Voodoo flossing to increase range of motion in my ankle
I visited Colin Beattie, BKin, MPt, CAFCI at Synergy Wellness Center in Victoria, BC to try out a therapy called voodoo flossing. Voodoo Flossing is a method using neurological modulation to help loosen and relax muscles to create greater range of motion in the body. I did some non-scientific Google research and it appears Voodoo Flossing is popular in the Crossfit community. I believe it has merit in treating the injuries common in triathlon.
I am very impressed with how it worked for my shin and ankle. Now that I am healing scar tissue in my ankle from a trimalleolar fracture, this technique is useful to create good range of motion in my ankle as I return to sport.
The actual “Voodoo” is created using a long elastic band which is like a common physiotherapy theraband, only thicker. After some gentle Graston scraping on the area, the band is tied tightly, but not painfully, around my leg. Despite my skepticism, I can’t deny that immediately my calf and ankle had a huge increase in range of motion. Read more for the full story…
Voodoo flossing treatment
Treatment starts with some easy non-painful Graston with a plastic tool on my shin.
2. Voodoo Wrapping
With the band in place, Beattie did some ankle mobilization for me. He moves my foot around and with the band the amount of dorsiflexion that he creates is significantly higher than before I had the band on my foot.
After, I perform exercises where I move my ankle/shin through some gentle range of motion stretching. We are looking to floss the common peroneal nerve with something called J-scoop sitting.
Starting in a lunge position on the table, I lunge forward holding my foot in some gentle pronation.
The next move is lunging to the side (about 2 o’clock angle) holding my foot in pronation.
This challenges the range of motion in my ankle and my shin. I am extremely tight with limited mobility in my right ankle, from numerous sprains, so I am susceptible to problems in that calf and foot. Now I use this technique on my left foot to release the scar tissue from my broken ankle. I believe this treatment is very beneficial for athletes/people recovering from a broken ankle.
Using the band releases the front of my leg/shin which makes significant difference to all of the muscles connecting to my foot. The increased range in my sub-talar joint allows my foot to pronate correctly, which often doesn’t happen when it gets overly tight.
How treatment works
Beattie explains the technique like this: “First we need to understand pain. Pain is your car alarm, and just like a car alarm it can go off when someone is breaking into your car. It can also go off if someone bumps it. One is helpful and the other is a false alarm. Now our “car alarm” will go off if all of the available information to the brain is determined to be dangerous. The brain prioritizes information (like temperature, pressure, movement, and nociception (a fancy word for danger)). If nociception is prioritized as most important, you will feel pain, regardless of any tissue pathology or not. The voodoo bands change that prioritization by inputting new information that is interesting and consequently not a danger signal.”
“This allows for easier, pain free movement due to this process. If this new pain free movement is repeated and reinforced then there is a shift in the processing and prioritization. Think of it as a decrease in the sensitivity of the car alarm. You are then able to participate in activity with greater available movement and less symptoms. The “car alarm” is less likely to go off when it gets bumped and will only go off when you actually have a break in (tissue damage).”
How to use it
Voodoo flossing by itself doesn’t repair tissue. Instead, it reinforces good pathways or movement in joints so that healing can occur. This technique is great as part of a warm up as you can increase mobility in muscles without removing elastic tension in the joints.
Instead of static stretching, use targeted dynamic stretching with the band to increase range of motion and prepare the body for a better workout. Voodoo flossing loosens the muscle – it doesn’t stretch ligaments and tendons- so it is a great option for runners who want “stiff springs” in the body.
Who should try it
Athletes suffering from broken ankles, sprains, shin splints, plantar fascia problems, turf toe or hamstring tightness should try voodoo flossing. Interrupting the cycle of pain and muscle tightness and finding more range is effective in overcoming a chronic injury.
This is a tool in the toolbox and is effective in conjunction with interventions designed to help heal tissue. Voodoo Flossing creates a more relaxed and aligned body in which healing can occur.