Muscle injury is inevitable at some point in life. Whether it is due to repeated motion, trauma, an accident, or a sedentary lifestyle, muscle fatigue and soreness is one of the most common reasons that people seek massage and chiropractic therapy. What if you could help remedy a sore neck or back, for example, without the need for outside treatment? As it turns out, you can do more than icing the area, immobilizing, and stretching to help improve strained or sore muscles.
Cross Fiber Massage:
With the advent of foam rolling and myfascial release, it is easy to keep muscles loose and free of pain, provided that you do it consistently. Rolling north to south, i.e. from head to toe, is the typical approach to kneading out the tension with a foam roller. Cross fiber massage practices east to west (side to side) motions to break up tense muscle fibers, helping to create more mobility and pain relief. Cross fiber massage is not a new treatment method; rather, it is coming to light because of the foam rolling craze. By “scrubbing” the fibers of tendons, cross fiber massage theoretically accelerates recovery time. It is worth trying, especially if you have limited range of motion or tendonitis.
The body is comprised of layers of muscle and fiber, known as fascia. The average massage or foam rolling session only attacks the problem from one angle, which is only going to yield partial relief. Eventually, this one-dimensional approach will not improve range of motion or decrease the pain because you will have plateaued. This is not good news for your neck or back, which are the most frequently complained about areas of the body to massage therapists. With cross fiber massage, you go against the grain of muscle fibers, allowing you to scrub out knots you may not otherwise get out going with the grain.
The Benefits Of Cross Fiber Massage:
With the intention of breaking up muscle fibers, the primary benefit of cross fiber massage is maintaining mobility, improving range of motion, and reducing the scar tissue in structures like tendons, ligaments, and muscles after injury. For people who repeat the same motion, e.g. golfers or tennis players, cross fiber massage works to alleviate crystalline roughness that occurs between tendons. The accumulation of this roughness commonly leads to tendonitis. By breaking up myofascial adhesions, which impair range of motion, one can help to increase circulation, reduce muscle spasms, and decrease overall muscle pain.
It Will Be Uncomfortable:
Make no mistake, rolling out these tender spots that typically receive no attention will be quite uncomfortable. It will not be as relaxing as administering a percussive massage gun or rolling on a lacrosse ball. Take a more serious approach to your recovery about once a week for 20 minutes at a time. It will require physical effort to break up the fascia, but this is a step in the direction of a healthier body.
How To Cross Fiber Massage:
Begin by rolling back and forth on a foam roller, targeting the area of pain. If you are experiencing neck or back pain, roll up and down the spine with the foam roller perpendicular to the spine. Now lay on the foam roller so that it runs down the spine. Slowly roll side to side to help align collagen fibers. If you feel a bump or knot, target that area by gently going side to side over it to break it up.
Cross fiber massage should not be used on recent injuries, due to the fact that the inflamed area will be extremely sensitive. The moment at which you begin cross fiber massage will depend on the pain tolerance of the injured person. You will always feel a sliver of pain, but this is normal. Following the massage, use ice to help reduce soreness or inflammation.