Posted by Susan Callison


About a year ago, I put on a little extra weight (again) and to no real surprise, it triggered my lymphedema. However, this time around, I had a lot more trouble getting it back under control. My swelling wasn’t really reducing and my lymphedema therapist noted that my tissues were starting to take on a spongy feel. This was scary because I felt it signaled my tissues were starting to become less healthy. 

When waste filled fluid is trapped in your tissues for an extended period of time, it can bring about a number of not so pleasant issues. One of them being fibrosis. Fibrosis is the thickening and scarring of tissues which can be improved but not reversed. When fibrosis occurs, it makes keeping lymphedema under control much more difficult. This is why early intervention and consistent management is so important when it comes to dealing with lymphedema!

I came up with rolling based on my knowledge of how MLD (Manual Lymphatic Drainage) and the lymphatic system work. Similar to MLD, rolling manually stimulates my superficial lymphatic system to take in and move excess fluid trapped in my tissues. Because this aspect of the lymphatic system is so close to the surface of our skin and runs on low pressure, we can influence it by manually increasing and decreasing pressure on it. This action mimics how movement creates muscle contractions, which is the key to making the lymphatic system function properly.

Before I start rolling, I pump the nodes in my neck and take 5 deep belly breathes. Then, like MLD, I clear my torso with the roller. Next, I work outward towards the end of my limbs, following the directional flow of my lymphatic system back toward the re-entry point in the circulatory system. This clears pathways which then allow more fluid to be taken in from my tissues.

However, unlike MLD, I work the roller back and forth as I directionally move fluid, rather than just “sweep” in one direction. From my research, I've come to understand that every action within the lymphatic system is happening at the same time to move fluid through this system. Plus, once the fluid is taken in by the lymphatic system, the one way valves within the lymphatic vessels open and close. This ensures the fluid tracks in the right direction back toward the re-entry point in the circulatory system.

By going back and forth, the nubs on the roller do 3 things:

-They push and release off my lymphatic capillaries, which help create the “suction” effect that takes in the fluid from my tissues.

-They help move fluid around in my tissues from areas that have inadequate functioning lymphatics, to areas that have adequate functioning lymphatics.

-They help keep my muscles flexible and my tissues soft which keeps fluid from becoming trapped.

Overall, rolling helps improve my circulation and tissue health. It brings oxygen and nutrients to my cells and reduces congestion in my tissues. Since perfecting my technique, I’m very pleased to say that my system of rolling has improved my lymphedema tremendously.

When I started rolling, I developed bruises in the areas where I was struggling with my lymphedema. These bruises didn’t hurt, didn’t increase my swelling or have any other adverse effects on my body. On the contrary, my lymphedema therapist noticed that the areas I was previously having difficulty with, were now improving. It did take a few months for the initial bruising to subside, but now that I’ve been rolling for over a year, I only bruise occasionally and it’s always in areas where I’m struggling with my lymphedema.

If you decide to start rolling, do it gently and only a few times a week to see how your body responds. You will know within a few weeks if rolling is right for you. Over time, you can always increase the frequency to help keep your lymphatic system moving and lymphedema in check.

Unfortunately, rolling doesn’t cure lymphedema. But, I've found that by incorporating it into my routine and wearing my Solidea Active Massage® compression garments, I keep my lymphedema and brain fog in check. It’s not just one thing that is going to help your lymphedema, it’s consistently doing self care every day to help your lymphatic system work better.

However, I must note that lymphedema does affect each of us differently. It can be a bit of trial and error until you find what works best for you. How well rolling will work for you is going to depend on how well your lymphatic system is still functioning.

We are in this together!

P.S. To see the full list of rollers and all the tools I use, check out this list of my favorite things. This is a list of the rollers that work best for me. You should definitely do your research and find what works best for you, I am not promoting or endorsing any of them. If you're interested in trying what I use, you can order directly from Amazon. I receive a small commission if you buy these products using this link. Hope they help you!

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