There is a recovery technique dedicated to helping your muscles and joints recover and heal faster called muscle flossing. Yes, The name of this technique might sound a little odd, after all, since flossing is almost always associated with your mouth, but this method has been said to work wonders on all your limbs.
Popular among CrossFit athletes and bodybuilders, but otherwise still under the radar, muscle flossing is a recovery technique that anyone involved in fitness needs to know about!
What is Muscle Flossing?
Muscle flossing, also known as band flossing, or mobility flossing, is the use of thin, latex rubber bands that are usually a few inches wide and look similar to resistance bands. The floss is tightly wrapped around a targeted area, similar to how you wrap an ace bandage; around and around. (For a visual check out Voodoo Floss Bands here.)
Once the floss is applied, the user performs certain moves/exercises. The theory is that the compression and increased blood flow when the floss is removed helps with range of motion and pain reduction.
Anthony Carey M.A., CSCS, MES, pain-free movement specialist and inventor of Core-Tex explains the technique this way: “These bands are wrapped around local areas of the body (i.e., ankle, thigh, etc.) to create compression to the tissue, blood supply on the area, and friction between the skin and the underlying myofascial tissues.”
As mentioned above, this technique is then combined with movement. “Both the compression and friction caused by movement stimulate mechanoreceptors in the tissue and potentially one of the key substances (hyaluronic acid) that aids in the sliding and gliding of the fascial structures,” Carey adds.
Although it might seem complicated, it’s a rather simple way to bring on beneficial properties to the targeted area.
How it Works
The science behind flossing is still evolving, however, one of the main applications of band flossing is to increase the range of motion and mobility at the areas the floss is applied. Many flossers have positive outcomes from this technique, which is why it’s gaining steam among athletes, especially in CrossFit.
“Interestingly, the research literature is mixed on the effectiveness of increasing ROM, with most of the studies looking at ankle dorsiflexion ROM,” Carey says.
On top of the potential for better range of motion, pain relief may be another benefit, although it hasn’t been completely proven. “There is some evidence that it also helps with pain reduction,” says Carey. “The pain experience is complex, and the mechanisms behind any improvement in pain are not clear.”
Faster recovery may be a flossing benefit to add to the list — and it all comes down to increased blood flow. Blood flow to certain areas has been shown to have a host of benefits. When the floss is on, you are restricting blood flow to the area. When you take the floss off, all of that blood flows to joints and muscles flooding it with the nutrients and oxygen that it takes to recover.
Last but not least, flossing benefits may come from the similarity it has to myofascial release; a technique that applies pressure to a certain area to break up things like scar tissue, adhesions, and knots. As you move your muscles around under a compressed area you are encouraging the adhesions and restrictions to be broken down aiding in better health for that area.
Flossing your Muscle and Joints
If you’re interested in adding flossing to your fitness regimen, it’s best to have a professional such as a physical therapist, exercise physiologist, or strength and conditioning coach apply the floss to your body a few times, and have them teach you the correct way to apply it.
When purchasing floss, keep in mind there are different levels of compressions — from low to high intensity; it’s best to as a professional what level of floss you may need for the desired body part. Many areas of the body can be flossed — Voodoo Flossing gives instructions on how you can floss by yourself safely.
Tips & Contraindications for Muscle Flossing
Once you experience the benefits, you may be tempted to floss more than one body part at a time, but that should be avoided. “The band should only be applied to one body part at a time,” Carey recommends. “Because of this, one should be prepared to structure their workout to allow for the application and removal of the bands,” he adds. It would be prudent for beginners to initially work on a range of motion movements with flossing and not add resistance.
Additionally, there are times where flossing needs to be avoided completely. “Anyone with circulatory problems (deep vein thrombosis (DVT)), varicose veins, gout), lymphedema, hypertension, pregnancy should refrain from flossing,” Carey says. Definitely check with your doctor before using if any health-related issues.
You don’t have to be a super-athlete to reap the benefits of flossing. Just like starting any other recovery regimen, start slow and stay consistent!