Updated: Nov 15
Finding all of the care providers, tips, tricks, and strategies to prepare for the recovery phase of liposuction, a BBL (Brazilian Butt Lift), Tummy Tuck, Mommy Makeover, etc can truly be daunting. There is a lot of stigma against plastic surgery, so the conversations and forums on the internet are expansive, but open conversation is often avoided in society. That being said, it has been known to be difficult to find reliable, functional, healthy, and practical information that can leave a plastic surgery patient with confidence in their plan.
The top concern a lot of patients coming home from across state lines or out of country find, is how to find a post operative focused massage therapist that can provide lymphatic drainage to continue to help them recover and find relief from the pain, swelling, and stiffness.
However, what many find coming home, is the resources are minimal or the terms “post op therapist” or “lymphatic drainage” are thrown around with a significant amount of inconsistency in availability and quality of the treatments.
Here are the best tips I can offer in finding the right therapist for you.
WHO is most qualified? This one is tricky. This question is often answered subjectively, with as many opinions as there are butt cheeks in the world, but here are a few things you can look for when seeking a Post Op Care Provider:
CERTIFICATION/LICENSE: I recommend you make sure they are certified or licensed in their state as a MASSAGE THERAPIST, for starters. Most people never ask a massage therapist this, but it is something you can check for. If they don’t have it, they do not have legal authority to use “massage” in ANY of their marketing, claim to be a massage therapist, and ethically, don’t have authority to be touching someone skin to skin.
SPECIALITY: Depending on what is deemed “Scope of Practice” for that state, the state alone decides what is the scope of what an MT is allowed or not allowed to do. For example, in California, there is no scope at all. Meaning, MTs are not required to have specific sub-certifications to market or advertise their specialty. If a Massage Therapist claims to be a lymphatic drainage therapist, it does not always mean they have extensive lymphatic drainage training. But is it required nationally, or by state to be that advanced to work with plastic surgery recovery? Not necessarily. It is up to the state board or county/city to determine that. But for the most part, it is flexible.
It could really be any of the following situations:
They have a certification from an accredited school that focuses on Lymphatic Drainage or MLD, Oncology training, or Lymphedema Training.
They may have taken a workshop in massage school, and may or may not have extensive field experience.
They have learned other forms of treatments that have been known to mimic MLD in some ways, for example, cupping, Brazilian lymphatic drainage, Colombian wood therapy, incisional drainage (illegal in all 50 states for MTs to do), and even gua sha. There are even those who perform more of a deep tissue type of 'wringing' out of the tissues and try to "push" the fluid to whatever areas they think it needs to go.
They perform energy work claiming they can "release" it from you on an energetic level (there is someone in my hometown who does and clients are usually pretty disappointed. I know of this because I often receive these clients later.)
They perform Body sculpting, use machinery, etc, and claim they perform lymphatic drainage or are 'post-op' therapists or nurses, but they could be aestheticians or have no other training in touching bodies.
They perform the illegal form of lymphatic drainage, which we in the industry call “incisional drainage” where the fluid is exhumed or 'milked' out of the surgical incision sites. It is known to be very painful, aggressive, and traumatic)
Number 5 is the number one most common reference to lymphatic drainage in the plastic surgery recovery industry. Why? It came from other countries. There is suspicion it originated in coming to Miami from the Dominican Republic, and other variations to the story over the years. There are several variations of this methodology (again, not legalized for MTs to perform in the US) But it has generally three opinions that follow a) “This is what you need” to be ‘snatched’ after surgery. b) This is graphic, traumatic, illegal, and impractical. c) The least heard of opinion, that ‘it is practical and helpful until the wounds first close, then after that, no more’. Lastly, and the least heard of d) ‘This could be practical for sealing the space between the connective tissue and skin, to avoid over development of scar tissue, but it is still illegal, so no thanks.’ Tip on referrals: don’t always trust the word of one person’s experience. Look at many voices. Even a plastic surgeon can recommend someone, and it turns out that a ‘therapist’ could be performing illegal practices (common in Miami, and the law has been cracking down in 2021.)
MARKETING: Now, the whole thing to look for, and this can be tricky: finding some Massage Therapists you feel comfortable reaching out to, and they look like they advertise Lymphatic Drainage. However, now you’re at the precipice of not knowing which direction to go. For example, this person performs lymphatic drainage and looks like they only work with lymphedema, serious medical cases like cancer, etc, and then this other person looks like they offer body sculpting, teeth whitening, butt plumping, using cheap radio frequency and cavitation machines from China but they appear to ONLY work with plastic surgery recovery cases. Oh, and often they advertise 'training'. Now, strangely, you may objectively decide that NEITHER ONE MIGHT BE APPROPRIATE. However, option 2, is most common, but is often the most complained about after the client realizes they are not usually licensed or certified massage therapists even if they marketed themselves to be. So, always ask. As for revisiting option 1, they may have exactly the training you’re looking for: they’re MT AND they look MLD-trained! But, here is a potential problem….if they don’t work with plastic surgery ever, but they seem the most qualified, there is a potential chance that their methods do not work as well for Lipo, Tummy tuck, or BBL recovery. (The reason I say this is because I hear of this problem frequently, amongst therapists speaking for themselves.) Now, this option is the most closely qualified in training, but maybe the best thing to do NEXT is check out their experience, and what reviews say, and interview them yourself! Sometimes you won’t know until you try that one therapist one time to see how you do with them. In a perfect world, the ideal candidate, in my professional opinion, would be an MT who is MLD trained AND has extensive experience with plastic surgery. Don’t forget to check their REVIEWS online on Yelp or Google and maybe see if they pop up as recommendations in online forums such as Facebook groups, for example.
It is up to you to advocate for yourself, trust your experience and instincts, and use your best judgment in your research with anything Plastic Surgery Related. In conclusion, here are your steps:
Ask for a certification or license number and look up the state board in that state.
Ask what school or method they train in for MLD. (Klose, Vodder, ACOLS, LANA, and MLD institute, to name the most popular. See below for directories)
Investigate their online presence including their website, and social media content, and hunt for any previously made recommendations about this business in the forums to see if that helps you in your search.
The following are Registries where you can begin your search:
KLOSE Certified Therapists https://klosetraining.com/therapist-directory/
Dr. Vodder School International https://www.vodderschool.com/
Lymphology Association of North America (LANA) https://www.clt-lana.org/search/therapists/
Academy of Lymphatic Studies (ACOLS) https://www.acols.com/find-therapist/
If you are looking for post op care in the Sacramento region, or a pre op or post op consultation, feel free to connect with me by clicking the button below to access my link tree that will take you to all the ways to access my offerings and resources.