Facelift recovery (including neck lifts, lip lifts, brow lifts, nose jobs, blepharoplasty, etc.) can be tough because your face is how you present yourself to the world. Most good surgeons will tell you ahead of time to expect a degree of swelling, bruising, and fibrosis (lumps), but they often don’t tell you what options you have to fix them.
In most cases, there is often a lot of swelling that occurs, and it hangs around for weeks and weeks. You are doing everything right – you are sleeping with your head elevated, you are watching your intake of sugar, salt, and alcohol post op, and you are not being too active, just like your surgeon suggested.
Why, then, is your swelling so persistent?!?
Let’s begin with the fact that any surgery is a trauma to the body. We already know that when we sustain a trauma such as an ankle sprain (ouch!) that the body rushes fluid to the area. We call this fluid “swelling.”
Our heads are full of blood vessels that tend to dump out more fluid into the tissues after an injury than other areas of the body. This is a necessary part of healing. (Not something you wanted to hear, I know.) Since the head is so important to us (with many sensory organs like our eyes, nose, mouth, and ears all located there – not to mention our brains), the body ensures that if something traumatic happens to the head and neck (like plastic surgery), that extra oxygen and nutrients can be delivered ASAP.
Many people also experience dark bruising that is hard to hide with makeup. It is not only distressing for you to see, but for your immediate loved ones who are around you soon after surgery. While these bruises are generally painless, they look painful. Since they are not impact bruises like what you would get if you walked into a wall by accident int he middle of the night, they do not usually have the pain associated with them that one would expect.
Either way, you want them gone. Lymphatic drainage massage can help you get rid of them faster by pulling away the damaged blood cells that cause bruising and help move them back into the bloodstream where the liver breaks them down.
Fibrosis, a condition caused by protein buildup as a result of poor lymphatic drainage and the healing process itself (called the inflammatory cascade) bringing in more molecules to repair and rebuild tissue. Sometimes, the body can get a little over-zealous in its repairs and create too much new tissue.
The lumps caused by fibrosis can both look and feel annoying. When they really stand out, it can give quite a bit of distortion to part of the face – like in front of the ears, or above the lift from a lip lift – and people’s eyes go straight to it making the person who underwent surgery feel very self conscious. Sometimes the lumps around the ears and neck can be a bit painful or uncomfortable making the person recovering from a facelift wonder if something is going wrong. This is not an unusual occurrence, and when dealt with by gentle lymphatic massage, they can go away in a handful of sessions. There usually is no need for a revision surgery, despite it sometimes appearing that it might be needed.
Scars from a facelift, neck lift, lip lift, or brow lift can be raised, red, and painful for weeks in some people.
Help is available at Pain & Swelling Solutions Post Op Lymphatic Massage.
Lymphatic massage, when done by a well trained, licensed lymphedema therapist, can reduce your swelling, bruising, and lumps and improve your appearance quicker post op. Not only does it do those things, but it also facilitates (speeds up) the healing process behind the scenes.
Lymphatic massage is amazingly gentle – so gentle, in fact, that you may wonder if it is actually doing anything until your session is over and you see and feel the difference.
How Many Sessions Do I Need, And How Often Should I Come?
Everyone is unique and surgical techniques and complexity of facelifts can vary significantly. So, there is no exact number of sessions that fits all people. That being said, it is possible to give some estimates and recommended approximate schedules. The worst of (but not all of) the swelling will usually go down after 8 weeks.
Facelift with Neck Lift Lymphatic Massage Schedule
When working on facelifts that are done with neck lifts it is important to give the skin a bit of time to settle before seeking therapy. This is because there needs to be a small amount of tugging on the neck skin to get the face to drain.
If you are planning on getting this combo surgery, is not a bad idea to get a lymphatic session before surgery to clear out the lymphatic system. This is similar to the idea of having your drains in your house professionally cleaned before dumping sludge down the drain (think: debris left over from surgery that the lymphatic system will be expected to clear out post operatively).
If you have had both a face and neck lift at the same time, about two weeks post op is the earliest that you would want to come for a lymphatic massage directly on the face. Expect swelling to be fairly pronounced during this time. If your swelling is quite bad at the end of the two week mark, you may want to start with 2 sessions the next week (week 3). After that, plan to come once a week through week 8 at a bare minimum. That’s a total of 7 visits.
One other thing to consider if you did a face and neck lift combo surgery is that you may come as soon as you like post op to have the rest of your body addressed. This actually will help your lymphatic drainage because suction throughout the whole lymphatic system is created when you do lymphatic massage (Manual Lymphatic Drainage). Granted, the results will be less obvious than when the face and neck are worked on directly, but it does help. This is a good option for people who want to do at least something when it’s a bit too early to work directly on the surgical area.
Facelift without Neck Lift Lymphatic Massage Schedule
If your facelift was done without a neck lift, it is possible to stimulate the lymphatic system
by working on the neck and upper body (above the belly button) within a few days post op. Being able to address the clogged lymphatic system in the neck is critical for getting the face to drain very well because it has to drain down through the neck. If you are inclined to come very early on and you have not have a simultaneous neck lift, you can schedule once or twice per week for the first couple of weeks.
There are gentle ways to begin working on the face within the first week after surgery. After a couple of weeks we can begin to work directly on the face more like we would in traditional lymphatic massage, but being careful not to cause much movement in the skin so that it has time to reattach to the muscle beneath it. Most people will come twice a week during the third week, and then once a week through at least week 8. That is a total of 7 massages if you start at week 3, or about 9-11 massages if you start with just working the neck in week 1.
Is 8 Weeks Too Soon to Stop Getting Lymphatic Massage After a Facelift?
Most people who have a facelift, neck lift, brow lift still experience swelling through the third month. If you find that you have swelling that is bothersome, plan on another 3-4 visits to cover that third month post op. At this point, most people are ready to go on with their lives. Some people will still opt to come back for the occasional treatment even after that, but this is truly optional and up to personal preference.