Do you floss daily? You should. Yeah, it may sound like I’m echoing your dentist, but I’m actually talking about myofascial flossing! Learn how to keep yourself in tip-top shape with these pro tips for banded flossing.
“Floss” for your muscles, not your teeth, is a gym-bag essential and if you don’t already have a band, you should get one. Or two. Here’s the skinny:
What Is Banded Floss?
Compression banded flossing can be used to decrease pain, improve range of motion, limit swelling, and train better and safer movement through stabilizing joints and other tissues. VooDoo Floss, RockFloss, whatever brand you use or whatever you want to call it – it’s all the same concept. Take a 2″ wide latex rubber band and cut it about 7 ft long…boom. You’ve got a floss band now. The band is about as thick as you’d expect, proportionally, for an over-sized rubber band.
For use, floss is typically wrapped tightly around tender and hypertonic tissues in the extremities, much like you’d use an ace bandage to cover or compress, only much tighter. There are also 4″ wide varieties available to wrap around other areas, like when treating a low back or big beefy thigh.
Biohackers, CrossFit athletes, and sports docs alike seem to love this stuff. As far as I can tell, the floss itself has been around for nearly a decade; there’s an old video from 2011 with Dr. Kelly Starett of MobilityWOD super fame demonstrating early concepts of tissue flossing, describing it as “compression tack and floss”. Since then, the techniques have been refined and anyone who’s used the techniques will likely give you a glowing review of this stretchy tool.
Why Does Flossing Work?
Bloodflow: Ischemic compression (restricting bloodflow) can do wonders for the human body, especially in areas that are recovering. The compression and reactive hyperemia that follows (new influx of bloodflow) can basically refresh and reset muscle and neurological tone in an area, which is exactly how trigger point therapies with a lacrosse-ball work. This means after about 30 seconds to 2 minutes of tissue compression and removal of the tool, your body is feeling good and ready to go!
Adhesion: Tissue pin-and-stretch has been around for ages, and a modern staple in the sports physiotherapy world, but this takes the technique to a whole new level. We already know how to compress tissues, but if we add on an active layer of movement, we now get tissues (that would have otherwise been playing tug-of-war due to old scar tissue/adhesion) forced to slide and glide past each other while others are pinned by the compression band. When these tissues move better, you move better!
Large AOE (Area of Effect): Because you have 7 feet of thick band wrapped around the area, you get a more global approach to breaking up tightness, rather than creating a thin tourniquet which would likely cause more local damage. Essentially this enables you to press a little on a large area rather than pressing a lot on a small area, still enabling the user to gain the benefits without any of the drawbacks.
Fluid Dynamics: Aside from bloodflow, the compression also affects our lymph system! When areas are swollen, puffy, or edematous, compression has been proven to alleviate stress from the lymph system by flushing that stuff out of there. We know that the lymph system has what are essentially one-way valves (varicosity is what happens when valves like this fail) and our musculature typically, through its natural pumping motion, will push lymph out of the area and on its way.
When we compress, the same effect is noted – that swelling gets pumped and pushed back into the system which carries it elsewhere. It’s worth noting because joints don’t tend to move well (limited ROM/strength) when there’s extra fluid gunking it up, and we’re all about proper and happy movement at the NFPT.
Stabilizing: Movements can be tricky sometimes. Joints can be goofy sometimes. Having a band wrapped around an area lends physical support, acting as an elastic exoskeleton and helping improve our proprioception around that area with all the extra physical stimulus. This is a great tool to just add a sense of stability as you groove some movements out. Then try it without the band! Repeat as necessary.
Reusability: It’s a big rubber band! Unlike other disposable tools (as in tape, etc.) these bands can be used, cleaned, and reused at any time. If multiple people are using the bands, it’s important to be aware that skin and blood can carry disease, so wipe them down as necessary, but if it’s just you using one, just wipe it down when you get it all sweaty! I recommend basic sanitizing wipes or CaviWipes if you crazy.
How To Use Banded Flossing
Get a roll. Pick the area you want to work on. Wrap it proximally towards the heart, fairly tight (I go about 50% stretch as I wrap). Tuck the ending piece under one of the folds. Start moving! I usually leave it on through a set or 1-2 minutes. It should NOT be excruciatingly painful – just wrap and move to tolerance and remove if too tight. Repeat as necessary – my patients notice the most differences within 2 wrap sessions.
“Wrapping” It All Up
So basically banded flossing gives us a reusable tool to better warm-up and recover from our workouts, with immediate and obvious benefits. Why wouldn’t you have one in your bag? Stuff gets sore – band it.
Ankle dorsiflexion feeling goofy? Floss it. Elbow or knee feeling a little off ? Wrap it!
As always, if you’re experiencing a medical condition and want to see if this helps, talk with your medical pro. Resources for flossing can be found all around, but I like Rocktape.com for general applications and guidelines, and if you’re really serious, hit one of their wonderful RockFloss and movement education classes if it’s in your area.