Transverse friction massage : boring, hard work and useless?

Transverse friction massage is NOT a stand alone treatment concept, but is an efficient part of a more overall loading strategy for muscular, tendinous and ligamentous lesions. Many colleagues around the world perform some kind of transverse friction massage techniques (TFM), but...many of them unfortunately also do it in a wrong way, not respecting the specific practical details nor the correct indication. Please take into account following considerations.

Transverse friction massage techniques : science and practical implications

According to a study performed in France (see free downloads) , among colleagues who perform transverse friction massage techniques, apparantly in 80% of the cases multiple mistakes are described :

  • wrong indication / wrong diagnosis
  • wrong localisation
  • wrong position of the patient and/or the therapist
  • too hard
  • not enough time
  • ...

Also, multiple similar mistakes are observed in so-called "scientific" publications. In several books and papers certain techniques are illustrated in a completely wrong way. Supraspinatus, Quadriceps and tennis elbow are popular examples. In such cases it becomes of course quite difficult to draw solid conclusions.

What’s the good news ?

Fortunately, there is also good news. Some studies have a better intrinsic quality : there are some specific case studies as well as studies on the physiological effect of TFM (see references).

Transverse friction massage does have a certain effect on soft tissue, as well in the inflammation phase, the repair or the remodelling phase. Structural changes can be achieved and are described in literature.

But of course, it is a "boring" and time consuming manual treatment technique, therefore respecting the practical technical details is quite important to perform those techniques in a most optimal and comfortable way, for the patient as well for the therapist.

Just transverse friction massage ?

What is our main purpose :

  • to maintain normal connective tissue mobility
  • to get better alignment of fibres and tensile strength

To the point transverse friction massage is a perfect tool to achieve those goals, but...of course movement is imperative, therefore incorporating also longitudinal stress and different loading exercises is also necessary (perhaps it is better to avoid longitudinal stress in the first two weeks of an acute muscular, tendinous and ligamentous lesion).

Transverse friction massage considerations

Transverse friction massage techniques are widely spread as a treatment measure ; but in our teaching experience we feel that in many cases techniques are performed in an incorrect way and in non indicated circumstances, of course leading to unsatisfying results, perhaps making deep transverse friction massage techniques less popular.

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Transverse friction massage, practical aspects

The practical aspects of all transverse friction massage techniques including a number of tips and tricks are all illustrated on film, which is available in English, Spanish and Polish language.

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Transverse friction massage references

There is some interesting reference material in literature illustrating physiological and therapeutic effects of transverse friction massage.

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At least 70% of your colleagues friction the acromion instead of the supraspinatus ?

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