Many people have scars as a result of accidents, injuries and surgeries. While scar tissue is extremely helpful at repairing cells quickly to prevent further damage and/or injury, the characteristics of scars and their presence in the body can restrict and inhibit movement. This can lead to musculoskeletal imbalances and ultimately pain.

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Healing and Treating Scar Tissue

If you have had an accident, injury and/or surgery then the development of scar tissue is unavoidable. However, genetics and age also play a role in the development of scar tissue. As you age, it becomes more difficult for the body to generate new cells and scarring can happen more easily. Yet no matter how extensive your scarring, or your age, there are many techniques and strategies that can be used to decrease the buildup of scar tissue.

Protection of the Wounded Area

When tissues are injured they must initially be protected from further harm. Depending on the severity and type of wound, bandages/dressings are recommended (as well as antibiotics in some cases) for maintaining cleanliness of the area and to prevent infection. Most wounds are best kept clean with a saline solution as chemicals and other harsh soaps can dry out the skin, prevent healing and worsen scarring.

Nutrition

Vitamin C is used throughout the body for cell repair and is generally recommended to help the body recover from injury. Furthermore, a vitamin B complex may also help speed up the recovery process and promote healing. However, it is recommended that you consult with a licensed dietitian/nutritionist before making any nutritional changes to help diminish/treat scar tissue.

Massage

After a scar has healed initially, you can increase flexibility in the scar tissue and surrounding tissue by massaging the area with a doctor/surgeon recommended gel or ointment. As the scar heals further, self-massage and/or trigger point therapy may be used to improve the elasticity of the surrounding tissues as well as bring new blood supply to the affected area. Always check with your doctor first before employing any type of self-massage or trigger point technique to ensure you do not reinjure the area.

Laser/Light Therapy

Many people are familiar with the use of laser treatment and dermabrasion to improve the surface of the skin and remove superficial scars. However, it has also been demonstrated that low-level laser therapy can improve cellular function and help with the treatment of deep scars. Moreover, the exposure to sunshine (and ultraviolet light) has also been shown to improve cellular function to damaged tissue and scars. However, it is important to consult with your physician first to make sure the initial wound has completely healed before exposure to sunlight (as that can make scarring worse in some cases).

Vibration

The formation of scar tissue can sometimes affect the activation of a muscle or surrounding muscle groups by interfering with the neural pathways that activate those tissues. Recent research has demonstrated that when high-frequency vibration is applied to adhesions, scar tissue, and the surrounding muscle, that nerves can be stimulated to help improve the function of muscle tissue that has been affected by the formation of scar tissue.

Surgery

When scar tissue is severely limiting function of the body and/or causing pain, surgery is sometimes recommended to remove the buildup of the old scar tissue. However, this option is a last resort as the simple act of cutting the old scar out produces a new scar, which is not guaranteed to be less mobile/supple than the old one.

While scars naturally heal and fade over time, their impact on your physical movement capabilities may remain. Recognizing the far-reaching effects of scar tissue, identifying those areas of the body that are affected by it and applying appropriate strategies to treat scars can help you limit their potential to cause pain, dysfunction and inhibit performance. Promoting effective healing of new wound sites and treating old scar tissue buildup are two ways to lessen the negative impact scar tissue has on your body.