by Geoff Rand
While we all could probably stand to floss our teeth more, today we’re going to look at a different kind of flossing.
You may have heard of the Voodoo Floss Bands created by Dr. Kelly Starrett. While the idea of wrapping and compressing sore joints and muscles is not new, Kelly has really put the technique in the spotlight and enhanced and modernized the method. For many years, athletes have been cutting up old bicycle inner tubes and using the rubber strips to make their own floss bands. The modern bands are elastic strips similar to our resistance bands, but are thinner and linear, not circular. To use them, you tightly stretch the band and wrap the injured/sore area. Then the fun begins. You then increase the tension applied by working the appropriate muscle for that area, which further squeezes the bejesus out of it.
I tweaked my patella ligament, right below my knee, when I let my knee extend too far over my toe on some goblet squats. This is a very tender area; one that I couldn’t roll out or apply electrical stimulation to. After several months of really intense wishing that the pain would go away, I decided to try flossing.
I found a Mobility WOD video that showed how to wrap the band above and below the knee, right over my sore ligament. You need to put some effort into getting the wraps tight. So how do you work the area around an injured knee with the Voodoo bands? You use the same exercise that injured it, squats.
You might be able to imagine the sensation of squatting with an already tight band on your knee and thigh. It’s pretty intense. It generated a good amount of heat, warming up the knee nicely. And with the band cutting off circulation, I could only tolerate it for a few minutes. Coach Dave recommends taking it off when your toes start tingling. I felt an immediate rush of blood to the area when I removed the bands.
We’ve talked about inflammation before, and I feel like the floss bands work by hitting the inflamed or injured area like a really intense foam rolling session, but in a way you couldn’t hit with a ball or roller. If you think of the fascia like a sponge, wrapping and squatting with the band squeezes blood and lymphatic fluid out of the area, and when the bands are removed, the rejuvenating blood returns. The compression also helps to break up adhesions that may have accumulated in the fascia layers. Kelly refers to it as getting rid of the “junk” inside there.
The cool part about flossing is that you are able to wrap up your problem area and use the band’s support to perform movements that were too painful or unstable to do before wrapping it. You should see increased range of motion and decreased pain after use of the floss bands. The bands can be used for both pre-WOD warm up and post-WOD recovery.
Wrists, arms, elbows, legs, knees, and ankles are all good areas in which to try the bands. You can also wrap shoulders, but you’ll need an assistant to get it on correctly. They aren’t going to be of any help on your torso and I shouldn’t need to tell you not to wrap elastic bands around your neck.
My knee is still a work in progress, but the bands are working. It just takes a few minutes, and honestly a few minutes of it is all you will be able to stand. If you have a problem area that isn’t responding to other active recovery methods you’ve been using, it might be worth giving Voodoo Floss bands, or one of the many brands of copies, a try.