All you need to know about cross fibre friction

Muscle injury or scar tissues are not uncommon and we do come across them some time in life. When a muscle tissue, ligament or tendon is injured the healing process does not occur successfully due to one of the many reasons such as repeated trauma, immobilization or poor fluid circulation. The deep transverse friction which is popularly termed as cross friction fiber comes in hand at this time and helps in reducing abnormal adhesions of the fibers at the site of injury, and improves the mobility of the scar tissues by helping proper alignment of the soft tissue fibers.

cross fibre friction massage

What is cross fiber friction?
It is best defined as a manual technique which was developed by Dr. James Cyriax while he was trying to find a cure for the soft tissue injuries. The technique aims at breaking down and decreasing the knots and lesions which are formed during an injury such as tears, breaks, or sprains. This massage technique enables the body in forming strong and flexible tissue when it is applied on the injured joint, ligament or tendon.

The need for cross fiber friction
When the skin is damaged due to any type of injury, immediately the protective function is initiated by rapidly forming a scab to protect the body from bacterial invasion. These scabs are formed within 3-4 days of the injury and are cleared off within 10 days. The cross fiber friction is a technique which should be initiated after these 10 days have gone. Some scars are painful and itchy while some are more mature which are about 3 to 18 months old. The cross fiber friction works best on the immature scars which are still painful and may be bright pink in color.

The scar tissue arising from an injury to the soft tissues which has poorly healed is the cause of chronic pain. The adhesive scar tissues are formed at the site of injury which binds to the originally damaged tissue to the adjacent soft tissues. When the scar tissues are formed in a random order forming a jumbled mass of adhesions, it tears on the normal movement. In this condition, cross fiber friction has been found to be very useful.

The benefits of cross fiber friction technique
The primary aim of the cross fiber friction is to maintain mobility, improve range of motion and reduce scarring within the soft tissue structures of the ligaments, tendons and muscles following an injury, it is also beneficial in alleviating the crystalline roughness formed between the tendons and their sheaths which can cause painful tendonitis. It also prevents the trigger points and the myofascial adhesions which hamper the mobility. Cross fiber friction works on the tissues in the two stages of regeneration or repair and remodeling. It promotes the circulation of fluids, reduces the hypertonicity of the muscles, reduces muscle spasms, and also closes the ‘pain gate.’

The cross fiber friction has been observed to be useful in various physical conditions such as tennis elbow, bicep tendonitis, ankle sprains, and tendonitis of the knee. In all these cases the pain resides in the tendons and ligaments and not the muscles. Old sprained ankle scar tissues can be broken down with the use of cross fiber friction. It improves mobility and also loosens out the muscles. Cross fiber friction is very beneficial in knee injuries as well.

How is the cross fiber friction administered?
The administration of massage is similar to lightly rubbing of the skin back and forth in a straight line and then changing the direction to rub up and down again. While administering the cross fiber friction, two fingers are used to rub the scar in an up and down motion and moving perpendicularly to the line of the scar. This movement helps in aligning the collagen fibers. This process is continued for 5 to 20 minutes.

While the cross fiber friction massage is being given, very little oil or lotion is used. It can also be administered without the use of any oil or lotion and preferably so. When the expert touches the injured area, he/she can follow the knot adhesion in a certain direction and applies the pressure in that direction.

Cross fiber friction is applied on an old injury and initially it is done lightly. Later on the pain threshold of the client is followed to increase the pressure. The massage is given slowly and a particular area is worked upon for a few minutes initially. With follow up sessions, the time duration of massage may be increased and ice may also be used to reduce the inflammation and soreness in the area.

Any precautions to be used with cross fiber friction technique?
The cross fiber friction massage should not be applied on fresh injuries. This means that if a particular area is newly injured, red, swollen or very painful then the cross fiber friction massage should not be used.
The massage should be given lightly initially and later on increased depending on the tolerability of the patient. There may be some amount of soreness in the region where the massage is applied. Ice can be used with subsequent procedures to reduce the soreness and any inflammation if present.

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