Benefits of Massage on Scar Tissue
Scars can develop for a multitude of reasons. They can result from a simple scratch or a major surgery. Even though the body holds an astonishing ability to regenerate and heal itself, scars can severely disturb the skin’s integrity. The way a scar forms will vary from person to person, but there are some distinctive physical characteristics.
Scars tend to be rather hard and non-pliable because of bands of fiber that form just under the surface of the skin when a wound heals. If they form crossing a joint, they can even limit a person’s range of motion or cause deformity. Other issues that scars can cause in the body are nerve impingement, pain, numbness, limited flexibility, postural misalignment, muscle atrophy, and tissue hypoxia (insufficient blood supply to a specific body part.) The good news is that massage therapy has been shown to have a positive effect on scars.
There are two types of scars, mature and immature. When a scar is considered immature it means that the wound has just healed and can feel itchy or sensitive to the touch. Scars are considered mature once they are between three to eighteen months old and scar tissue is no longer being produced. With mature scars, you need to be more vigorous with your approach with scar tissue release work.
There are several different techniques that a massage therapist can use to help a client with scar tissue. You can use Manual Lymph Draining. This technique enhances the lymphatic system to increase movement and drainage around an injured area. Myofascial release can be used to help ease constriction of affected tissue. Deep transverse friction can inhibit adhesion development and break up undesirable adhesions. Stretching can aid in your client’s range of motion. Scar tissue will lengthen after being stretched for several seconds and is most important when a scar crosses a joint. Lubrication with scar tissue helps soften the tissue and increase its overall pliability. You can use simple things such as lotion, castor oil, or vitamin E oil. Lubrication can prevent the scar from drying out and re-opening, which would in turn cause an even deeper scar. Finally, heat application can also make the scar more flexible and pliable. Usually, a massage therapist can use something like paraffin wax, moist heat packs, or even ultrasound.
Be aware, you should always take care and use your best judgement in choosing any of these techniques when working with scars. For example, take extreme care with radiated tissue from cancer patients due to the fact that their skin is very delicate and can break easily. Make sure that if your client is in pain or the technique you are using makes the tissue very red that you stop what you are doing. Last, but definitely not least, never perform massage on open lacerations.
1. LaFrano,Chuck, Scar-Tissue Massage, Massage Magazine, May/June 2001.
2. www.abcn.ca, Massage Therapy for the Treatment of Scar Tissue, Sandra MacDonald, RMT, Atlantic Breast Cancer Net, Nov. 2004
3. www.harcourtassessment.com, Scar Management, Ed Rauschuber, OTR,CHT, Therapy Skill Builders, 1998
4. www.lufkinhbo.com, Myofascial Release, Julietta Planchart, PT, Cralle Physical Therapy, 2006
5. www.lymphnotes.com, Scar Therapy and Lymphedema, Lymph Notes, 2006