How Can Physical Therapy Help Scars?

Arm MassageScars can come from many things including falls, scrapes, and surgical procedures. The scars I want to discuss today are those found after surgery.     It is imperative for scar tissue to form because it helps us heal by putting back together what the doctor so carefully worked on.   It makes us whole again.

It is important to realize that scars are much more than the neat line of stitches left on the surface of our skin. Scar tissue actually goes very deep, starting at the skin level, going through connective tissue, down into muscle tissue, past nerves, arteries and veins, and sometime even bone.     Scars do not discriminate: they stick to all tissue and reach in all directions. Left untouched, scar tissue can become kinky, tight, thick, tough, bumpy and a variety of colors. They can contribute to pain, restrict range of motion, cause hypersensitivity, and even deficits in strength. All of these side effects are undesirable, but they can all be treated with a little bit of “know how” and elbow grease.

So what can you do to help your own scars? The best thing is to get in there and give them a deep friction massage. With your thumb, fingers, knuckle, or heel of your hand, press firmly, and move the tissue in all directions—up/down, side to side, and in circles. You can even place your fingers right along the scar line, and move it to either side, up and down! So, it is not a typical rubbing massage but a deep, friction massage. Keep the same quadrant of skin directly under your contact point and moving it as a unit. Don’t be shy with your pressure and force. It will not be comfortable, but it is better than the alternative. Spend 5 minutes of your day working on it, and you will notice that the pain resolving, the range of motion improving, sensitivity is disappearing and the strength returning.

Doing this can be scary! It is an incision and it had stitches going inside it. A Physical Therapist can help teach you to loosen the scars. Otherwise, even years later, they can still wreck havoc in your life.   We can teach you the proper way to apply pressure, teach you exercise to engage and stretch the new tissue you are freeing up, and strengthening exercise, to ensure you get back to your daily activities.

Your doctor can provide you with a prescription for Physical Therapy after you recover from your operation. Or, if has been some time, you can call and come directly to Tidewater Physical Therapy, for proper education and techniques to do on your own.