Cross Friction Massage

Each type of soft tissue has a different makeup (%) of collagen (stiffer) and a gelatinous matrix that fills the area between the collagen fibers (softer and more flexible.)  The more collagen the tissue has, the stiffer the tissue.  Normal tissue is made up of fibers that run parallel (like the l's in parallel) to one another. The more collagen the tissue has, the stiffer it will be.  This is particularly good for ligaments and capsules that hold joints together, however, muscles and fascia need to be more flexible.

When tissue is injured, blood vessels are torn and begin to bleed.  Bleeding does several things in the healing process but the one we'll focus on here is that it lays down scar tissue to heal the injury.  This scar tissue is primarily made up of collagen and the fibers are laid down in a criss-cross pattern, rather than parallel.

This criss-cross pattern is great for strength but not so great for flexibility.  There are a couple of things you can do to influence the scar:  gentle stretching and cross-friction massage.

Cross friction massage is performed by using either your pointer and middle fingers together or using your thumb.  With moderate pressure, you can push into the tissue in the injured area until you find the spot that feels like a bump of thickened tissue.  This is where the scar tissue is being formed and the area you will need to work on.  Applying that same moderate pressure, glide your fingers slowly across the thickened tissue and back again.  Go back and forth in the same direction about 10 times and then switch the angle slightly.  If you picture the face of a clock and you started by working in a 9 to 3 and 3 to 9 direction, then switch to a 10 to 4 and 4 to 10 direction.  Complete about 10 more strokes back and forth and then continue to change directions until you work your way around the clock face.

This process will help to re-align the collagen fibers and make the scar more flexible.  As an addition to a stretching program, cross-friction massage will allow you to gain maximum flexibility and mobility around the injured area.  Don’t forget to address the strength and neuromuscular exercises as pain and swelling will shut down the muscles and they need to be re-engaged.