The word, friction comes from the Latin word frictio, meaning “to rub”.

Friction is the best stroke to break up adhesions since it sinks deep into the muscle tissue and works to break apart and realign muscle fibers. Therefore, this technique is often used to treat tendinitis such as lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) and midial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow) . On most occasions, friction is done with the thumbs.  It is also performed without lubricant, so that therapist’s fingers do not glide over the client’s skin.

The tissues should be warmed and stretched before the technique is applied. Since friction raises local temperature, it should be followed by effleurage and icing.

The most penetrating stroke in Swedish massage, this focuses on heating up muscles with the use of friction. The massage therapist applies superficial friction close to the joints, spine, and other bony parts on the body. It is administered by moving the fingertips or thumb pads backwards and forwards on the skin, or by deep circular movements. Friction improves the flexibility of joints and muscles by breaking adhesions or knots that occur when muscle fibers are bundled together.

Characteristic of Friction Massage

Relaxation *

Therapeutic *****

Intensity:  Very storong

Lubrication: No

Undressing: Yes

Tip: Depends on facility

How to interpret the rating scale

Cross-fiber friction using fingers to the lumbar paraspinal muscles

Cross-fiber friction using thumbs to the thoracic paraspinal muscles

Warming friction using the knuckles: By moving the first two knuckles backand forth on the skin, it is intended to warm the skin and underneath tissues.

Friction is a great therapeutic and sports massage technique.  The friction technique can be effective for occupational and sports related injuries such as tendinitis and scar tissue related chronic pains.