Cross Fiber work, also known as Deep Transverse Friction, is indicated for muscle strains (except when acute), sprains (except when acute), scar tissue, tendonitis, and fascitis. It can also be used in a more general sense for loosening and warm-up, as in pre-event massage. It is contraindicated in acute inflammation, in bursitis, or over a nerve plexus. Deep cross fiber work is contraindicated in pre-event and post-event work, because it may cause a greater tendency to inflammation.
The goals of doing cross fiber work are to:
- break up scar tissue that may be binding a muscle
- allow pain-free contraction of a muscle
- facilitate full range of motion to a muscle
- increase circulation
- clear areas of bio-mechanical stress
- warm and loosen muscles
Cross fiber work is intense and may be painful, so it is important to observe the following cautions:
- First warm up the affected tissues with general massage strokes before applying cross fiber.
- Find the site of the scar tissue and work at that site at a right angle to the direction of the muscle fibers.
- Work deep enough to reach the scar tissue, and work with the fingers and skin moving together over the deeper tissues.
- Use enough of a transverse sweep to effectively separate the muscle fibers.
- Have the muscle or tendon in a relaxed position for treatment except in the case of a sheathed tendon (in the wrists and ankles) in which case you should have the tendon stretched when treating.
- It should be done frequently enough to have a progressive impact on the tissues. Once or twice a week works well. Because of the intensity of the work and concerns about causing inflammation, I wouldn’t do it more than once every three days.
- Always follow cross fiber work with the application of ice for 10 to 15 minutes.
- After applying ice you can do gentle pain-free range of motion. Do not do isometric contraction or PNF stretches with muscles after a recent strain.
- Finish like you began, with general massage strokes to relax the surrounding tissues.
- In between sessions, your client may also exercise the affected muscle, provided that they apply ice immediately after the exercise.
I use cross fiber work when I find a very specific area of scar tissue, such as with a hamstring tear. For more general problems, I find Soft Tissue Release techniques work very well. There often can be micro-adhesions throughout a muscle or fascia, and the Soft Tissue Release is able to effectively work over a larger area releasing these adhesions.