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Voodoo Floss is a new(?) trend in CrossFit that basically involves, if I understand it correctly, wrapping a muscle group or joint very tightly in a thing called a voodoo band while stretching or performing certain exercises to improve mobility and strength in the wrapped area.

How does this work? What is happening physiologically under a voodoo floss band?

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7 Answers 7

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Essentially, what's happening is that the constriction prevents further inflammation of joints and connective tissue, as well as constricting blood flow for a bit. Once the voodoo floss (or bicycle innertube split open) is removed, the blood flows back in to the area. For joints with large amounts of connective tissue, such as elbows and knees, this allows the blood to flush away some of the excess white blood cells that are further making the inflamed area worse. Beyond this, I would have to do more research.

Used for treating tendinitis:

This doesn't cure inflammation based injuries like tendinitis, or prevent all forms of it from ever bothering you again. However, it does provide some relief and allow you to continue training. Any time you are suffering from inflammation based problems like tendinitis or bursitis there is something you are doing that is causing the problem. Until you deal with that, you will be forced to repeat the triage over and over. For example, I found with my elbow tendinitis the major reason is that I did a lot of triceps work, but hardly anything for the biceps. I added in high rep curls to my routine, and the tendinitis went away.

There are several types of injuries, and voodoo floss as used in the video I linked to can only address inflammation. If you actually tore a ligament, sprained a joint, etc., you need to see a doctor. Usually rehab involves staying off the injured limb during the healing process, and re-initializing work with low weight high reps to strengthen the connective tissue and get blood flowing through the joint until it is completely healthy again.

Used for Mobility:

The floss isn't going to make you stronger, but it does change the way the muscles orient themselves when you are doing some types of stretching. What that means is you can intensify the stretch using the voodoo floss. Again, when you take the floss off, you have that rush of blood into the stretched area. The best bet is the rush of blood helps recovery. For a limited time your muscles may be a little larger similar to a bodybuilder pump, but that effect is strictly due to the extra blood post mobility work.

Refuting RICE:

To deal with soft tissue inflammation issues (see tendinitis above), cryotherapy can make things worse by increasing the permeability of the lymph nodes. Essentially, the excess tissue fluids pour into the inflammed area instead of away.

Instead, the recommendation is to use compression, which can be any compression--including neoprene braces or sleeves. Instead of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), the new recommendation (by the guy who designed the voodoo bands) is MCE:

  • Move safely when you can, what you can
  • Compress lymphatics and soft tissues (use bands, muscle contraction, clothing, normatec, etc)
  • Elevate when you can.
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Where is the research data behind this? I have searched several sources at a university library and can not find any data backing the voo doo floss. If bands are significantly tight occluding blood flow (will have some arterial blood flow but venous will be impeded depending on how tight you pull on the floss) one would think that you could be causing a reperfusion injury when band released--as seen with releasing tourniquets which can cause cell death. –  user5141 Feb 1 '13 at 22:16
    
If you are constricting blood flow to such an extent you are putting them on too tightly. The idea is to provide compression, not occluding blood flow. I wish I could find the original article I used to get this information from... It at least had some insight/studies on compression vs. RICE protocol. –  Berin Loritsch Feb 4 '13 at 13:41
    
Found it: mobilitywod.com/2012/08/… The referenced article is “Is Ice Right? Does Cryotherapy Improve Outcome for Acute Soft Tissue Injury?” JEM, 2008; Feb. 25; 65–68 –  Berin Loritsch Feb 4 '13 at 13:44
    
It sounds like the authors of the "Is Ice Right" study gave a conservative answer based on studies showing either some benefit or no effect from icing, then the author of the article you linked to decided to misinterpret that as "icing is bad." Professional athletes still ice their injuries, and since their sponsors provide them with state-of-the-art treatments and training and have invested large sums of money in their ability to compete, I doubt RICE has been "refuted." –  Evan May 22 '13 at 16:26
    
@Evan, I was presenting the argument from the proponents of MCE. I personally have benefited from both protocols. With tendinitis and bursitis MCE has been more effective, but with muscle strains RICE has been more effective. –  Berin Loritsch Oct 29 '13 at 12:35

What's happening physiologically? Your muscles are constricted, and you are reducing blood flow and mobility in the wrapped area. My personal assessment is that it's a stupid idea, and it's another gimmick designed to fleece people of hard earned money.

Now, that being said, there are some injuries that need bracing, and there may be a case made for stabilization of a joint, but in those cases I would seek medical advice and get a production brace made specifically for the condition you are trying to correct. Simply winding a large rubber band around an area may or may not help, and may actually hinder healing and support.

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Voodoo floss added 10 degrees ROM to my ankle after foot reconstruction. I did not pay the floss, nor mobility wod much mind until it brought me back in the fight. I believe.

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Welcome to StackExchange, thank you for the answer. Is it possible to elaborate a bit further. It would be appreciated. –  Freakyuser May 27 '13 at 2:57

There is no magic here. It is simply a neuro-physiological response. Beyond occlusion-- what is happening is a forced gliding of the myofascial structures. With conventional smr and manual therapies tissue displacement compromises effectiveness; with voodoo flossing the compression forces tissue adhessions to forcefully slide against each other with minimal tissue displacement. This forced glide not only resolves myofascial dysfunction due to aberrant tissue formation,but also indirectly (or very directly depending of the therapist's intent) acts as an effective neurodynamic tensioner technique. The increase of ROM is not only driven by inhibition of tonus, but also by increased neural drive. Functional movement assessments and HEP are key to maintaining changes.

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two main mechanisms here

1) tight muscles are tight because of nervous system input. Choke off the blood supply for 1 minute and nerve and muscle cells have other problems to worry about --> less tense muscles and increased ROM - is this good? probably not in the long term but if it improves your position during the bout then yes.

2) myofacial release is well understood. Band puts pressure on muscle fascia and as you move it you trigger myofacial release (less important than 1)

I don't believe that sliding surfaces get stuck unless you haven't moved them for a long time (not an issue for most ppl)

Also this technique works incredibly well. Try it and you'll be a convert.

Note that effects are transient though. useful preworkout so that u can get into good position on that max rep. otherwise of lesser value

People use it a lot for forearm/elbow problems with a lot of success

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Anyone who tried to refute RICE will fail miserably. There is an insane amount of scientific research behind it. Whereas voodoo floss is a dangerous gimmick.

First, it's not RICE anymore. If you refer to it as RICE, then you are dating yourself. It's PRICES (protect, rest, ice, compression, elevation, and stability). Even with the old acronym, you are still using compression.

Voodoo flossing, is really just gauged rubber used as you would a properly wrapped ACE bandage. Then people have had the idea to incorporate ROM or stretching. This is nothing new. If I have a lot of calf work to do, I'll wear an ace wrap around my calf or compression socks to aid in the muscle pump activity that reduces the inflammation to the area by enhancing the return of blood flow to the heart and lymphatics for filtration. Using voodoo flossing is dangerous because you are using a high-gauge rubber tubbing essentially as a tourniquet which leads to reperfusion injuries and will in essence decrease tissue extensibility by reducing oxygen supply to those tissues. Yes, causing ischemia will reduce tone which allows for stretch and pressure reduction but you are damaging the tissue rather than giving it healthy extensibility.

Bottom line is you need to know when to do stuff like this. If you are in a boxing match and need a quick fix then yes, maybe voodoo flossing will work for you if done correctly.But for the average person, regardless of how much they train, this is a totally unnecessary technique.

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perhaps you can links that support your claims –  FredrikD May 3 at 18:10

Well you continue to spend your hard earn money on ice and ice packs which will not fix the problem but enhance it. Inflamation is part of process for our bodies to repair themselves. A 50 cent bicycle tire tube wrapped with moderate pressure to the joint for at least a minute in a good position while doing a pnf stretch sequence will definitely help break up the garbage inside so your body can clean it out. Try it. Are you smarter than your body and the creator?

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This adds claims but doesn't explain anything. –  Baarn May 18 '13 at 21:28

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