If you’re looking to increase your mobility and possibly enhance recovery after a strenuous workout or athletic event, you may want to consider voodoo flossing.
Also known as muscle flossing or tissue flossing, voodoo flossing is a compression therapy technique. It uses a heavy duty resistance band typically made of latex rubber to compress a joint or muscle group while performing certain movements through a full range of motion.
Read on to learn about what it is, how it works, its benefits and risks, and who should consider employing the technique.
“Voodoo flossing is a method of soft tissue mobilization that uses a latex rubber band, similar to a resistance band, for compression during passive or active mobilization,” says John Gallucci, DPT, ATC, CEO of JAG-ONE Physical Therapy.
The band is typically wrapped around a joint or muscle group like an ace bandage wrap might be.
When you floss your muscles, Gallucci says you constrict blood flow to the compressed area, and when you take it off, the blood flow rushes to the affected area and floods it with oxygen and nutrients.
“Voodoo flossing is meant to restore joint range of motion, increase blood flow to restricted areas, and compress swollen joints that lack motion and are stiff,” he explains.
Muscle flossing is often used before or after a sporting event or workout — but never during an active fitness session, event, or game. Some of the more common areas wrapped include the quadriceps, hamstrings, ankles, elbows, shoulders, triceps, lower leg, biceps, and knees.
Voodoo flossing uses a latex band to compress a specific area of your body during passive or active mobilization.
The best way to get started with voodoo flossing is to work with a physical therapist or athletic trainer. They can help identify the correct area to wrap and show you how to do it. While each provider may have a slightly different process, the general steps are the same.
- Start by wrapping the area with the band at no more than 50% tension and about a 50% overlap. Aim to wrap the band a few to several inches above and below the muscle or joint. You will tuck the end of the band into the wrapped band.
- Next, move that limb through a range of motion exercise. For example, if your knee is wrapped, do 1 minute of standing heel-to-glute exercises with the wrapped leg. After 1 minute, transition to 1 minute of bodyweight squats. The total movement time is 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
- Upon completion of the exercise, the wrap is removed to allow for increased blood flow to that joint.
If used properly, Georgio Baylouny, DPT, OCS, founder of PhysioRX, says voodoo flossing is safe. Below he provides some tips and tricks for using it.
- Avoid wrapping the band too tightly or keeping it on for too long, as the constant compression can reduce blood flow to your limbs.
- Make sure the wrap doesn’t cause any numbness or tingling.
- Wrap the band at no more than 50% tension.
- Don’t keep the wrap on for longer than 1–2 minutes.
Before using this treatment or other compression wrap, consult a physical therapist or doctor to make sure it’s appropriate to use for your type of pain or injury.
Voodoo flossing requires wrapping a specialized band around a specific muscle group and performing active range of motion exercises with the band in place.
Many physical therapists and trainers use muscle flossing as part of various treatment protocols. In general, Baylouny says voodoo flossing can decrease the perception of tightness in a certain area, which can lead to quick improvements in flexibility or muscle soreness.
He also shares some theories regarding what the floss is doing to deliver the benefits. These include the shearing and gliding of layers of skin and muscle fascia, improving joint gliding, and communicating with the nervous system to bring awareness to a certain muscle group or joint.
The research on muscle flossing is fairly recent, and therefore still emerging. One study including university students without any musculoskeletal injuries found that tissue flossing may help reduce exercise-induced delayed-onset muscle soreness (
Voodoo flossing may help decrease tightness, improve flexibility, and reduce muscle soreness.
Gallucci says voodoo flossing tends to be popular among CrossFit athletes and bodybuilders, as it’s perfect for many of the issues they experience. It’s also used in physical therapy for many reasons, including boosting mobility and decreasing recovery time.
Moreover, Gallucci says some people use voodoo flossing as an alternative to foam rolling or using massage guns like Theragun. “Flossing is a faster version of myofascial release that releases a whole set of tissues, as opposed to one localized muscle at a time,” he explains.
Voodoo flossing is used with athletes, gym-goers, and other fitness enthusiasts looking to improve mobility and decrease muscle soreness and recovery time.
If voodoo flossing is done incorrectly, Gallucci says there are some risks associated with it. While muscle flossing does feel uncomfortable, it should never feel painful.
“Many people make the mistake of wrapping the band too tight, which can cause more pain to the affected area and even a loss of feeling,” he says. If you are using the band and start to feel tingle or throbbing, Gallucci says you should immediately stop.
Additionally, muscle flossing may be contraindicated in people with chronic health conditions, deep vein thrombosis, pregnancy, skin or dermatologic issues like a latex allergy, high blood pressure, or other conditions.
When in doubt, ask a healthcare professional whether voodoo flossing is appropriate for you.
If performed incorrectly, the risks of voodoo flossing include pain and skin irritation. Also, it may be contraindicated for those with certain health conditions. Always consult a doctor before beginning a new type of treatment or therapy.
Healthy individuals who train hard and want to enhance their warmup routine or recovery between gym sessions should consider voodoo flossing.
“If you’re feeling tight before exercise, or have a certain mobility restriction, consider using flossing techniques to improve joint mobility before a workout,” says Baylouny.
He also notes that some compression from the floss can help reduce muscle soreness, especially if you’re sore post-workout. That said, make sure to check with a physical therapist, athletic trainer, or physician before adding muscle flossing to your routine.
Healthy athletes and fitness-minded people who work out regularly should consider voodoo flossing.
Voodoo flossing is not something you should attempt to do on your own on the first try.
Gallucci says a licensed physical therapist, strength and conditioning coach, or certified athletic trainer should apply the floss at least the first few times you use it. Otherwise, you could harm yourself.
Just like any other recovery or mobility tool, Baylouny says voodoo floss creates short-term improvements in mobility or soreness.
With that in mind, it should not replace the basics like proper sleep, a healthy diet, a good training plan, or an assessment from a healthcare professional. “Voodoo floss should be used as a complement to these things, so don’t expect it to solve all of your problems,” he says.
Anyone new to voodoo flossing should get instruction from a physical therapist, strength and conditioning coach, athletic trainer, or a physician familiar with the technique.
Voodoo flossing is a warmup and recovery tool that may help decrease tightness in certain areas, improve mobility, and reduce muscle soreness. It’s important to learn the correct technique from a physical therapist before trying muscle flossing.
If you feel any unusual or excessive discomfort while tightening the band, release the pressure and ask for assistance. Also, if you have any medical or chronic health conditions that may be contraindicated, ask your doctor before trying voodoo flossing.
With the right technique and practice, you may find that voodoo flossing helps you release tension, increase mobility, and find new freedom in movement.