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Voodoo Flossing - Everything You Need To Know About Muscle Flossing Bands

  1. What is Muscle Flossing (aka Voodoo Flossing)
  2. What Does Muscle Flossing Do
  3. Do Muscle Floss Bands Work - How Does Muscle Flossing Work?
    1. Compression
    2. Lymphatic Drainage?
    3. Mechanoreceptors' Stimulation and Pain Reduction
    4. Fascia Work and Fascial Reintegrity - Overcoming of Facial Adhesions
  4. Effects of Muscle Flossing on Joints
  5. How Does Voodoo Floss Work? Recap:
  6. How To Use Muscle Flossing (aka Voodoo Flossing) Correctly
  7. Where Should I Floss?
  8. How Often Should You Voodoo Floss?
  9. Side Effects Of Muscle Flossing
  10. How Do I Recognize A Good Flossing Band?
  11. Books about Voodoo Flossing
  12. Is Muscle Flossing Backed By Science
  13. Conclusion

What is Muscle Flossing (aka Voodoo Flossing)

I first came across "Voodoo Flossing" at a movement workshop. I was extremely surprised by the incredible effects of such a short "therapy". Of course, my interest was more than piqued. Since then, flossing has stuck with me.

If, like me at the time, you've ever tried to google "muscle flossing" then you've probably stumbled on the term "voodoo flossing". It's a pretty apt name for this technique because it feels like you're doing something weird to your muscles after which you would feel better. A real voodoo wonder!

what is voodoo flossing

To my knowledge, there is also no adequate translation of the term to other languages. After all, this is not about flossing. This is about the use of elastic rubber bands to treat your musculoskeletal system.

Because of the variety - and thus lack of specificity - of the underlying possible mechanisms of action, it is often referred to as "voodoo" flossing. It really does feel a bit like magic.

If, for example, after 1-2 minutes of treatment you suddenly find it much easier and deeper to squat, then some people are willing to believe in higher powers. But what is behind it?

What Does Muscle Flossing Do

Goals Of Muscle Flossing

Flossing bands are used for eliminating pain, improving range of motion and releiving acute swelling. When you floss yourself or are flossed, you are usually trying to relieve your pain, increase your range of motion, or reduce existing swelling, such as ankles swollen from twisting. But you can also use this voodoo magic to build muscles or improve coordination.

how to use voodoo floss

To use it, you need to wrap the bands around the desired limb and then actively move it. Yes, it works well especially on your extremities! And by extremities I also mean only arms and legs. You can also floss the torso to some extent. For example, in case of rib or breathing problems. You can find extensive techniques in the book Flossing: Powerful Aid for Treating Pain and Injuries/Effective Muscle-Building Exercises.

Do Muscle Floss Bands Work - How Does Muscle Flossing Work?

A good question. We would like to know that (more precisely). In fact, science is not yet agreed on the exact principle of action that plays the main role here. According to the current state of knowledge, a variety of mechanisms of action are involved: compression, blood stasis, lymph transport, sponge effect, shear effects, descending pain inhibition. Let's discuss one thing at a time.

Compression

Wrapping the voodoo flossing tape tightly around the limb creates pressure. This is also called compression. This primarily reduces blood flow to the treated area. When you move your limb now, the body tries to pump even more blood into it. But it does not work. When you loosen the band again, your body virtually floods the blood through the previously bloodless area. It's like a dam bursting. It is believed that the compression forces out the stagnated portions of the tissue fluids that were previously in the area. The surge of "new, fresh blood" that then sets in then flushes the whole thing out. We refer to this as the sponge effect. Is that not quite understandable? Imagine the whole thing like a sponge full of disgusting wiping water. When you use your sponge with mop water, both get dirty. To get the sponge clean again, you squeeze it tightly (compression) and then dip it in fresh water or hold it under the tap. The latter resembles in our imagination the pent-up blood behind your flossing band.

Lymphatic Drainage?

It is also conceivable that due to the pressure of the band, swellings in your body, which the locally overloaded or broken lymphatic system can no longer remove, are transported to another area with a functioning lymphatic system. There they can then be eliminated. However, there is still no valid and reliable scientific evidence on the effect of muscle flossing in the sense of a so-called lymphatic drainage. The whole thing is therefore still pure speculation at the moment. However, I believe that there is some rationale behind it.

Mechanoreceptors' Stimulation and Pain Reduction

But that is not all. Flossing is best performed directly on the skin. And the skin has an extremely large number of receptors. The intense, quite painful treatment during muscle flossing leads to a massive stimulation of the mechanosensors. The transmission of these stimuli to your brain leads to the suppression of pain stimuli in the spinal cord. In short, if your knee pains and you had pain while squatting before, you won't have it now after compression flosssing, or at least you'll have it less. That doesn't mean your problem is gone. You've just recalibrated your mechanoreceptors (pain receptors) and messed with them a bit. But this way you can train in a greater range of motion and usually higher quality of motion.

Fascia Work and Fascial Reintegrity - Overcoming of Facial Adhesions

Flossing can also be understood to work with fascia. Through the pressure, the fascia parts of the sheathed area are held in place. As you now move additionally, the still free fascia part is pulled away from it. The resulting shear forces can cause adhesions of your fascia layers to loosen. This is an effect that you cannot achieve with hard foam rollers such as the BLACKROLL. The loosened fasciae can move better and are back to each other as they should be before an injury or misuse. The integrity of your fascia system is thus restored. In technical jargon, this is called fascial reintegrity.

Fascia adhesions are usually the cause of a loss of mobility. The muscle flossing is therefore an extremely effective and practical instrument for self-treatment and self-massage.

And that's not all. The compression, together with the stimulation of the mechanosensors, also leads to an improvement in the fluid supply of your extracellular matrix (everything that fills your body and the spaces between your cells). It becomes less viscous. This in turn means your muscles and fascia can glide better. So you can move better and with less energy. Like a well-oiled machine.

Effects of Muscle Flossing on Joints

Now we've been talking about muscles all along. But we're not missing out on your joints, either. If you have an injury in a joint - for example, because you twisted your ankle - you often get a swollen joint. This leads to restricted movement and pain in your joint capsule which inhibits your coordination and sensorimotor function (simply put, your sense of movement). Just as blood flow flushes metabolic waste products out of muscle, it does the same for your joints. You can bring an ankle swelling the size of a tennis ball down to about normal with a few flossing treatments in one evening. And your body is usually very grateful for the help. The forced movement under compression additionally leads to a so-called proprioceptive or sensorimotor reintegration. This means that your sense of movement and your perception of the position of your own body parts in space (proprioception) is improved by the movement under compression.

EMG studies have also shown that the treated muscles react much faster to the stimuli given to them. This could also contribute to the fact that you feel better and usually more powerful and mobile immediately after the treatment.

If you want to use the banding not for pain relief but for muscle building, again completely different factors play a role. Read the following article on Blood Flow Restriction Training (BFR).

You can see how complex the mechanisms of action of voodoo flossing are. Even the direction of pull of the band could play a role, as it can exert a specific stimulus on the joint position. We can't clearly pinpoint what the main effect of flossing is. It's probably an interaction of many factors and maybe even all of them mentioned above. The main thing is that it helps, one might almost say. But it is important that you use flossing in the right way for you.

How Does Voodoo Floss Work? Recap:

  • Sponge effect

  • Shear effect -> dissolves fascial adhesions

  • Improved fluid supply of the extracellular matrix

  • proprioceptive / sensorimotor reintegration through forced movement

  • recalibration of mechanosensors -> reduces pain (descending pain inhibition)

How To Use Muscle Flossing (aka Voodoo Flossing) Correctly

Basically, you put the bands on very tightly. Always wrap towards the center of the body. For example, if you are flossing your knee, start at the lower leg and work your way towards the hip. The band should always overlap halfway.

You should have about 50% tension on the band from the beginning. As the wrap progresses, increase this to 60-80% in the middle. If you want to work on a specific area more strongly, then you put more tension on this part in particular.

If you want to floss your biceps, then wrap your upper arm starting just above the elbow and going up to the shoulder. If there is swelling, keep the pull strength at 50% throughout. If you have pain in biceps, you can put more pull on the front of your arm (biceps) and less on the back (triceps) to target the biceps more specifically.

Start with 50% pull and increase as you go. You should apply the most tension to the painful part, and a little less towards the end.

Once you have wrapped your desired area, start moving it to increase blood circulation. It's best to use movements that involve multiple joints. For example, squats, pull-ups, burpees, lunges, etc. But do not use intense exertion. Always try to use the full range of motion. If this is not possible, you may also help passively to a reasonable extent. This can be done by a second person or some additional weight. But do that with caution. Do not force yourself into movements you have never done before.

After about 1-2 minutes, the band is released so that blood and lymph can circulate properly again. They should do their job.

During these 1-2 minutes you should check the blood circulation in the banded area by pressing on the skin or the nail. When you press on them, they will turn white. If they do not turn red again when you let go, you have to loosen the band. Alternatively, you can also take the pulse at the wrist, inner ankle or back of the foot.

Where Should I Floss?

Basically at the location of the pain or discomfort that is occurring. The greatest pull should always be on the painful area as described above in the biceps example.

Whether you include the joint or not is basically up to you. Generally, if you want to have a strong compression on the whole joint, you will include it. If you only want a smaller sponge effect, you don't have to include it. If the pressure of the band is not enough, you can also apply an additional wrap to a particularly stressed area. For example, by overlapping the band there again.

You can bind the joint if you want to have a lot of compression on it.

How Often Should You Voodoo Floss?

You can floss several times in a row to relieve pain or regulate effusions. After each application you should give the stressed area some time to recover. It is best to move and mobilize the area that has just been flossed a little during the break. After 2-4 minutes you are ready for the next round. You repeat this until there is no more improvement or until you can't tolerate it anymore. At some point you really get fed up.

wide voodoo floss bands

After the first few sessions, you might feel some after-effects like soreness and such. Depending on how you feel afterwards you can floss again the next day or you should wait 2-3 days. Let your common sense work for you here.

Side Effects Of Muscle Flossing

Yes, there are those too. No remedy is probably without. That depends on how sensitive you are. For example, there could be some petechiae. If you use flossing on a client or friend, you should inform them beforehand, because petechia are often times is associated with bruises which are generally considered bodily harm. Howevere, petechia is not hematoma nor bruises.

Sometimes you may also experience circulatory weakness or sweating. But this happens very rarely and is not bad at all. Just give yourself a little rest and everything will be fine again.

How Do I Recognize A Good Flossing Band?

Now you may be really fired up to try flossing for yourself. But how can you tell apart a good band? Which one is the right one?

Read our buying guide on how to choose the best flossing bands that is right for you.

You can recognize a good muscle flossing band by the fact that it is made of 100% natural rubber and has a slightly silky but not slippery surface. The tape should stretch evenly when you pull it and be very elastic. People often mention bicycle inner tubes (with the valve cut off, of course) as a low-budget option. This technically works. But this is not the best option of course. Specially designed elastic rubber bands (muscle flossing bands) work better.

The thickness of the voodoo flossing bands varies, depending on the manufacturer, from 1.1 to 1.6 mm (0.04 - 0.06 inches). Mostly the colors are different. But that is completely irrelevant and rather an individual question. Just try it out. More important is the length. Usually they are 1-2 m (6.2 - 3.5 feet) long. For larger body parts, like your shoulders, you need the longer version. The width of the bands also varies. From 5 cm (2 inches) in the original version, which you can now find in almost every CrossFit box, and 2.5cm (1 inche) for smaller joints like the wrists and fingers/feet to 10 cm (4 inches) - for pelvis girdle.

The bands are usually not allergen free, they contain latex. In this cast you may try to apply the flossing over your t-shirt or clothes. However, in this case you don't quite have 100% of the effectiveness.

If you don't want to spend time choosing, try a well-known brand of RockTape.

voodoo floss band rock tape rock floss

Remember two the most important things:

  • consistent elasticity;
  • slightly silky, not slippery surface.

Rogue Fitness is another brand worth considering.

Books about Voodoo Flossing

If you're looking for a book on voodoo flossing, there's a Kelly Starrett's Becoming a Supple Leopard: Movement, Mobility, and Maintenance of the Human Animal. In this book, Starrett covers everything you need to know about effective stretching and recovery techniques, voodoo flossing included.

You'll learn a lot about stretching, mobility and common issues on this way, as well as how to overcome them. If you're serious about improving your flexibility and mobility, The Supple Leopard is a must-read.

This is not a comprehensive manual on voodoo flossing, however. If you want more detailed instructions, you'll need to find another book.

Flossing: Powerful Aid for Treating Pain and Injuries/Effective Muscle-Building Exercises is devoted exclusively to voodoo flossing. The authors, Roland Kreutzer, Klaas Stechmann, Bernard C. Kolster and Hendrik Eggers are well-respected experts in the field of taping, trigger point therapy, fascial therapy, musculoskeletal issues, etc., and their book is a must-read for anyone interested in learning more about muscle flossing techniques. DVD included!

voodoo flossing book

Is Muscle Flossing Backed By Science

Yes, for those who are interested in studies I can refer to this paper: Effects of Tissue Flossing on the Healthy and Impaired Musculoskeletal System: A Scoping Review

This scoping review provides an overview of the use of floss bands and summarizes the existing evidence on the effect of floss band treatment on range of motion, performance, recovery, and pain parameters.

Some case studies and studies with small sample sizes reported that flossing can reduce pain. However, more evidence is necessary to understand the effects of flossing on pain and injury.

Conclusion

For many muscle flossing has become an indispensable part of the training. One may use it very much in preparation for training and to treat movement restrictions. Especially in combination with the fascia techniques using the vibration foam rollers such as BLACKROLL or trigger point double lacrosse balls. The whole thing works real "voodoo" wonders!

Happy flossing!

voodoo flossing rockfloss

Voodoo Floss 101 6791975547601889969

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