There Is Friction Between Us

By Sharon Lively

Do you have chronic aches and pains that have lived with you for years?  Do you wish there was something besides medication that could make a difference?  Perhaps what you need is a specialized techniques that is found in massage.  Swedish Massage was many styles and strokes.  One of the most beneficial for therapy and rehabilitation is Friction.


It means: “rubbing”. Friction is used to create heat in the soft tissues of the body and also warms the skin via one surface moving quickly over another. It warms up the muscles for deeper work. It is a wonderful stroke for softening tight and resistive muscles. Normally friction follows after petrissage has softened the tissues and is then ready to receive local work;  such as for knots, trigger points, tight cords, ect. 


Friction is performed by compressing tissues in several directions. It increases circulation and is done in areas where blood supply is limited such as ligaments and tendons. It is the most penetrating of the Swedish Massage strokes and consists of deep circular or transverse movements. It breaks down adhesions (knots that result when muscle fibers bind together during the process of healing) thus contributing to more flexible muscles and joints.    

  1. Superficially slide hands, palms, fingers, knuckles back & forth, using a sawing motion, over skin or deeper tissue layers.
  2. To access deeper layers hands do not slide over skin but move the skin and sometimes deeper fascia.
  3. Friction may be applied by either by pressing down or around an area with a circular or linear reciprocating movement.
  4. Deep frictioning is usually done dry, with little or no lubricant.

Practice Session # 1

View the following videos.  Follow along or watch a few times before attempting on your own.

Testing Session # 1

Try this simple and very effective friction stroke on someone’s knee….OR Grap a pillow!!

Things to Notice:

  • Notice how the tissues warm and become easier to manipulate.
  • If you need to, close your eyes to focus and concentrate.
  • Compare the 1st and last strokes and describe how the tissues feel different.

Information Section #2: 

Friction Variations:   Rolling Friction 

  • Excellent for extremities
  • Compress firmly with open palms and extended fingers of both hands
  • Roll skin/muscle and surround tissues around the bone (axis) using a back and forth movement compressing and sliding hands distally to proximally
  • Client can assist by holding limb still

Wringing Friction 

  • Compress lubricated tissue on all sides with palmar surface of hands and fingers—move hands in opposite directions.
  • Slide hands toward trunk of body distal to proximal vigorously. Like wringing water out of a cloth.
  • Great on arms, legs, fingers.


Cross-Fiber Friction 

  • Deep transverse/perpendicular to muscle fibers friction that is precise and penetrating.
  • Ability to identify contracted or injured tissue by palpation is necessary to application, as well as a good knowledge of muscle fiber directions.
  • One or more fingers may be placed on skin at exact site of pain or injury.
  • The firm, consistent pressure is applied, then fingers are moved in back and forth motion.
  • Fingers and skin must move as one unit as blisters can result by doing it incorrectly.
  • Apply heavy pressure (according to client’s tolerance) for about 1 minute.
  • May be repeated.
  • Remarkably effective rehabilitative stroke.

Chucking Friction 

  • Parallel friction applied in same direction as the muscle fiber.
  • Use thumb or fingers rubbing back & forth moving superficial tissue over underlying structures.
  • Usually done one-handed while supporting limb with other hand.


Practice Session # 2

View the following videos of friction.  Follow along or watch a few times before attempting on your own.

Testing Session # 2

Try this simple and very effective friction stroke on someone….OR Grab a pillow

  1. Standing at the side of the table facing toward the client’s feet.  With the hand closest to the table friction the Achilles heel for 20-30 seconds.
  2. Next bend the knee 90 degrees (sole of their foot toward the ceiling). Friction the Achilles heel and proceed to up the calf 20-30 seconds.
  3. Friction roll the calf for 15-20 seconds.
  4. Redrape the leg. (Percussion optional and will be discussed in a future article)

You should notice each stroke warming as you progress. If you need to, close your eyes to focus and concentrate. Compare the 1st and last stroke and describe how the tissues feel different.

Final Information In summary, Friction’s benefits are:

  • Generates heat
  • Dilates capillaries
  • Increases circulation
  • Promotes venous blood flow
  • Loosens stiffness in joints
  • Relaxes muscles
  • Improves glandular action of skin
  • Promotes proper scar formation
  • Breaks down & frees adhesions
  • Softens hyperplasia (abnormal increase of tissue growth)
  • Mimics muscle broadening/stretching that occur in normal movement
  • Reduces trigger/tinder point formation
  • Reduces trigger/tender point activity



What is your favorite part of the receiving massage?



Massage Therapy:  Principles and Practice; Susan G. Salvo; Third and Fourth Editions; Copyright 2007-2012

Community Care College Massage Therapy Resource Center; Community Care College Massage Therapy Department

Comments are closed.