Lymphatic Therapist Qualifications

lymphatic credentials fake or genuine - how to know if your lymphatic therapist is really qualified


Plastic surgery has seen a surge in popularity over the years, and with it comes the need for specialized care during the recovery process. Many patients turn to plastic surgery recovery therapists to help them heal safely and effectively. 

However, finding a qualified and trustworthy therapist in this emerging field can be challenging. This article will help you to sort out the qualifications and credentials that distinguish legitimate therapists from self-proclaimed “experts” in plastic surgery recovery.

The Unregulated Landscape of Plastic Surgery Recovery

One of the most critical issues in the plastic surgery recovery industry is the lack of regulation and standardized certification. Unlike established professions with rigorous oversight, this field is still in its infancy, leaving room for quite literally anyone to claim expertise without proper training or qualifications.  (Buyer Beware:  Double-check to ensure the person your surgeon referred you to is licensed.  

I have heard countless stories of people around the country going to unlicensed people who do illegal incisional drainage BECAUSE they were referred there by the surgeon.  Ultimately, the responsibility is on you to ensure the person is properly licensed.  Never assume.)

Many qualified therapists put their credentials on their website so that you can see their training.  My qualifications are here.


Social Media Influencers vs. Legitimate Therapists

The rise of social media influencers in the plastic surgery recovery space has truly complicated matters. While some influencers may be qualified therapists sharing valuable information, others are more interested in capitalizing on the industry’s growth. They offer quick, questionable courses, often lasting only 1-2 days, that promise a “Plastic Surgery Recovery Certification” which is no more than a piece of paper that literally anyone can make online and print out.  The shocking fact about this is that these “trainers” are generally not licensed either.  It is a case of the blind leading the blind.

This alarming trend puts patients at risk as untrained individuals may perform critical post-operative care without a solid understanding of anatomy, physiology, or infection control. Plastic surgery recovery should be entrusted to professionals with extensive training to ensure the safety and well-being of patients.


Qualifications to Look For in Your Surgery Recovery Therapist

To ensure that your plastic surgery recovery therapist is adequately trained and qualified, here are some credentials to look for:

  1. Some Licensed Massage Therapists (LMT’s):
    • First and foremost, check your state’s massage board directory to ensure a valid active license is held by the practitioner. This is the beginning of qualifications, and is not enough in and of itself.
    • Most states require 500-600 hours of training for basic massage therapy.
    • LMTs who are not extensively trained (outside of basic massage school) should not work on post-surgery patients until 6-8 weeks post-op.
    • Qualified massage therapists must have advanced training in Manual Lymphatic Drainage, working around surgical sites, infection control, and adjusting pressure. 
    • Remember:  Massage therapists are NEVER permitted to work with bodily fluids or touch open wounds.
  2. Lymphatic Massage Classes – Legit and Not Legit:
    • Some therapists take short courses online in “lymphatic massage,” which are inadequate.  Why?
          – Would you let your surgeon operate on you after taking a couple of hours of online training?
             If not, why would you risk your recovery results on someone who isn’t properly trained?
    • The quality of these lymphatic courses varies, and MOST of them do not provide accurate or complete training.
    • “Lymphatic massage” is not a recognized term in the field of true lymphatic therapy.  (Yes, it’s all over my website.  That’s what you probably googled to find me. If I don’t use it, my page won’t show up for people who need the info.)

           -The term “lymphatic massage” is often misused in several ways:

                 + There is no such thing as “lymphatic massage.”  It is not massage at all.  It is properly referred to as
                     Manual Lymphatic Drainage and is a completely separate discipline.
                 + Many unlicensed people who reopen incisions and push fluids out of those incisions refer to their illegal
                     work with the term “lymphatic massage.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Until fluid enters the
                     lymphatic system, it is called serous fluid.  It is not lymphatic fluid until it is in the lymphatic vessels.
  3. Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) Certification:
    • MLD certification is taught by accredited schools and should consist of a very bare minimum 40 hours of training from an accredited institution.  Check to see if your therapist was trained at Klose Training, Norton School of Lymphatic Therapy, or the Vodder School.
    • MLD certified therapists have a strong understanding of the lymphatic system and effective techniques for moving fluid.
    • This is the minimum level of training recommended for post-surgery care, coupled with licensure.  The three schools mentioned above will not accept unlicensed people.  Not legitimate schools will take anyone with a credit card.
  4. Certified Lymphedema Therapists (CLT):
    • CLTs undergo rigorous training of a minimum of 135 hours.
    • Their training includes MLD certification and advanced lymphatic drainage techniques.
    • Additionally, they are well-trained in compression therapy, crucial for plastic surgery recovery.
    • CLTs may come from various professional backgrounds, including Physical or Occupational Therapists (PTs and OTs) and Registered Nurses (RNs).  Very few massage therapists (LMT’s) are CLT’s.
  5. CLT-LANA:
    • CLT-LANA designation signifies CLT’s with additional experience and significantly higher knowledge levels.
    • LANA offers an optional exam to prove a higher level of expertise in lymphology, the study of the lymphatic system.
    • This is the highest level of legitimate certification in lymphatics that exists.  The only credential that outranks a CLT-LANA designation is an MD who specializes in lymphatics – an extremely rare specialty called a lymphologist.


Other Professionals in Plastic Surgery Recovery

Registered Nurses (RNs) play a vital role in post-operative care, particularly in the early stages. They excel in wound care, surgical dressing changes, and assisting with daily activities. However, their skill set may become less applicable as the patient progresses in their recovery unless they hold additional qualifications.

Plastic surgery recovery is a crucial phase that requires specialized care from qualified professionals. Patients should be vigilant when choosing their therapists, ensuring they possess the appropriate credentials and training. While the industry may lack overarching regulation, it’s essential to prioritize safety and well-being by seeking out therapists with recognized qualifications and expertise in lymphatic therapy and post-surgical care.


Regular Massage Therapists and Aestheticians
Are Not Qualified for Plastic Surgery Recovery

As was mentioned before, a massage therapist is trained in massage, not lymphatics.  Lymphatic therapy is a separate discipline and requires completely different training.

To this same end, aestheticians (folks who do nails, hair, facials, lashes, and the like) are not trained to do post operative lymphatic work.  In most states, aestheticians are restricted to working the face/head, hands and lower arms (to the elbow), and feet and lower legs (to the knee).  Their training may include an hour or so of facial lymphatic training, but this does not make them MLD Certified or a Certified Lymphedema Therapist.  If you have questions about what an aesthetician is permitted to do in your state, you can check your state’s regulations which are available online.