Manual Lymphatic Drainage for Post Surgical Patients – Massage Therapy can help!

Manual Lymphatic Massage Post Surgery

When you think of someone who’s just had surgery, what do you think are the symptoms they typically experience?
Maybe you have first hand experience of what it feels like to come out of surgery.
I know I do.
You have pain, and most likely swelling. One of the worst feelings (other than the pain from the surgical procedure!) is the discomfort and tightness you feel from the excess fluid, or swelling. This swelling, is referred to as edema.

How can you reduce the pain and swelling?

A great, non-invasive and relaxing way to do it is though Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD). One of the huge perks to a Manual Lymph Drainage massage is that it can be performed within days of surgery. It’s gentle technique does not disrupt the tissue around the surgical site so it does not impede healing. In actual fact, MLD can actually improve the healing environment of the tissue allowing for a faster recovery. Lymph fluid transports white blood cells (immune cells) and helps to remove waste from the body. By helping to move the lymph fluid to it’s proper drainage areas, we’re ultimately helping to transport immune cells and ensure that waste from the surgical site is being removed.

Scar tissue post surgery?

It’s amazing that our bodies have the ability to heal but what the body uses to fill those gaps, scar tissue, can really cause some problems. Scar tissue doesn’t lay itself down in a uniform way. It’s a mishmash of collagen fibres that can cause pain and actually reduce range of motion due to the lack of elasticity. Scar tissue can also disrupt and block lymph flow which can then lead to increased edema. According to Hutzschenreuter and Brümmer, if MLD is performed within the first 21 days post surgery, it can help with the regeneration of lymph collectors through the scar.
One study by Ebert, Jay R. et al. demonstrated that MDL used postoperatively in total knee replacement patients showed an increase in knee flexion compared to patients who didn’t receive MLD. This study also indicated that MLD helped to reduce pain. Another study by Hare K. et al, showed that MLD was effective at reducing edema in patients with distal radius fracture with external fixation. These patients were provided with MLD treatments after the external fixation was applied and there was significantly less edema in the group treated with MLD compared to the control group.

Why should you have Manual Lymph Drainage after your surgical procedure?

  • To reduce edema (swelling) which will reduce the tension and pain
  • Improves scar tissue
  • Helps to remove waste materials from the surgical area
  • Circulates white blood cells to improve the healing process
  • Improves wellbeing and promotes relaxation

To understand a bit more about what the lymphatic system is, click here.
If you have any questions about if MLD is suitable for you and your condition, do not hesitate to contact us at
Karen Kingsley
Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage Therapist
ALPHA Health Services
Learn more about Karen, click here

  1. R. Ebert et al. Randomized Trial Investigating the Efficacy of Manual Lymphatic Drainage to Improve Early Outcome After Total Knee Arthroplasty. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation , Volume 94 , Issue 11 , 2103 – 2111

Härén K, Backman C, Wiberg M. Effect of manual lymph drainage as described by Vodder on oedema of the hand after fracture of the distal radius: a prospective clinical study. Scandinavian Journal Of Plastic And Reconstructive Surgery And Hand Surgery [serial online]. December 2000;34(4):367-372. Available from: MEDLINE Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed August 27, 2017.
Dr Vodder School International

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