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Scar Tissue and Remedial Massage Therapy

First, let’s start with what a scar is.

A scar is a visible mark that is left on your skin after some form of laceration, abrasion, or incision. Scar tissue is formed during a wound's healing stage when the body produces collagen fibres to close and heal the wound. These fibres often do not grow in a unilateral direction, creating a discoloured and uneven texture at times. Most times, a scab will form over the wound opening to protect the body from infection. Once healed, the scab will dissipate and fall away, revealing your newly formed scar.

The term collagen is often referring to a group of protein molecules produced by fibroblasts. There are different types of collagen fibers and they are found in different areas. A total of 28 subtypes of collagen have been identified but usually our bodies consist of a combination of five main types.

Type I

Found anchoring the skin, in tendons and ligaments, and as the scaffolding for working cells of organs and the mineral deposits of bones.

Type II

Found in a three-dimensional matrix holding the liquid and chemicals that make up articular and elastic cartilage.

Type III

Found with type I.

Type IV

Found in cell basement membranes.

Type V

Found on some cell surfaces, in hair follicles, and in the placenta.

Scar Tissue is usually a formed combination of types I and III.

When will a scar form?

There are three phases of healing and scar formation after an incision during surgery or a deep wound.

Inflammatory Phase

Blood clotting begins and the incision/ wound will look red and inflamed. This usually only lasts a few days to a week after surgery or injury. (Depending on the area, if on an area like the join/fold – such as on a knuckle – of a joint where there is a lot of movement it can take the longest time)

Proliferation Phase

New tissue (collagen fibres) forms to close and heal the wound. The area will feel raised and often scabs over. This phase lasts 2-10 days usually. The area may feel warm, have some graininess and numbness. If unusually hot seek medical attention.

Remodelling Phase

This is the final phase where your scar forms. As scar tissue forms, nerves heal, feeling returns to the area and the scar feels less proliferated (textured). Your scar may feel itchy and be more sensitive than regular skin. At first, your scar may appear purple, then white, and then eventually become closer to skin colour.

Why massage scar tissue?

Massage has many benefits for people who have scar tissue, particularly surgically induced scar tissue. Particularly within the first two years of acquiring the newly formed tissue.

Massage helps by:

  • Decreasing fiberous tissue build-up. Excess scar tissue can make muscles stiff and feel weaker, and in some cases require surgical removal in the extreme.

  • Helps improve blood flow, promoting healing to and around the scar tissue.

  • Drain excess fluid around the area to help reduce swelling and proliferation.

  • Help regain sensation in the affected area, and decrease numbness, tingling, and soreness.

  • Increase range of movement and tissue flexibility. (Often what clients refer to when saying they feel less tight or “freer” after a massage).

By Tanya Charters - Remedial Massage Therapist

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