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  • Writer's pictureEllen Maroun

Top 10 Tips for Post Surgical Lymphatic Drainage: Finding a Certified Therapist for Effective Recovery

Post Surgical Lymphatic Drainage

Are you considering plastic surgery? Or have you recently undergone a cosmetic procedure?  If

so, you may already be aware of the importance of post-operative care, especially when it comes to managing swelling and promoting healing. Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a specialized manual therapy technique that can significantly aid in post-plastic surgery recovery by reducing swelling and promoting lymphatic circulation. However, finding a certified therapist for post plastic surgery manual lymphatic drainage can be challenging. To help you navigate this process effectively, here are the top 10 tips for finding a certified therapist for post surgical lymphatic drainage for effective recovery:

1. Understand what lymphatic drainage IS and IS NOT:

Lymphatic drainage is an advanced manual therapy in which the therapist uses a range of specialized and gentle, rhythmic, pumping techniques to move the skin in the direction of lymph flow. This stimulates the lymphatic vessels which carry substances vital to the defense of the body, removes waste products, and excess fluid (swelling). There are no oils or other lubricants used because it important to gently stretch the skin (no sliding) and release it.  It is performed with a very precise, delicate touch--very much like ballet. The rhythm of the strokes are slow, and clients find it to be deeply relaxing. 

Lymphatic drainage is not painful, deep, or performed rapidly. The therapist’s hands will not be sliding over the skin. There are no oils or other lubricants used because of this. It is most definitely not incisional drainage where fluids are pushed out of your incisions! It is ILLEGAL for massage therapists to do this! Incisional drainage is considered to be a medical procedure which must be done by a physician or nurse in a medical office. There is a type of therapy called Brazilian lymphatic drainage.  This is not the same as manual lymphatic drainage. It is a deep, often painful, and rapidly performed type of therapy. It is not appropriate for someone recovering from surgery. Many say that is is not lymphatic drainage at all, but rather a form of body sculpting. Much of what is being shown on social media is not properly performed MLD nor MLD at all.  

2. Research and Verify Credentials:  Start by researching therapists who specialize in manual lymphatic drainage. Look for credentials such as certification from reputable institutions like the Dr. Vodder School International, which is considered to be the gold standard in lymphatic training all around the world. Certifications from a reputable school ensure that the therapist has undergone rigorous in-person training (not online), and adheres to high standards of practice.  

Additionally, maintaining certification means therapists regularly attend re-certification classes to keep their knowledge up to date and keep their hand skills sharp.  Precision with hand skills is absolutely key to delivering excellent results. A therapist who does not maintain certification, may not have hand skills which are up to standard. Ask your therapist how long was their initial training, how many re-certification classes they have attended, and how often do they go.  

Outside of large metropolitan areas, properly trained therapists can be hard to find. Improperly, inadequately, and poorly trained therapists are much more common.  They are rapidly growing in numbers as the public demand is increasing, but have very little understanding of what they are receiving. Therapists are rushing out to get quick and inexpensive training which does not give them the skills necessary to deliver quality work. (There are some online trainings which have less than 20 hours for under $200 and claim to have therapists "certified." YIKES!) In other words, you may be wasting your money, getting lackluster results, or worse: getting something that is not lymphatic drainage like illegal incisional drainage.

How much training does it take?

Trainings which are only one or two weekends long or solely taught online, are not appropriate for post surgical therapy. For initial training, it takes 40 hours of live, in-person (not online) training to have the minimum competence for basic lymphatic drainage. Post surgical therapists should have a minimum of 100 initial hours live training, 135 or more is preferred. Re-certification classes are usually about 20 hours and are required every two to three years. So, do the math:  A well trained and experienced lymphatic therapist of at least 4 years should have about 140-175 hours training and counting.

Here are links to websites to find qualified therapists for post surgical MLD or verify their training:

Schools which teach Vodder technique:

Choose either Lymphedema Therapist or Applied MLD Therapist.  Important: Check only one box per search or no therapists will be found.

Schools which teach European Osteopathic technique:

Look for a therapist who has completed LDT 1, 2, 3, and LDT Advanced 1 as the minimum.  

Additional credentials:

LANA is not a training program, but rather it is a certification board for lymphatic therapists who have graduated from an approved school such as the ones listed above. They are required to have a minimum of 135 hours lymphatic training plus certain college classes before sitting for the LANA certification exam. The vast majority of LANA certified therapists are physical and occupational therapists or nurses working in hospitals and cancer rehab centers. It is rare for massage therapists or solo physical or occupational therapists to be LANA certified.  

If a therapist was trained through an organization not listed above, ask for the website and whether or not you can verify their certification online. If not, ask if you can see the actual certificate. Be sure to ask how many hours long was the program, was it live or online, and if it requires re-certification classes. If so, ask about the re-certification requirements. Ask how many have they attended and how often. All good programs require continuing classes to maintain certification.  Well trained therapists will be very happy to show you proof of their hard earned continuing education.  

BUYER BEWARE:  Some therapists claim they are certified, when in reality they are not. They have either not kept up with the required continuing education, or they may have never attended at all. That’s right, some therapists make false claims on their websites! Verify credentials are from a reputable institution, such as the ones listed above, and verify that the hands-on portion of their training was live and that they have at least 100 hours. It is impossible to learn how to do MLD properly solely online. 

3. Verify Experience: Inquire about the therapist's experience specifically with post-plastic surgery patients. Experienced therapists will have a deeper understanding of the unique needs and challenges associated with this type of recovery. Be sure to ask about their experience with your particular type of surgery.  Ask how long they have been a therapist, how long have they been certified in lymphatic drainage (and are they maintaining certification?), and how long they have been doing post plastic surgery work.  

4. Check Reviews: Look for reviews and testimonials from previous clients. Positive feedback can indicate a therapist's expertise and effectiveness in providing manual lymphatic drainage for post-plastic surgery recovery.

5. Ask for Recommendations: Reach out to your plastic surgeon or healthcare provider for recommendations. They often have a network of trusted therapists who specialize in post-plastic surgery care and can provide valuable referrals. Even though you may have been referred, do your own research on all the points being made in this article. Unfortunately, many surgeons are not very well educated on post op recovery lymphatic drainage, and may refer you to a poorly trained therapist. It is critical that you do your own research!

6. Ensure Cleanliness and Safety: Prioritize cleanliness and safety when choosing a therapist. Make sure the facility adheres to strict hygiene standards and follows proper infection control protocols to minimize the risk of complications.

7. Evaluate Communication Skills: Effective communication is essential for a successful therapeutic relationship. Choose a therapist who listens attentively to your concerns, explains the treatment process clearly, and addresses any questions or uncertainties you may have.

8. Assess Professionalism: Observe the therapist's professionalism and demeanor during your initial consultation. A professional therapist will conduct themselves with integrity, respect your privacy, and maintain confidentiality at all times.

9. Consider Location and Accessibility: Choose a therapist whose location is convenient and easily accessible, especially during the initial stages of your recovery when mobility may be limited. Factor in considerations such as parking and handicapped accessibility or proximity to public transportation.

10. Discuss Treatment Plans and Expectations: Have a thorough discussion with the therapist about your treatment goals, expectations, and any specific concerns related to your post-plastic surgery recovery. A customized treatment plan tailored to your individual needs can optimize results and ensure a smoother recovery process.  

Bonus Tip:

11. Trust Your Instincts: Ultimately, trust your instincts when selecting a therapist. Pay attention to how comfortable you feel with the therapist and whether you sense a genuine connection. Building trust and rapport is crucial for a positive therapeutic experience.

In conclusion, finding a certified therapist for manual lymphatic drainage after plastic surgery requires careful consideration and research.  Properly trained therapists are not common. By following these top 10 tips, you can confidently choose a high-quality therapist who can support you in achieving optimal results and a speedy recovery. Remember, investing in your post-operative care is essential for ensuring the best possible outcome and long-term satisfaction with your cosmetic procedure.


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