Treating Surgical Scars

27 June 2022

Soft tissue therapy can help surgical scars to recover. This may be important to someone depending on where the scar is and the size of it perhaps as it can mark the skin. Scar tissue can develop quickly following an incision in the skin. Scars can feel different to the rest of the skin by having a different texture or colour and can be more sensitive.

As therapists we would begin by holding either side of the scar and sliding backwards and forwards using transverse strokes along the superficial fascia. This will help to avoid any build up of scar tissue from surrounding or underlying tissues. Once the scar starts to heal over the coming days and weeks the pressure can start to increase. If any sharp pain is felt we would not continue with this technique.

Once the scar has healed sufficiently, it can actually be moved aside during treatment and friction can be used to the underlying tissues. This technique can go into the tissues deeper, break down scar tissue and help blood to get into the area.

Happy lady

Later in the recovery process, when the scar is less red and appears more in line with normal skin tone, opposite transverse strokes can be used across the actual scar. Using short strokes in this way will help it to heal further.

Clients often hold their scars in a protective way which can cause postural issues and other problems with the tissues. These techniques will all speed up healing and prevent scars from reopening. They will promote blood flow by improving circulation, help lymphatic draining by flushing away toxins and draining excess fluid which will help with any swelling present, help to regain sensation and movement, reduce pain, tingling or numbness, and increase the flexibility of the area. Movement can be affected by scars and cause consequent problems and injuries due to overcompensating in other areas, so therapy can help ensure movement is as free as possible. Soft tissue therapy can also improve the appearance of a scar and reduce pain and itching while the area heals.

As long as there aren't any medical issues, the incision has healed so the skin is joined back together and there are no stitches still present then massage can usually be undertaken after two weeks of surgery. There should be no visible weeping or inflammation either. Therapy can prevent scar tissue from fusing fascia together which could ultimately restrict movement. New collagen fibres will have the best chance of binding the skin in a consistent way instead of forming in a non-uniform direction. Lubricant should not be used if it is capable of softening of the scar too much but a light oil or lotion can reduce the risk of drying the scar out when working on or around it.

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Author: Cross Massage Therapy