By Nicole McMurray, BSc, RMT
We have all heard of scar tissue before, but few know whether or not they may have it, what it is, and what can actually be done to lessen its (sometimes) lasting effects. Let’s tackle these topics today to create an understanding of scar tissue and give you the ability to be informed when the word scar tissue comes up again.
What is Scar Tissue?
Scar tissue can present as a dense, fibrous tissue that the body lays down as a protection mechanism against further injury. This process is part of the body’s natural healing process in response to any injuries (strains/sprains, breaks), traumas (bruises/contusions), or surgeries (cesarean scars, tissue removals, mastectomies), no matter how large or small they may seem.
How do I know if I have Scar Tissue?
The presence of scar tissue may affect the functioning and movement of any of its surrounding structures, such as muscles, joints, nerves, blood vessels, and the lymphatic system. If these tissues become restricted, they may cause an array of symptoms. These sometimes include, but are not limited to:
- Pain or discomfort, may recur over time
- Inflammation (discomfort, heat, redness of an area)
- Muscle spasms
- Altered tissue appearance
- Sensory changes (numbness, pressure sensitivity)
- Swelling or edema
- Decreased movement or function of joints and muscles
Limitations of movements and functioning will vary depending on the person, severity, or how it healed (was the injury rested or pushed past its limit early on). Sometimes a discomfort or pain that has been present for months up to years with minimal relief can be explained by the scar tissue that formed from an old injury.
How do we decrease the effects of the scar tissue?
There are several options to help decrease scar tissue! I can help you identify and target what should be treated to help your symptoms. I do two specific treatments to help target the tissues:
1) Graston Technique: This is non-invasive technique using smooth-edged stainless steel instruments in a shaving type motion over the area(s) of discomfort to encourage the breakdown of scar tissue. These allow me to get into tissues a little deeper and more specific without being quite as aggressive as some massages tend to be. This is used most effectively alongside body awareness exercises as well as a defined stretching regime to encourage normal function and movements.
2) Castor Oil Treatments: Castor oil is a great thermal insulator. We can use the oil alongside heat (and sometimes even paraffin wax) to help trap heat, allowing for a deeper penetration into tissues. This helps to increase mobility of the scar tissue and decrease discomfort at and around the scar site. Castor oil massage techniques will also be discussed to help with mobilization and symptom relief at home.
When is a good time to seek help?
The answer is any time! Know that with any area of scar tissue, we need to treat it appropriately for its stage, type and condition. Recent or immature scarring can be treated soon after it occurs, though it will most likely be treated indirectly by addressing surrounding, compensatory tissues that have been affected. This will help with mobility and return to function of the affected area once we have assisted with scar tissue mobility. Long term or mature scarring can be handled with the above noted techniques, along with scar tissue management strategies and exercises.
Have any questions or concerns regarding your specific area of scar tissue? Please contact Nicole via firstname.lastname@example.org or book an appointment for more information.