Patients seeking massage therapy treatment for musculoskeletal pain often overlook the possibility that existing scars may be playing a part in their discomfort. Graduates of massage therapy school understand that after an injury or surgery, fibrous tissues form around the wound as part of the natural healing process - and that sometimes, the resulting scar can be painful long after healing is complete. Even without pain, scars can restrict blood flow and movement in everyday activities. Tissue health in the area can also suffer.
This collagen scar tissue alignment is usually of inferior functional quality to the normal collagen randomized alignment. Tissue healing comprises two essential components - Regeneration and Repair. In Regeneration, damaged tissue is replaced by the proliferation of surrounding undamaged specialized cells. In Repair, lost tissue is replaced by granulation tissue which matures to form scar tissue. All injured tissue will develop a scar to one degree or another. The final look of the scar however, will vary by skin-type, location on the body and the age of the patient.
Scar tissue does not typically perform with the same flexibility as normal tissue. The process of granulation may cause the scar to contract - which in turn may lead to discomfort and dysfunction. For patients with larger scars, tightened tissue can become a significant source of pain, restricting range of motion by adhering to muscles and deforming the tissue surrounding the scar. Other complications caused by scar tissue include numbness, postural misalignment, and compressed nerves – all of which can interfere with a patient’s overall wellness and quality of life.
Fascial techniques are particularly effective for releasing tension caused by scars. The long, stretching strokes of myofascial release help to realign regenerated components of tissue and muscle, which have failed to re-form in a striated fashion during the process of granulation. By targeting points of restriction caused by scars, fascial techniques can help improve the patient’s range of motion, alleviate pressure on nerves, and reduce musculoskeletal pain.
Deep tissue massage is another trusted technique for addressing pain brought about by scars. Students at massage therapy college learn how deep tissue massage helps break apart existing adhesions, while helping to prevent others from forming. Particularly effective for scars that form as a result of muscle tears and strains, deep tissue techniques can also help restore a greater range of motion while reducing the potential for re-injury. Professionals with massage therapy training are careful to assess the patient’s stage of recovery before performing deep tissue or fascial techniques, as the injury may still be delicate or not yet fully sealed.
With its capacity to relieve pain and enhance flexibility, massage therapy supports not only a patients’ return to physical wellbeing, but also helps restore their sense of self-confidence and a healthy body image.
Do you know of other massage therapy techniques that are helpful in the treatment of scars?