Back in high school, when I first expressed interest in holistic medicine, I was labelled a would-be “witch doctor” and told that herbs, acupuncture, chiropractic and other alternative therapies were “voodoo”.

Well, times have changed and most of these friends have embraced alternative therapies. Some of them are even MDs.

You may be wondering what motivated me to call this week’s blog “voodoo”.

Before I answer that, I’m going to get a bit metaphysical on you.

Remember the joke about the guy who was stuck in a flood?

First a truck comes by and offers him help. He declines saying that God is going to help him.

Next, a boat comes by offering to help and he declines again saying, “God is going to help me.”

Finally, as his house is about to be submerged, a helicopter drops a ladder, which he also declines as he waits for God to save him.

Well, he dies and goes to heaven. Standing before God, he says, “Why didn’t you save me?”

God replies, “What do you mean? I sent you a truck, a boat and a helicopter!”

Now, back to the voodoo.

A few weeks ago I was visiting a personal training studio. One of the trainers told be about a great fitness book he was reading. I shrugged it off (I have a ton of fitness books).

Two weeks later, I was teaching a class in California. One of the students said I would relate to this book.

It was the same book that the other trainer recommended.

I figured someone’s trying to tell me something, so I bought the book.

It sat on the shelf for a couple of weeks, until I took it with me on a flight to Portland, where I was teaching another class.

Inside the book, there was a chapter on “voodoo flossing”.

I started using the technique on myself and have used it with some patients. I have found it to be an effective tool for decreasing pain and increasing range of  motion in the upper and lower extremities (ankles, knees, wrists, elbows and shoulders).

What is Voodoo Flossing?

Voodoo Flossing is an intermittent, compression-based joint mobilization technique that incorporates movement with compression.

It is performed by wrapping a band around a joint or restricted area (not the neck) and creating a large compression force above and below the area.

The limb is then moved in multiple directions/planes for 2-3 minutes and then the band is removed.

This can also be done in positions that cause pain, e.g. squatting, lifting, pushing, pulling, rotating, etc.

How does this voodoo stuff work?

When you compress a joint or soft tissue and introduce movement, there is a global shearing effect that restores sliding-surface function to the underlying banded tissues.

The band used in this technique creates a flexion gapping force at the joint, which can help restore range of motion to the joint.

In addition, when the compression is released, blood floods into the poorly vascularized joints and tissues, carrying in nutrients needed for healing and flushing away inflammatory metabolites and damaged cells.

In short, Voodoo Flossing will:

1. Resolve joint pain

2. Improve muscle contractility

3. Enhance range of motion

Voodoo Flossing for acute sprain/strains and swelling:

Voodoo flossing is also effective for sprain/strains and swelling.

Swelling from acute trauma disrupts proprioceptors, presses on nerve endings, causes acute pain and upsets joint mechanics.

By compressing a joint, the swelling is pushed back into the lymphatic system, where it can be drained from the body.

Voodoo flossing for swelling should be done by wrapping distal to the swollen area and then over the swollen area towards the heart. The area is then moved for a couple of minutes and the compression removed for a few minutes to allow the tissue to recover. This cycle can be performed for about 20 minutes or until there is a plateau in the changes.

A word of caution

If you experience numbness, pins and needles, significant discoloration or feel claustrophobic, take the band off. This can generally occur after two minutes.

As with other manual therapy techniques, there are certain contraindications and precautions.

Please consult a health professional before using this technique.

So what are you waiting for?  If you have some pain, try a little Voodoo…

From a Trained Witch Doctor…

About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin