Pre-Class Document

To see the Pre-Class Document PDF, please click or tap here.


Thank you for signing up for the FREE Intro to Plastic Surgery Recovery Massage preclass! 


Watch This Video: 

What can you expect to learn? If you open and read the links and watch all the videos, you will be able to: 


List and describe three popular plastic surgery procedures

Describe what happens in the liposuction procedure

Describe why people may seek liposuction

List a few modalities that may be useful in the treatment of edema and fibrosis after plastic surgery

Describe the difference between Stage 1 and Stage 2 compression garments.

List the different types of foam that may be used after plastic surgery and their benefits

Describe why a client should wear compression after plastic surgery procedures like abdominoplasty or liposuction


Why is this so important to learn? 


 Reviewing these materials will help us to discuss what our clients are experiencing after each operation and apply the modalities we already use at the office as well as other interventions to reduce their symptoms, promote mobility and function and increase quality of life. 


What if you are interested to learn more? 


In November 2019 I will be teaching a more robust class (Update: This Class has SOLD OUT!) that will build upon the information in the Intro Preclass. The in-person Plastic Surgery Recovery Massage class will familiarize students with applications of massage and bodywork therapy for specific needs of the post-plastic surgery client. 


Objectives covered in the in-person class include: 


How to market massage and bodywork therapy practices focused on serving the post-plastic surgery client.

Side effects of plastic surgery that clients may feel during the recovery process

Stages of wound healing

Massage modalities that can reduce swelling, fibrosis and other side effects of surgery

Client self-care actions that can reduce swelling, fibrosis and other side effects of surgery

Contraindications to post-surgery massage

Post-recovery exercise and movement options you can suggest to clients

Continuing education options for therapists

Resources that you can pass on to clients

Put what you learned to work by analyzing post-operative signs and symptoms in a case study client and offering potential interventions to the client.


I will provide more details on future in-person classes in 2020.


Intro to Plastic Surgery Recovery Massage – Section 1 




Let’s start by taking a look at different types of plastic surgery. Hold on to your sandwiches, because some of the videos are show and tell. 


You are reading this because you a massage therapist, or physical therapist interested in helping clients recover after plastic surgery. Most of the techniques also apply after orthopedic surgery, but let’s stick to plastic surgery for now. 


First things first – what type of surgeries are plastic surgery? What should clients know before their surgery? Let’s take a look. 


The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) shares a list of the most popular plastic surgery procedures in the United States:


Check out these Plastic Surgery Statistics


The ASAPS has a great online Plastic Surgery Planning Toolkit full of resources


The ASAPS also has a list of Questions to Ask Yourself Before Plastic Surgery for potential plastic surgery clients.


Now that we have an idea of what plastic surgery is, let’s learn more about some of the most popular operations. Watch these informative videos of the top procedures:


Body Contouring 

Brazilian Butt Lift –



Breast Augmentation

Eyelid Surgery



Facelifts have several different possible incisions


Male Plastic Surgery – 

Mommy Makeover 

Neck Lift 

Older clients 

Tummy Tuck 


Next we’ll focus on liposuction! 


Intro to Plastic Surgery Recovery Massage – Section 2




Today is all about liposuction. This surgery is the heart of my practice, but there is more to it than meets the eye. It is done several different ways and for different purposes. 


Liposuction is the surgery I see the most. Let’s learn more about liposuction:


The article ‘A journey through liposuction and liposculpture: Review’ published in the Annals of medicine and surgery’ provides a great overview:


Learn about Liposuction zones of adherence


Analysis of postoperative complications for superficial liposuction: a review of 2398 cases.


Contour Irregularities : Management of Contour Irregularities following Superficial Liposuction


Liposuction research on treatment of swelling and lumps / fibrosis


Many different clients receive liposuction. Here are a few: 


Male liposuction (Dr. Hall also talks through what the surgeon’s markings mean and where incisions are placed). 


A Nonbinary Trans Person Talking about Midsection Lipo


Nonbinary Transition: 1 Year Post-Op for Midsection Lipo, 5.5 months for Top Surgery 


Bobbi Dare’s experience with liposuction and Brazilian Butt Lift 


Liposuction for Lipoedema patient stories 


Some reconstruction surgeries after breast cancer involve liposuction to harvest fat as well as removing skin on the abdomen. We can use our post-plastic surgery skills to help these clients as well. 


Breast reconstruction with a TRAM flap – 

Breast reconstruction with liposuction – 


Next we’ll focus on edema and learn about swelling


Intro to Plastic Surgery Recovery Massage – Section 3




If you have Foldi’s Textbook of Lymphology, review chapters on:

  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage
  • Decongestive Movement Therapy, decongestive breathing therapy, rehabilitation exercise and other physical therapy techniques 
  • Compression Therapy


Let’s talk edema (swelling). What did we learn when we were young? Edema happens when we injure our bodies. Wound care is important, and then we used RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation).  


Edema basics –


Evaluate information you find online with the Craap test


Next we’ll focus on modalities we can use after plastic surgery. 


Intro to Plastic Surgery Recovery Massage – Section 4




What types of modalities are used after surgery? Here is some basic information on the modalities we will discuss. 


  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)
  •  and
  • Can Manual Lymphatic Drainage massage help reduce swelling after a facelift?


  • Tissue fluid pressure and flow in the subcutaneous tissue in lymphedema


  • Karen Ashforth is an innovator in treating lymphedema-related fibrosis and inflammation – read her “Understanding Fibrosis” series here:


Scar Management


Next we’ll focus on nutrition and wound healing


Intro to Plastic Surgery Recovery Massage – Section 5




Out of our Scope of Practice, but still important to know. If the client has questions, refer them to their surgeon for assistance. 


Nutrition and Wound Healing


Nutrition in Wound Care Management


Nutrition in Surgery Podcast Series


8 Signs of Infection


Surgical Site Infections


More Surgical Site Infections


Reasons why a Wound Will Not Heal


Knowing the difference between a scab and eschar


Slough Versus Purulence


Wound Healing informational resources – Should I refer what I am seeing to a wound care specialist?


“Surgical Wounds and Surgical Site Infections: When Acute Healing Goes Wrong”.


Incision Management Class


Next we’ll focus on how to help our clients recover


Intro to Plastic Surgery Recovery Massage – Section 6


How to Help Clients Recover 




Frustrated over noncompliance? This may help. I learned this in my personal training classes, and it applies to massage clients as well! Why is it crucial? Compression, nutrition, movement, self-care are critical to recovery. 


Is your advice really being heard? Know what stage they are in.

Motivational Interviewing

SMART Goals –

Understanding Reflective Judgement Stages –

Where are we at? Where are our client’s at? 


Another perspective – Emotional First Aid and inner thoughts


Next we’ll talk compression 


Intro to Plastic Surgery Recovery Massage – Section 7




VIdeo: What is a Plastic Surgery Compression Garment?


Compression garments are often called fajas or fajas columbianas, which is Spanish for ‘girdle.’ 


Most compression garments used for post-plastic surgery are not graduated compression. 


Many patients will have their faja altered by a non-medical seamstress, which may or may not change the original even level of compression in the garment. 


Some plastic surgeons may recommend their patients wear antiembolism stockings after surgery to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis.


Brazilian butt lift garments have no compression over the gluteal area. The butt may be either closed or open. 


Some garments are custom made to the patient’s measurements, others are purchased ready made. Sizing is not the same as clothing sizing and is based on arm, underbust, waist, hip and thigh measurements. 


What do we know from our lymphedema therapy training about compression? Foldi & Foldi advise that “pressure generated by compression should be high enough to be effective, but should not cause pain or restrict circulation (especially at rest)” (Foldi & Foldi, 2012 p. 533) “Every unnecessary crease in the compression material blocks lymph drainage; thus, creases act like scars. This obstruction can be avoided by applying adequate underpadding” (Foldi & Foldi, 2012 p. 535) 


Postsurgical Compression Garments have 2 or 3 stages. 


Most Stage 1 garments are provided to the patient by the plastic surgeon and are to be worn 23 hrs. per day for the first week or two (possibly for up to a month). They feature soft fabric and either zippers or hook and eye closures. Due to postsurgical edema, the garment will be difficult to don. Stage 1 garments often have an open crotch to aid in toileting. 


Some people will recommend that the patient places ‘lipo foam’ inside of their garment for more even compression. There is no universal agreement by plastic surgeons on the prescription of ‘lipo foam’ or the use of abdominal boards or BBL lumbar board.


Stage 2 garments are usually purchased by the savvy patient once their first stage garment feels loose. They are often slip on garments, with no hook and eye closures. They may or may not have an open crotch. If compression is not controlling edema, I suggest wearing a micromassage garment instead of a tank top under the stage 2 garment. 


Stage 3 garments are for ongoing daily wear or nonsurgical use and feature a lighter level of compression. I suggest that a client can also consider wearing a micromassage garment as a stage 3 garment. 


Deep Dive into Compression –


Next we’ll talk about foam! 


 Intro to Plastic Surgery Recovery Massage – Section 8






Foam pieces for liposuction are usually rectangular shaped and can be either plain or with an adhesive added to enable it to stick to the skin. Most brands are 8 x 11 and  ½ inch thick. Many brands are available and can be found on Amazon. M&D makes a smaller sized foam with a fabric cover they call a ‘lateral protector.’ and made of polystyrene with a hypoallergenic cotton lining. 


Several pieces are needed to fully compress the torso, but some clients only purchase one for the anterior abdominal area. I have found that incomplete foam coverage can result in indentions in the uncompressed areas of the torso. 


What do we know from our lymphedema training? Foldi & Foldi recommend “using foam that is .5 to 1.5 cm thick, with a relatively high bulk density (e.g. 25-35 kg/m).” (Foldi & Foldi, 2012 p. 531) 


Foldi & Foldi state that “pieces with an “uneven surface” have proven to be especially useful for softening fibrosis … prefabricated padding materials with uneven surfaces are also offered in various versions by a few manufacturers” (Foldi & Foldi, 2012 p. 531). 


Foam pieces I use:


Komprex foam rubber shapes for patches of swelling not covered by foam padding (xiphoid process or pubis) 

Medi lymphpads on my client’s fibrosis. Learn more about uneven foam in the video ‘Liposuction fibrosis – foam can help!’



Next we’ll talk about wearing fajas! 


Intro to Plastic Surgery Recovery Massage – Day 9


How do don a post-liposuction compression garment


I have chosen several videos from compression manufacturers. The advice for donning is far different that we were taught in lymphedema therapy class:


Curvy Gyals- How To Put On Our St. Azar Traditional Faja



My FAJA doesn’t fit!?!?! 


How To Put Your Faja (Body Shaper) On Properly 


Liposuction Swelling Tips – 


How can we reinforce the importance of wearing compression after surgery?  Let’s start by figuring out what our clients may be thinking. I have heard many of the same frustrations experienced by patients with a lymphedema diagnosis have around compression during CDT.   


Let’s borrow the questions from John Holland’s (Vice President of Absolute Medical) Klose 2019 conference presentation: 


What is it?


Compression garments and padding work together to reduce edema and fibrosis after surgery. 


What’s in it for me? 


According to Foldi & Foldi, “compression therapy prevents reflux of fluid that has been shifted as the result of MLD or postural positioning … preserves the successful results of treatment” and “when foam passing material is placed under compression bandages, lymphostatic fibrosis can be softened. It is known that scar tissue also softens (especially after burns) when sustained compression is applied” (Foldi & Foldi, 2012 p. 505).


Foldi & Foldi state that “padding is divided into smooth or uneven padding groups, depending on its function and structure. For smooth padding, the emphasis is on even pressure distribution. “Uneven” or “active” padding achieves a micromassage effect when the patient moves.” (Foldi & Foldi, 2012 p. 529). 


Can you prove it?


Each person heals from surgery differently, so no one-size-fits-all plan applies. The easiest way to “prove” if the compression is needed is to take measurements of the compressed area then remove the compression for a few hours or a day and observe the results. How do you feel? What are your measurements after not wearing your compression? 


Will it be worth it?


Proper compression therapy will help your body heal faster, reducing the heavy, tight feeling that comes with swelling. How quickly do you want to get back to your daily life? How good do you need your result to look? Did you undergo surgery to look good in clothes or both in clothes and unclothed? 


Can I justify the purchase?


Ask the client to share their final goal of surgery with you. What do they want to do once their are completely recovered? 


Do I really need it now? 


Are you experiencing a plateau in your healing? Are you feeling fibrosis starting to form? Is your older garment still doing a good job of compressing? 


Next we’ll talk about ongoing education and self-care 


Intro to Plastic Surgery Recovery Massage – Section 10


Therapist ongoing education and self-care


Carole Osborne: Addressing Body Mechanics While in the Side Lying Position


Body Dysmorphic Disorder


 Katharine Phillips MD | Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) Conference 2015, London



Optional deep dive into the topic –


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