The good news is that you don't have to really change much up in terms of your foam rolling technique in order to reap the benefits of lymphatic drainage, because it happens naturally with the pressure you're applying. "When you foam roll, you relax muscle tension, you activate your lymphatic system, you reduce pain and soreness—it all goes hand in hand," says Gauthier. That said, there are certain factors that'll up the lymphatic drainage benefits of foam rolling even more—keep scrolling for what you need to know.
1. Roll from the bottom up: "You want to push everything up from your feet," says Piret Aava, founder of Body Roll Studio in New York, a new lymphatic rolling studio. "Start with the bottom of the body and work upwards." It can be hard to foam roll your feet, so Aava recommends using a tennis ball for this. Gauthier echoes this, noting that you should roll from your ankles to your knees, then to your hip joint, then the upper body, all "towards the heart," which helps with the distribution of lymph throughout the body.
2. Don't forget key areas: It can be tempting to rush through foam rolling sequences, but make sure to hit the nooks and crannies of the body (especially ones like hips and the shoulders and neck, which get impossibly tight). "A good one is to roll the side of your neck down to your shoulder," says Aava. "Though you would need a smaller roller for this, or you could use a gua sha for the targeted area."
3. Try a textured foam roller: You can use any type of foam roller, but Gauthier says that the kind with tiny bumps or patterns on them "will mimic the fingers of a masseuse more so than a flat roller," she says. Vibrating foam rollers work well too, says Aava, who points out that the vibrations can help ease the pain that comes along with rolling out tension, while also manipulating the lymph to help get things moving.
Be sure to check out our episode of What the Wellness in which we visit Aqua Studio for a workout that promotes lymphatic drainage:
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