainage is going to eliminate the swelling in just one session.

Clients have no real clear understanding about what lymphatic drainage is, as well as its benefits and limitations.

This really is reason Number One why I’ve decided to no longer work with cosmetic surgery clients.  Many clients, especially those who travel to Miami, Colombia and the DR, opt for post-surgery care.  This includes treatments that are called lymph drainage massages, except they aren’t.  Clients have told me stories of crying and fainting during these treatments, as well as needing to be on heavy doses of pain medications to even tolerate them.  This is how one woman who had cosmetic surgery in the DR described her post-op massages:  “About 3 days in, when we started getting our massages, they had a really young man (maybe 21-22) doing the massages and he was rough as hell. You already know that it’s going to be painful but any experiences you’ve had with a real masseuse, this was not it. It hurt to the point that the other woman in my room cried each time he did them.”

What she describes is the absolute opposite of lymphatic drainage work.  True manual lymphatic drainage is a very slow, gentle process of working with the lymphatic system to remove excess fluid.  Gentle pressure is required so the lymphatic system is not bypassed or damaged; slow hand strokes work with the contraction rates of lymphatic vessels to ensure proper fluid removal.

There is no agreement among surgeons as to the recommended number of post-op lymphatic drainage sessions.

This perhaps is the most frustrating reason of all.  After surgery, lymphatic drainage feels good and relieves swelling, which means less pain and discomfort.  But is it absolutely necessary?  Depends on who you ask. I’ve had clients who wanted ten treatments because that’s what their surgeon recommended.  A plastic surgeon in Newport News doesn’t think they’re necessary at all.  There is no consensus among surgeons as to what constitutes appropriate post-op lymphatic drainage.

In conclusion, I never want to turn away potential clients in need of my services.  I got into massage and  lymphatic care to help clients, and have enjoyed doing just that for over a decade.  But elective cosmetic surgery is an expensive, complex undertaking that requires thoughtful planning and realistic expectations.  In all of the years of working with post-op clients, I’ve only met a handful who took the time and effort to plan their after-care, to understand what they could expect from the surgery process, and also knew what they could realistically expect from me as a Certified Lymphatic Therapist.   For these reasons, I will no longer accept clients seeking lymphatic drainage after cosmetic surgery.