Expand your massage practice to include cosmetic-surgery


As Seen In MASSAGE Magazine July 2013

Benefits of massage therapy for cosmetic-surgery patients

People who choose to enhance their body with elective cosmetic surgery do so to improve their appearance and quality of life. After determining what body, breast or facial procedure is best for them, a client will often consult with a few surgeons to select the best fit for them. They are eager to have their outward appearance match how they feel on the inside.

Even with considerable preparation and planning for an elective surgery, what people experience after their surgery is often unexpected. Pain, swelling, bruising, postural guarding of the surgical site and fatigue often take surgical clients by surprise. Many patients experience slower than expected (or planned for) healing, hormonal imbalances, difficulty sleeping, unsupportive family members, and depression - resulting in ‘buyers-remorse’. Some people have unforeseen surgical complications, dysesthesias (abnormal sensations), and negative side affects from pain medications and anesthesia. Most clients feel overwhelmed during the healing process, so this is the prime time for post-surgical massage therapy.

Support, guidance, education, monitoring and encouragement during the recovery process are the main benefits of Peri-operative Therapy for cosmetic surgery clients. Our clients have said that just getting dressed and coming to our office is helpful. The movement encourages lymph flow and postural patterning, and a relaxing environment is a mood enhancer. In the acute phase (from the time of surgery to several days post-surgery), lymph drainage techniques facilitate the movement of excess swelling thru the lymph system and away from the surgical site. In the sub-acute phase (a couple weeks to a couple months later) when the surgical sites are healed and sealed, scar work and light fascial work with passive range of motion softens the tissue. This allows normal movement of surrounding tissue and activates neuromuscular regeneration. In the chronic phase (several months to a full year later), techniques addressing postural distortion from guarding and learning to use their ‘newly improved’ body are appropriate.

Beneficial massage techniques

It is our observation that the human body does not know the difference between an elective cosmetic surgery in a beautiful surgical suite and/or a traumatic event resulting in a physical injury such as a car or work-related accident. Therefore, the tools medically-based massage therapists use on a daily basis are incorporated to address swelling, scarring and postural distortion related to the surgical experience and the phases of healing.

Integrated techniques such as lymph drainage, scar manipulation and fascial reorganization are used as the therapist sees fit and depending on what phase of healing and emotional state the client presents. However, it is how and when these techniques are used along with a great deal of patience, listening, and compassion that brings the greatest recovery benefit.

The prevalence and growth of massage used for cosmetic-surgery

Massage therapy after cosmetic surgery is a requirement in many other countries. We have clients who travelled to South America (Brazil), Europe (Germany) and Asia (Korea) for their procedure because they offer a ‘holistic’ surgical experience that includes multiple sessions of post-operative massage – usually on a daily basis for at least 10 days post-op. Our hope is to expand this level of service here to the United States, and become accepted as ancillary providers to all surgeons as part of the rehab team. This is the perfect time to offer high level, specialized massage therapy services because healthcare is becoming a consumer driven market.

Gone are the days where everything is covered by health insurance. We now hold ourselves accountable to make educated decisions regarding our continued health and longevity. More people are making massage a part of their healthcare strategy. This gives massage therapists a new opportunity to create niche specialties, such as Peri-operative Therapy, for surgical clients’ recovery plan.

Networking with cosmetic surgeons

The easiest and most fun way to get started is to determine which of your clients and/or friends has received a cosmetic surgery. Take the time to research the surgeon’s website and then call their office to let them know you are part of their client’s healthcare team. Suggest scheduling a “lunch and learn” to get to know one another. During your meeting share the value of post-operative massage and its many benefits to the client and to the plastic surgeons’ business. This is the time to build relationships and work towards becoming the surgeons’ trusted advisor.

Another effective networking opportunity is for you to ask your client if you can go to a follow up visit with them. This is a great way to understand what the doctor expects regarding post-surgical healing phases. Ask specific questions about things like: how they surgically tightened the muscles and tissue in a facelift or tummy tuck; how much fat was removed and in what body regions during liposuction; was the breast implant sub-pectoralis or sub-glandular for a breast augmentation.

The most amazing and critical learning experience for the Peri-operative Therapist is to actually “scrub in” and observe surgical procedures first hand. There is nothing better than to walk thru the whole process with the client from wheeling them into the surgical suite, witnessing the affect of anesthesia, feeling the synergy of the surgical staff, watching the precision and diligence of the surgeon, and sensing the attention of everyone on the patient needs. Every time we observe a surgery we bring the experience back to the office for discussion to learn how we may bring additional value to each of our patients.

Our experience is that most cosmetic surgeons and their staff are passionate about the outcome of the surgical procedure and invested in the level of their client’s satisfaction. They usually welcome ideas that help clients heal faster with less pain or discomfort. We tell them, “our services begin after the surgeon has done their magic”, meaning we take the client by the hand down the road of recovery through their phases of healing. We are literally an extension of their surgical process.

Choosing to provide Peri-operative Therapy is more than simply adding another massage technique to your technique ‘tool belt’. Peri-operative Therapy is a stand-alone specialty, raising the bar of the massage industry by integrating with the medical community.


Ann Brooks, RMT

Ann Brooks, RMT, has practiced massage for injury clients since 2001. In 2004, she began treating clients recovering from reconstructive and cosmetic surgical procedures. Prior to her massage therapy career, Ann worked within the managed care industry for 15 years which enables her to effectively communicate with the medical and insurance community.

Kent Lemburg, NCBTMB

Kent Lemburg, NCBTMB, has practiced medically-based massage therapy since 1991. Kent began treating cosmetic surgery patients in 1995, and has assisted hundreds of clients following their varying cosmetic surgical procedures. He desires to expand understanding, knowledge, and usefulness of Peri-operative Therapy to the massage and medical community.


Ann Brooks, RMT and Kent Lemburg, NCBTMB co-own Soulstice, Ltd., a peri-operative and massage therapy company in Englewood, CO. www.SoulsticeWellness.com


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