Voodoo flossing is an increasingly popular mode of therapy in the fitness and rehabilitation sector that increases mobility and speeds up muscle recovery after strenuous physical activities.
Today’s article will give you scientific insight into Voodoo flossing, its benefits, methodologies, and implications for muscle recovery and mobility.
What Is Voodoo Flossing?
The concept of flossing isn’t just good for your gums and teeth, but it also benefits the muscles and joints.
Voodoo flossing (also known as tissue or muscle flossing) is a warmup and recovery method that can help decrease muscle tightness, improve mobility, and reduce muscle soreness. This modality involves using a latex band to compress a specific body area during passive or active mobilization of the soft tissues. It can also promote increased blood flow to restricted areas and compress swollen and stiffened joints.
Tissue flossing was first proposed in 2015 by physical therapist Dr. Kelly Starett and athlete Glen Cordoza, who suggested that flossing can increase the range of motion and performance, speed up recovery, and decrease musculoskeletal pain/soreness caused by heavy physical activities like workouts and sports.
Who Is Voodoo Flossing Good For?
Healthy, physically active individuals who train and work out hard, seeking to enhance their warmup routine or recovery between workout sessions, can greatly benefit from voodoo flossing. Those who experience musculoskeletal tightness, pain, and stiffness before exercising or have certain mobility restrictions can benefit from using Voodoo flossing to improve joint mobility.
How To Voodoo Floss Your Knee or Elbow:
A physical therapist or athletic trainer often administers voodoo flossing since they can help identify the correct area to wrap and show the proper wrapping technique. The goal is that the band can create compression without cutting off circulation completely.
- Wrap the affected area with the voodoo floss a few to several inches above and below the muscle or joint with the band at no more than 50% tension and 50% overlap. Tuck the other end of the band into the wrapped band to secure.
- Move the wrapped limb through a range of motion exercises for a total movement time is 30 seconds to 2 minutes. These exercises help move the wrapped joint around to help improve mobility, decrease pain, and speed up recovery.
- Once completed, the band is removed to allow for increased blood flow to that joint. The attending therapist/trainer will assess the area and may judge if it’s necessary to repeat or move to a new area.
The procedure can also be done on the shoulders, hips, ankles, and calves.
The band must be wrapped tightly enough to cause a compression effect (about 50% tension) but not so tight that the circulation gets completely cut off. Otherwise, one can experience pain, numbness, or tingling. In that case, remove the floss band immediately.
Voodoo flosses are often made from latex, which some people may be allergic to. Latex allergy symptoms include hives, itching, stuffy or runny nose. In some cases, it can also cause asthma symptoms like wheezing, chest tightness, and breathing problems.
Benefits & Scientific Backing
Athletes, physiotherapists, or practitioners claim that Voodoo flossing techniques yield the following benefits:
- Reduced pain
- Increased range of movement
- Improved performance
- Injury prevention
- Reduced post-training/competition muscle soreness
- Faster muscle recovery
- Increased muscle size gains
Voodoo flossing serves as a compression therapy by pinching the muscle facia of a sore area, but with better results since the floss can reach areas that are hard to stretch or release. Along with nerve flossing, voodoo flossing improves local blood flow and circulation by temporarily restricting blood flow; in doing so, the muscles are able to glide well when contracted and relaxed, allowing better movement and reducing inflammation.
While still a fairly new method, many physical therapists and trainers have used muscle flossing in various treatment methods. Some experts believe that voodoo flossing can decrease the feeling of tightness in a certain area, leading to quick improvements in flexibility or muscle soreness.
Studies have found that flossing has a positive yet moderate impact on the range of motion, while another found it an effective method for treating delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and a much more practicable than the standard treatment.
Researchers have also found that tissue flossing of the ankle joint can help increase dorsiflexion range of motion (ROM) and power, which can be useful for injury prevention, enhancing performance, and improving functional ability but may carry physical risk.
Other researchers have found that low-intensity resistance exercises, when used in conjunction with blood flow restriction techniques, show increased electromyography activity (EMG) compared with resistance exercise alone.
However, more research is still needed to explore further possible mechanisms that can be related to a possible increase in the ROM due to the effects of flossing treatment. In addition, further trials and studies are needed to determine the long-term effects of flossing treatment.
Voodoo flossing is generally safe despite it having a temporary, uncomfortable feel. However, if done incorrectly, it may carry potential risk. For example, some people tend to wrap or secure the band too tight, which causes more pain to the affected area (when it shouldn’t) and even numbness. If this occurs, stop and unwrap the area immediately.
Additionally, voodoo flossing may be contraindicated in people with chronic health conditions, deep vein thrombosis, high blood pressure, or other conditions. Pregnant women may also be advised to avoid doing this procedure.
Since voodoo flosses are often made from latex, it may cause allergies. Latex allergy symptoms include hives, itching, stuffy or runny nose, wheezing, chest tightness, and breathing problems.
For maximum safety, always have the flossing administered by a licensed physical therapist, strength and conditioning coach, or certified athletic trainer to avoid physical risk. When in doubt, consult a trusted healthcare professional to determine whether voodoo flossing is appropriate for your health needs.
Personal Experiences and Testimonials
Here’s what some people across the web have to say about their experiences with Voodoo flossing
One Reddit user said of his experience:
“I've found it really useful for opening up my hamstrings before squats and deadlifts. The best part of it is that it allows you to address some soft tissue stickiness while actually performing the movement in question (like strapping it over your high hammies and pulling some warm-up deadlifts.” - @Iron_Tiger
On the same r/crossfit sub, another user shared his experience with muscle recovery thanks to Voodoo flossing:
“I have a plate and 9 pins in my right fibula from skating about 10 years ago. My right ankle is considerably bigger than my left because of the built up scar tissue. I've had trouble overhead squatting and snatching because of the limited mobility. I've used voodoo floss to break up that scar tissue and reclaim my lost mobility. I do t know if I would have ever been able to gain full range of motion in my right ankle without it.” - @indianatodd
Another user, whose elbows have been badly affected by years of doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), experienced significant changes after trying out flossing:
“So, my elbows have been (redacted) for the last two years due to BJJ. It seems like they would get to like 95% healed, and then something would happen to them, and they would get bad again. I just today got my first set of Voodoo-X bands…I did one 3 minute session on my worst elbow (the right one)...I was expecting this not to work and it totally (redacted) worked. As soon as the band came off I was able to close/flex my elbow completely with ZERO pain...I haven't been able to do that in two years.
I then did my left elbow and got the same result (although it wasn't quite as bad as my right elbow)...I was able to flex/close it completely with zero pain. The bands have been off my arm now for 30 minutes and there is no sign of my pain and loss of ROM returning yet…”
In another forum, physical trainer Travis (Tom) Matchinsky shared his experience with the Voodoo bands:
“I have used the bands with good success post surgery on patients and myself (elbow surgery late last year). When working on myself, I started pretty much as soon as I was allowed to start moving the elbow. With patients I have waited until they are cleared for activity. I like to err on the side of caution when dealing with other people’s joints! If anyone has started earlier with patients, please chime in. I have found it to be very beneficial in releasing underlying fascial restrictions and restoring full joint motion.”
1. What types of conditions can Voodoo flossing help with?
Voodoo flossing helps decrease musculoskeletal tightness in certain areas, improves mobility, and reduces muscle soreness. It can also enhance warmup routines or promote faster recovery between workout sessions.
2. How often should one perform Voodoo flossing?
Voodoo flossing is alternately done two to three times daily after heavy physical activities to allow time for blood flow restoration.
3. Can Voodoo flossing replace other forms of physical therapy?
While Voodoo flossing yields effective muscle recovery, it should never completely replace other forms of physical therapy, given the fact that studies are still needed to determine its mechanisms and discover its long-term effects. It should also never substitute proper rest and a healthy diet.
4. What are the contraindications for Voodoo flossing?
Voodoo flossing is generally safe, but those with preexisting heart or blood clot conditions are advised to avoid this treatment. Flosses made from latex can sometimes cause allergy symptoms like hives, itching, stuffy or runny nose, wheezing, chest tightness, and breathing problems.
5. Where can one get the necessary equipment and learn the correct technique?
Voodoo floss bands are widely available online. Check user reviews to determine which brand and product works best for your skin type and needs. When in doubt, always have the flossing done by a trusted physical therapist, strength and conditioning coach, or certified athletic trainer to avoid physical risk.
Voodoo flossing is a great way to warm up the body before a workout, relieve post-exercise musculoskeletal pain and soreness, improve recovery from rehab injuries, and achieve greater mobility. However, more research is still needed to determine its mechanisms and establish its benefits.
If you’d like to start with voodoo flossing but don’t know the proper technique, always ask an experienced trainer or therapist to do it for you and have them assist you in doing the exercises. You should also consult your healthcare provider in case of adverse health effects from flossing.