What is VooDoo flossing?
VooDoo flossing, aka muscle or joint flossing is a mobilization technique that uses a thick elastic band wrapped tightly around a body part while stretching to improve mobility and decrease pain.
VooDoo floss bands come in various widths and lengths. The 2” wide bands are typically used for arms and lower legs. The 4” wide bands are usually necessary for thighs.
Some popular brands include Rogue, RockTape, and Mobility WOD. I’ve messed around with all 3 of these brands and haven’t noticed any significant differences between them.
How does it work?
There is actually some disagreement in the medical field as to the mechanisms why flossing helps. A lot of the evidence is anecdotal, but people seem to feel like it helps.
I use it in practice as a PT and sometimes on myself during mobility sessions. It’s truly hard to say what all is happening on the inside, but if your mobility improves and your pain goes down after using it, then who am I to judge?
Some theories out there are that it helps with scar tissue breakdown, releases the myofascial tissues, compresses swollen joints to reduce inflammation, improves blood flow through reperfusion after use, and skin shearing.
I think the majority of the benefit comes from a combination of skin shearing, compression, and neuromodulation. The skin shearing will stimulate the nerve endings and mobilize the fibroblasts just under the skin. This will lead to desensitization of the nerve input and less discomfort or perception of pain while moving through the range of motion. The compression creates a feeling of stability and will simultaneously override the pain pathways (via the gate theory) similar to rubbing your arm after banging your elbow on a desk. When it comes to neuromodulation, this is basically talking about desensitization of the nerves from the skin shearing. We know that most manual therapies in PT work because of neuromodulation. It is actually very difficult to mobilize fascia and physically change the make-up of tissue (think twice if someone says they are going to break up your scar tissue or stretch your fascia). Desensitizing/downregulating the neural input and having a more positive response to stretching will lead to better short- and long-term mobility improvements.
We may not know exactly how it works, but VooDoo flossing has become popular in the fitness world and some people feel a lot better after using it. Also, it is not harmful unless you have an underlying medical condition that limits your ability to tolerate skin shearing and compression.
How do you use VooDoo floss?
Select the band width that best matches the body part you will use it on (2” wide for arms and lower legs, 4” wide for thighs).
Wrap the band tightly around the muscle or joint to be mobilized (i.e. ankle, knee, elbow, shoulder, etc.). The band should be at 50% tension with a 50% overlap as you wrap. Move through the restricted motions (i.e. ankle dorsiflexion, knee flexion, etc.) for about 1-2 minutes. That’s all it takes, 1-2 minutes. If you wish to mobilize multiple planes of motion, then I would recommend removing the band after a few minutes to allow for reperfusion and to avoid the limb going numb from compressing superficial nerves.
Can I use floss wraps for blood flow restriction (BFR) training?
No. I strongly discourage using VooDoo floss for BFR training. If you are looking to perform BFR training, you should use an FDA listed device that can accurately measure limb occlusion pressure and you can adjust the pressure to the appropriate percentages. There is a high risk of superficial nerve injury by using VooDoo floss for BFR purposes.
If you have any specific questions on how to use floss wraps to improve your mobility, feel free to reach out or comment below.
Corey Hall, PT, DPT