Cross friction massage is a technique where, essentially, one massages back and forth perpendicular to the tendon direction. Its purpose is to break down scar tissue, align muscle fibers, increase blood flow, release trigger points or muscle spasm and relieve pain.
The only way to protect a muscle or tendon from re-injury is to place specific types of stress on the area. We stretch along the direction of muscle fibers, but we should also work perpendicular to that direction.
For example, if you have wrist tendonitis (or carpal tunnel syndrome) where you have a specific spot of wear and tear damage and scar tissue build up, you can use cross fiber fiction to ‘fix’ that spot of damage, by rubbing back and forth across the tendon at that point, and the area close to it. You can also go up and down along the tendon, or do circles. For most people it doesn’t matter that much, the important part is to get in there and rub on it.
Work it gently at first, then increase pressure and intensity. You are essentially grinding the tissue until it’s soft, gummy and pain free instead of dry, crunchy and painful/tender. It may take weeks or months to break down scar tissue and the little bumps from injuries.
Do not overdo this technique. Usually once a day is enough, (unless you have surgical scars which require more work) spending about 5-10 minutes working the area. You can ice afterwards for pain-relief, as it may be painful, but it actually works great to provide temporary relief of pain. Repeated bouts will have more lasting affects.
Other areas this works great on are tennis elbow, golfers elbow, shoulder and hip tendonitis. Regularly working these areas is also good for injury prevention. Much like foam rolling can be used between workouts to ease tightness, cross friction massage can be used even while watching TV to work on the elbow or wrist. With all the computer work and texting we do, there are plenty of adhesions we could be working on.
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