Nearly 300,000 women have breast augmentation surgery each year, and it has been the top plastic surgery procedure since 2006. Breast augmentation is popular with Missoula and Bozeman women, too, who come to our Kalispell, MT, practice for the surgery.
Even though the procedure is so well known, many women have questions about the procedure’s post-op process, especially when it comes to whether or not women should be massaging their new breast implants to improve healing. In this blog post, we’ll discuss whether implant massage is necessary, why it’s sometimes recommended, and how implant massage is done.
Is it necessary to massage breast implants?
There is no clear-cut answer to the question of postoperative massage. Ask 10 plastic surgeons what they recommend, and you will likely get 10 slightly different answers! This is probably because there is just no clear evidence that implant massage works to decrease the risk of capsular contracture, and too much massage early on may increase the risk of bleeding (or hematoma).
Many surgeons will advise patients to massage smooth-shelled implants postoperatively in order to keep the implant pocket open. Textured-shelled implants are meant to allow very fine tissue ingrowth into the shell, which reduces the risk of capsular contracture. Therefore, many surgeons will not have patients perform implant massage after the placement of textured implants.
What does the research say about massaging breast implants?
In 2017, researchers examined all studies about post-surgical implant massage and implant displacement from 1975 to 2017. The researchers concluded there was little evidence to support the effectiveness of breast implant massage to prevent capsular contracture. You can read an abstract of the study on the National Center for Biotechnology Information site.
What happens if you don’t massage your breast implants?
In theory, breast implant massage is intended to reduce the risk of capsular contracture, which is the scar tissue that normally forms around an implant. Scar tissue only becomes a problem when it tightens and puts pressure on the implant.
With capsular contracture, the signs vary according to the “grade” or severity of the contracture. Here’s a list of a few sensations to watch out for:
- Breasts feel too firm or hard.
- Breasts may look overly round or misshapen.
- Nipples may look misshapen.
- Breasts are tender or painful.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 75% of capsular contracture cases occur within the first 2 years of surgery.
How do I massage my breast implants?
If implant massage is advised, this involves moving the implant up, down, and side to side at least a few times a day to keep the pocket slightly larger than the implant. This usually starts a week or two after surgery and may continue for a couple of months.
The decision to perform implant massage exercises should be done with your plastic surgeon’s advice. Some breast shapes may respond better to pushing the implants down along with wearing a breast strap, and in other cases this may cause too much bottoming out or settling of the implants. Sometimes it is recommended just to go bra-less and move around normally to create micro-movement of the implants, allowing them to settle naturally.
In breast augmentation revision cases, it is imperative to talk to your surgeon about postoperative instructions.
The bottom line is that if you are unsure what to do – ask your plastic surgeon. Being too aggressive moving implants around early after surgery can cause problems, and there is no clear evidence that implant massage works to help prevent capsular contracture in all situations. Every patient is unique, and an individualized approach is best.
If you are considering breast augmentation at our Kalispell plastic surgery practice, you can see the type of results we create by looking at our patients’ before-and-after photos.
Published February 2016; Updated November 2020