Friction Massage Technique

Francesca Piccinini getting a friction massage


Friction is a massage technique that targets the deep tissue. In a friction tissues are manipulated, using strong movements of the hand.


Friction is the Cinderella of the medical massage techniques. While other techniques such as effleurage and petrissage are very popular, friction is of equally importance and can provide great results, yet it is not as popular. Friction targets the deeper layers of tissue, hence it is more physically demanding. Depending on the friction method the use of lubricant is recommended or not. For cross-fiber friction we may or we may not use lubricant. For friction that involves larger areas it is usually better to not use lubricant. Instead, we must pay a closer attention to the technique, in which the practitioner palm does not rub the skin, but rather keeps a permanent and firm contact like a glove. This kind of movement is recommended in order to avoid the irritation incurred by strongly rubbing the skin for prolonged periods of time. This contrary to the popular believe that a rub is always welcomed. The superficial irritation of skin can render a good massage into a nightmare within minutes. Paradoxically, friction is very often referred to as rubbing. Some of the great benefits of a friction are: reduce the scar tissue formation after injuries, ligament and tendon injuries treatment, increases circulation, absorption of inflammatory products, reduces cellulite, etc...

Massage Techniques - Friction

How To Do Friction Massage Technique 

What Is Massage Friction? Massage friction consists of deep, circular or transverse movements made with the thumbs, fingertips, knuckles, palms, or elbows. It is a stroke that aims to penetrate through the skin and to manipulate the muscles beneath. It is the most penetrating of the strokes, targeting the deeper layers of the tissue. In this article you will learn how to perform friction. Massage Friction Classification

  • Circular and Transverse. Based on the direction of the manipulation.
  • Finger friction. Small circles made with the fingertips or with the thumb.
  • Palm Friction. Large circles made with the palm.
  • Cross Fiber Friction. Any friction that is executed across the muscle fiber. Various angles are permitted. The pressure is usually very deep.
  • Other types: elbow friction and knuckle friction.

Circular Friction in Massage For the circular friction, the therapist's hand, or thumb, or finger, keeps a firm contact with the patient's skin, (like a glove), and it reaches through the skin targeting the muscles beneath. The fingers do not glide over the skin at all, they will rather move the skin, which then operates on the underlying tissue. The circular friction is better performed without the use of oil, lotion or other rubbing lubricants. It is a technical mistake to use lubricants when executing friction. Massage Techniques - Transverse Friction It is also referred to as cross-friction or cross fiber friction. The technique uses the tips and pads of the fingers, or the finger knuckles, (for deeper action), or even elbows. For more pressure we can reinforce by placing one hand over the other. As in circular friction, the fingers do not glide over the skin, but press down on it and move across the underlying tissue. As the technique's name suggests, the movement is a transverse friction, across the muscle's fiber, or across the tendon, or ligament. Although the classic technique involves manipulating small body areas and no gliding over the skin, modern variants combine gliding and friction to manipulate larger body surfaces. Such a technique is a deep elbow effleurage targeting the muscles along the spine. Ask the patient often if the pressure is deep enough or if is too deep. Remember to always friction on the opposite side of the spine from where you are standing. Strokes are usually done in the direction of the muscle fibers and following the blood circulation.

Massage Techniques Video - Friction

Learn How To Do the Friction Massage Technique

Benefits, Effects, and Contraindication of Massage Friction

Benefits and Effects of Friction Works the deep tissues Breaks up adhesions and "knots" Increases circulation to the muscles Promotes absorption of non recent and chronic inflammatory products It is of a great help in the healing the tissues with a poor vascularization, (tendons, ligaments, etc...) Supports regaining flexibility and helps stretching shortened muscles, tendons, or ligaments.

Contraindications for Friction Besides the regular contraindications of massage, friction is contraindicated on pregnant women, on varicosities, active inflammations, skin infections or recently injured muscles. Must be used with caution especially if the technique is modified for gliding. This will exert a lot of physical friction on the skin causing irritation.

Massage Techniques Video - Transverse Friction

Ligament and tendon work - friction is great for treating them.


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