Kathleen Lisson is a MASTER at lymphatic drainage massage & we all know I’m all about the drainage.
So much so, that you all thought I was gonna name my first born ‘Lymphatic Bosstick.’
But that’s neither here nor there because Kathleen is going to give you so many details on lymphatic drainage, especially after plastic surgery.
Kathleen & I met over Instagram & eventually I went to see her in San Diego. She worked mainly on my jaw after having double jaw surgery. She is warm, kind & very knowledgeable when it comes to the lymphatic system. And she is the author of Plastic Surgery Recovery Handbook & Southern California Plastic Surgery Cookbook too!
After years of chatting back & forth I asked her to come on The Skinny Confidential to share her tips on all things lymphatic drainage. In this post you’ll learn why it’s so good post-op, how it can help cancer patients & how you can become a Lymphedema Therapist too.
Without further ado, let’s welcome Kathleen Lisson to the blog.
The Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage After Plastic Surgery
♡ Introduce yourself to The Skinny Confidential audience.
Kathleen Lisson: Hello! My name is Kathleen Helen Lisson. I am a Board Certified Massage Therapist & Lymphedema Therapist in San Diego. And I help clients reduce swelling & fibrosis after plastic surgery & get back to their life again.
I am also a meditation teacher & teach online post-op & fibrosis massage classes for massage therapists. My husband & I love spending time outdoors & ( before the pandemic ) world travel. We love hiking & snowshoeing the most!
I am named after both my grandmothers. Catherine was my dad’s mom & her parents were Irish & German & Helen was my mom’s mom & her parents were Polish & Lithuanian.
♡ What are the benefits of lymphatic drainage massage?
KL: Lymphatic drainage massage is THE way to remove swelling, puffiness or bloat from our body because the body removes swelling through the lymphatic system. It’s completely okay to not know much about this system of the body—we probably weren’t taught about it in high school physiology class.
The lymphatic system is our body’s recycling system— a network of vessels that transports water, fat molecules, proteins & waste products from the interstitial fluid around our cells back to the heart. It is also part of our immune system. Lymphatic fluid is filtered through the lymph nodes ( immune system central ) before the fluid enters the heart.
There are several ways to use our lymphatic system to reduce swelling, including:
+ Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) massage
+ Exercise & joint movement
+ Diaphragmatic (belly) breathing
+ External compression garments
+ Kinesiology Taping
+ Vibration tools for cellulite
♡ Can you tell us why lymphatic massage is so popular after plastic surgery?
KL: Lymphatic drainage massage is popular because clients can see results from the very first treatment. My clients have told me they feel less bloated & swollen, less stiff & can put their faja back on at a tighter hook!
When clients get liposuction, they WANT to get that snatched result that we see in the plastic surgeon’s before & after photos. If we are on Facebook surgery groups or following other surgery sisters on Instagram, we’ll see lymphatic massage mentioned A LOT as essential to getting the best results after liposuction & Brazilian Butt Lift.
I love that the popularity of lymphatic massage is driven by the positive experiences of people who have had liposuction – not just by the plastic surgeons or the lymphatic massage therapists.
♡ What plastic surgery procedures are you seeing a lot of lately?
KL: I am seeing a LOT more Brazilian Butt Lifts.
The new style of BBL I see a lot of in San Diego & Southern California is not as in-your-face as it was a few years ago. I see more clients that want their hip dips filled in or a defined waist & booty pop like Jennifer Lopez. More people who thought they didn’t have enough fat on their tummy to get a good result with a BBL are pleasantly surprised. I will work with custom-cut foams to make the waist as small as possible.
The Miami-style of BBL is still definitely IN YOUR FACE & may require a whole new wardrobe – the waist & hips are definitely two different sizes. These clients need to pay special attention to having the correct compression garments & may need a customized garment for their stage 2 faja because the waist may be too large compared to the thigh & hip measurement of a standard garment.
I am also seeing a steady stream of mommy makeovers.
This is a combination of breast augmentation ( breast lift or breast reduction ) & a tummy tuck. The results can be life-changing & allow the woman to get back in the gym & on the beach with more confidence.
Breast size & shape can change after nursing children, & women can have back pain or find it difficult to exercise & comfortably wear button up shirts, sundresses & tops with spaghetti straps. If someone is looking for breast augmentation I recommend that they consider booking a consultation with one, two or all three of my favorite female plastic surgeons in San Diego – Dr. Katerina Gallus, Dr. Diana Breister Ghosh & Dr. Lori Saltz – and feel confident that they’ll get a great result with the surgeon they choose.
This brings up an excellent tip – if we REALLY want to know which surgeons to research, ASK the lymphatic massage therapist that we will book for aftercare. I have seen excellent work & not-so-excellent work & have heard the truth from clients on which surgeons provide excellent aftercare & which surgeons ghost clients right after they get paid.
If we are on social media & see a surgery sister whose before looks like us & whose after is what we want to look like – ASK her what her post-op care regimen was. Did she get lymphatic drainage massages? Did she go back to the gym? How much did she spend on compression garments & for how long did she wear them?
♡ Who is a good candidate for lymphatic drainage massage?
KL: I help clients after plastic surgery with lymphatic drainage massage. We can also get lymphatic drainage massage at any time if we are healthy, but I focus my practice on reducing swelling after surgery.
If a client is feeling well ( no fever or infection ) they can start massages at 4 days to a week after liposuction or Brazilian Butt Lift. Lymphatic drainage massage can start after drains are out for facelifts, tummy tucks, body lifts & mommy makeovers. If we have swelling, chances are we can benefit from lymphatic drainage massage.
I will usually need 2-3 sessions for a facelift or fat transfer to the breasts, 3-4 sessions for a tummy tuck & 2 sessions per liter removed for liposuction or Brazilian Butt Lift.
♡ Walk us through a lymphatic drainage massage.
KL: Our session starts when the client walks into my beautiful treatment room! I ask them what their goals are & look at their current compression. I show the client my chart of the body & explain where the lymph nodes are on the body & their role in lymphatic drainage.
A lot of clients have seen misleading videos on social media & think lymphatic drainage will involve opening up their incisions & pushing fluid out of their body. It’s important to explain what lymphatic drainage massage actually is, which helps them to be more comfortable & less anxious.
When they are undressed & on the massage table draped with a sheet, I begin by massaging the lymph nodes in the abdomen & neck, followed by the underarms & inguinal ligament-area lymph nodes. I will have the client take diaphragmatic breaths as I use deeper techniques to target the abdominal lymph nodes with my hands.
I then perform MLD on the area of swelling, directing the swelling to the appropriate lymph nodes for drainage. The massage is light but firm & stretches the skin in the direction of drainage.
Depending on how recent the surgery was, the massage may be a little uncomfortable at first but not painful.
Often clients remark that their skin is less painful at the end of the massage.
If the client is showing signs of developing fibrosis, I will use fibrosis techniques, then clear the fluid away with lymphatic drainage massage strokes.
At the end of the session ( and sometimes in the middle of the session ) clients will get up off the table & have to urinate. Urination is how the swelling leaves the body. I have a few beach coverup style long robes in my office in case clients can’t hold it long enough to put their clothes back on & have to pee right away.
♡ Can you share a story with us where lymphatic drainage massage has impacted someone’s life?
KL: The story I hold closest to my heart was when I was helping a client with metastatic breast cancer & lymphedema who was in palliative care ( she was not receiving cancer treatment, only treatment that would improve her quality of life ). I drove to her house to give her a lymphatic massage every week.
She was frustrated that the swelling in her upper arm was preventing her from bending her elbow to get her hand to her mouth. Because of the lymphedema in her upper arm, she couldn’t feed herself. We used a combination of MLD and compression to reduce the swelling in her arm so she could feed herself & not have to have her aide feed her.
We also worked on the swelling in the back of her hand so she could use her hand more effectively. I’m very glad to say she was able to have full use of her hand for eating until she passed away.
♡ Is it ok to get lymphatic drainage massage if you have cancer? I’ve heard it’s very good for cancer patients. Can you elaborate?
KL: Yes, you can have lymphatic drainage massage if you have active cancer, as long as your oncologist approves. If your cancer treatment is over, you can have regular lymphatic massage to help your lymphatic system move fluid, ESPECIALLY around the areas where lymph nodes were removed.
If you have a cancer history & are worried about swelling, please see a Certified Lymphedema Therapist for your lymphatic massage. Lymphatic massage is a gentle type of massage – not at all like the elbow in your back, deep tissue experience that may be too much for a body healing from cancer treatment. Lymphatic massage & oncology massage do NOT help to cure cancer or treat cancer, it is just a way to provide comfort & reduce some of the side effects of cancer treatment.
♡ What would you suggest if someone wants to go to school for what you do?
KL: I would suggest taking your time & investing in a high quality education. There is an upswing in the amount of ‘post-op massage’ places in the past two years. As clients get more savvy, they will demand to see a professional with education & experience.
I invested in Board Certification for therapeutic massage & bodywork & learned Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) in the Certified Lymphedema Therapist class from Klose Training. After that foundation, I attended conferences in America & the UK and took a class at the Foldi Clinic in Germany where I learned how to reduce fibrosis, which is a common complaint after liposuction.
I put together online classes to teach my fellow massage therapists the skills I use in my office. I recommend taking them after you have taken your MLD classes.
♡ You’ve become huge on TikTok. What are your tips for someone who wants to grow in that area?
I love TikTok! The key to my success is consistently providing quality content & getting my point across in under a minute. Have your ideal client in mind & post what THEY would like to know.
I am also not afraid to NOT put every little detail in a video. You have to focus on getting your viewers curious. Getting viewers to comment & ask you WHY allows you to start a conversation with your followers.
I have a free online class focused on how massage therapists can use TikTok. I cover topics including:
+ How Long Should I Make My Videos?
+ Where Do I Get Content Ideas?
+ Tools to Plan your Hashtags
+ What to Do After You Post
♡ What’s a book, podcast or resource you recommend?
KL: Of course you have to listen to The Skinny Confidential HIM & HER podcast. I recommend Episode 97 with Dr. Kay. Her podcast is great! Also TSC podcast #137 with Dr. Barrett and I know Dr. Diamond has been on a few times – #130 and #281.
I’m going to date myself but I remember watching Dr. Diamond & Dr. Amron on plastic surgeon reality shows & I can’t believe that I am now seeing their clients in my office for MLD!
I am huge into the Clubhouse app now – it’s like a cross between a podcast & a talk show.
♡ Where can everyone find you? Pimp yourself out!
KL: You can find me on Instagram @kathleenlisson.
+ stalk how I first fell in love with lymphatic drainage massage.
++ scope these facial massage techniques for glowing skin.