Will lymph drainage massage help after a Facelift?

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

Doctor Answers 9

Lymphatic Massage

A lymphatic massage after a facelift procedure will certainly help once the sutures are removed. A lymphatic massage post facelift will maximize wound healing and decrease swelling.

Dallas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 64 reviews

Lymphatic Massage after Facelift?

Most of the time swelling in the face after facelift resolves fairly quickly in my experience without the need for lymphatic massage. Bromelain(pre-op) and Arnica Montana(post-op) will help with resolution of swelling and bruising. Because there are different planes of dissection that must heal to each other, lymphatic massage probably should not be done until most of the internal healing has taken place. 

Lu-Jean Feng, MD
Cleveland Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 94 reviews

Massage following Face Lift

Dear Nacklyft:

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!

Dean P. Kane, MD, FACS
Baltimore Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 82 reviews

Lymphatic drainage massages

Hi.  I use these in our practice following facelifts.  I do think that they do help to speed resolution of edema.  It's probably a technique you could teach yourself or your spouse to do the basic moves after 1 or 2 treatments.  Or find a knowledgeable massage therapist on your own.

All the best,

Thomas Fiala, MD
Orlando Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 80 reviews

Lymphatic Drainage after Facelift

All of our facelift patients undergo lymphatic drainage massage after the facelift. We found that this recovery treatment is quite helpful if performed between day 10 to 12 after the procedure. 

Frank P. Fechner, MD
Worcester Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 48 reviews

Lymphatic massage after facelift

Thank you for asking about your face lift recovery.

Face lift swelling goes down on its own - and it takes time - about 6 weeks from surgery.
Massage will not make it go down faster.
Five massage sessions over 5 weeks will coincide with your swelling subsiding naturally.
It is not necessary - have it if it appeals to you. You will heal fine, without it.

Always see a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon
Hope you found this answer helpful. Best wishes.

Elizabeth Morgan, MD, PhD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 43 reviews

Swelling After Facelift

Short answer:  If you have the money and time, and the provider is experienced with recent post-op patients and your surgeon approves, go for it.  It won't hurt and might help. 

Your question, "is there a placebo effect?", shows good insight.  To my knowledge there is no placebo controlled blinded randomized study to document the efficacy of lymphatic drainage after facelift.

I have a good trusted friend who rented space from me to do massage therapy in my office.  She offered lymphatic drainage for a fee.  But while I recommended her for massages, I could not without evidence endorse the expense for my patients.  But many of her friends did one or two sessions before and after and most felt there was some benefit.  But there is no way to judge whether this was placebo. To this day, once or twice a year I still refer a patient who has frustrating protracted swelling to her at my expense if they are discouraged.

Swelling after facial surgery is inevitable, variable, frustrating, normal, and temporary.  Once surgery is complete, subject to your surgeons approval, you can take the following steps to speed up the process:

*take Arnica Montana and Bromelain supplements
*begin gentle aerobics such as walking, recumbent stationary bike, etc. at a very slow steady pace.
*review unnecessary medications to see if edema is a side effect
*be sparing with salty food, caffeine and alcohol
*drink plenty of water so your kidneys are not tempted to retain salt and water
*perform plenty of handwashing so you do not get a cold or the flu

There is no good evidence that diuretics or steroids are of much benefit for protracted postoperative edema.

Thomas Funcik, MD
Mount Pleasant Facial Plastic Surgeon
3.9 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Will lymph drainage massage help after a Facelift?

It can help.  You just have to go to someone who has expeirence with surgical patietns.  Just time and sometimes you can take over the counter Arnica Montana which can be found at any Vitamin shop to help with brusing and swellling.

Michael Nagy, MD, FACS
Middletown Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 21 reviews


Hello, and thank you for this question. We have followed in our practice that lymphatic edema does help patients following facial rejuvenation. We we generally start this approximately 2 weeks after the procedure. We recommended one treatment for approximately 3-4 weeks. We have our aesthetician who is trained in this procedure performed it at our facility at the patient's postoperative visits. 

John J. O`Brien, Jr., MD
Saint Petersburg Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.