The formation of scar tissue is the result of the body’s natural healing process following an injury. After the occurrence of a wound such as a deep cut or burn, the body works to produce new collagen to strengthen the skin. This collagen is what’s responsible for the fibrous scar tissue that develops on top of the wound. It can take anywhere from three to 18 months for a scar to fully mature, depending on the severity of the injury.
While scarring is proof of our body’s amazing ability to heal itself, it can also lead to further problems down the road. When occurring across a joint, a hardened scar may cause skin to shorten or contract, which can limit range of motion or even cause deformity. If not managed correctly, scars may even dry out and reopen, causing a worse injury than before.
Often more damaging than the physical effects of scars are the psychological ones. Those with visible scarring may feel embarrassment, anger, sadness, or fear. If the scars were caused by an emotionally traumatic event, their presence can act as a daily reminder of that experience. Being forced to feel these negative emotions on a consistent basis may lead to bigger issues such as anxiety and depression.
For the right candidate, massage therapy can offer a wonderful solution for scar management. Post surgery there is often left behind scar tissue. If the scar tissue is at surface of the skin, to remove it with massage gentle, circular motions are applied on and around the scar. This speeds up healing by increasing blood circulation, encouraging lymphatic drainage, and easing the constriction of the damaged tissue.
For deeper level scar tissue, below the skin, the massage is deeper and will apply pressure in the direction perpendicular to the line of the scar, to help remove adhesions and restore muscle elasticity (“stretchiness”).
A study published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork also found that five weekly massage sessions made scars feel more comfortable and their appearance less noticeable. What’s more, massage has been proven to reduce negative states such as depression and anxiety, which can have a huge benefit on those who suffer from the psychological effects of scarring.
Massage therapy for the management of scar tissue must be performed at the proper time in order to ensure the best results. The treatment is most effective on scars that have not yet fully matured, but are healed enough that there’s limited risk for reopening. In general, massage therapy can begin when the scar is fully closed and there’s no scabbing present, roughly two weeks after the initial injury.
If you have scarring that you think might benefit from massage, schedule an appointment with a licensed massage therapist in order to design a plan for your needs.