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  • Karen Stoner, LMT

How Massage Can Help After Surgery

Massage therapy is becoming increasingly popular for those recovering from surgery. Surgery of any kind can be a traumatic experience for the body, so treating the body kindly and taking care of it can help speed the recovery, both physically and mentally. For those recovering from surgery, massage can provide numerous benefits to post-surgical patients, including reduced pain, improved range of motion, decreased inflammation, and improved overall healing. Some of the massage techniques that may be used following a massage may include Lymphatic Drainage to move excess fluid around and decrease inflammation, Myofascial Release Work to loosen up scar tissue and tight underlying tissue and muscles, Stretching to help range of motion, and and basic Swedish Massage to loosen tight muscles, improve circulation, and help the body relax.

Massage therapy helps reduce tension and improve circulation through the muscles which leads to improved flexibility and range of motion. The improved circulation also helps reduce the inflammation and swelling caused by either the surgery itself or the underlying issue that created the need to surgery in the first place, so the affected area can heal more quickly and efficiently. There are also specialized massage techniques to help reduce scars and scar tissue, left over from any type of incision.

Additionally, since surgery can be seen as a trauma, in addition to the need for physical recovery it creates, it can also create a need for mental and emotional healing by generating stress and anxiety. The recovery from any type of surgery can result in bodily discomfort, time spent "off your feet" to recover, and the potential to not be able to do everything one is accustomed to doing, which can feed concerns and anxiety. Massage therapy helps promote relaxation and reduce anxiety, which then allows the body to relax and heal.

Since surgery does cause some conditions int he body that need to be watched and monitored, one should always consult with their doctors and surgeons before getting a massage following surgery. The doctor or surgeon understands the full extent of the work done and what they body needs to do to heal, and what other conditions or complications should be watched out for, so approval of the doctor or surgeon should be the first step in setting up a post-surgical massage. The doctor may give some recommendations about how long to wait after surgery before getting a massage, and can give recommendations for the massage therapist on what they should work on and avoid. Also, if there are certain medications that one is taking because of the surgery, such as blood thinners, certain types of massage may be contraindicated (not safe or advised) for a significant amount of time following the procedure. Always check with the doctor first, and give the massage therapist the whole truth and all the details about the surgery so that the best and safest type of massage can be done to help recovery and not trigger any complications.

Overall, Massage Therapy is a safe, natural way to help the body heal after surgery. After the body goes through something so rough and traumatic, massage is a gentle way to bring it back and allow the recovery to be more swift and effective. As with all types and purposes for massage, before a massage after surgery, good and honest communication with doctor and therapist will allow the massage to work the best.

Therapist's recommendation: After getting a doctor's go-ahead for massage after surgery, consider scheduling a short appointment such as a 30-minute (but be early/on time to handle paperwork, etc) so that it allows time to discuss the issues resulting from the surgery, and the massage can be focused on that area and needs without overwhelming the body too soon. If the short appointment provides help and relief, a longer appointment can be booked the next time. "Too much, too soon" is an easy trap to fall into after surgery - take it slow, massage will always be there. - Karen

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