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Massage Therapy for Scars

Overview
There are a few massage techniques that can be used to treat scars. For best results, begin massage therapy with a certified professional once your wound has healed, and continue these treatments until the level of scar fading is to your satisfaction. Because these massage techniques may damage tissue that is not completely healed, consult your physician before beginning treatment.

Detailed Description
Massage Therapy for Scars

There are a few massage techniques that can be used to treat scars. For best results, begin massage therapy with a certified professional once your wound has healed, and continue these treatments until the level of scar fading is to your satisfaction. Because these massage techniques may damage tissue that is not completely healed, consult your physician before beginning treatment.

When talking with your healthcare professional about massage therapy for scars, keep in mind:

• A scar is immature immediately after a wound heals. A scar is comprised of damaged skin and collagen, and it can take up to a year for the skin to return to its full strength. As nerve endings within an immature scar heal, the scar may be sensitive and red.

• Scar tissue stops growing 3 to 18 months after a wound heals. It may take up to a year to see the final appearance of a scar.

There are three massage techniques that are used in scar treatment: manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), myofascial release, and deep transverse friction.


Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)

MLD treatment consists of a gentle, rhythmic massage where pressure is used to stimulate the lymphatic system in order to relieve fluid congestion in a specific area. The lymphatic system is responsible for the circulatory removal of excess fluid and metabolic waste products. Often in scar tissue, this fluid builds up because collagen, the primary component in scar tissue, disrupts blood flow and lymphatic drainage.
During MLD, a combination of straight line and gentle circular movements are applied to the scar and the surrounding area. The treatment should not hurt or cause any reddening of the scar tissue. MLD therapy should make the scar feel softer. MLD should only be performed by a MLD certified therapist.


Myofascial Release

Myofascial release is a technique used to ease constriction of scar tissue and the area surrounding the affected tissue. Fascia is the layer of tissue directly beneath the skin. When fascia is damaged by wounds and scar tissue, the overlying skin feels stiff, tight, and uncomfortable. There is also limited mobility of the scar. The goal of myofascial release is to relieve pain associated with tight scar tissue and to increase mobility by restoring elasticity to the scar tissue and its surrounding area.
During this therapy, a certified therapist uses gentle, continuous stretching techniques in the area of restricted movement to breakdown the fascial crosslinks that occur during scar production. This is a slow technique that allows the fascial system to naturally return to a relaxed, normal position. Strength and mobility should increase after this treatment.


Deep Transverse Friction

Deep transverse friction is a massage technique used to reorient the fibers of the fascia. This is accomplished by applying rhythmic mechanical pressure transversely across the scar tissue to promote reorientation of fascial fibers. This will remodel the collagen in the scar tissue, reducing size and alleviating pain. An additional benefit of this technique is the increase in blood flow produced by the pressure. This may aid in the removal of lymph fluid in the area and further reduce the size of the scar. Because the pressure applied to the scar during this massage technique penetrates deep into the flesh, the technique may stimulate nerve endings and cause some discomfort, but your professional should never progress beyond your comfort level.

In conjunction with these three techniques, your clinician may recommend other non-massage methods to aid in your recovery. Lubrication with vitamin E creams, lotions, or oil can soften scar tissue and lighten the appearance of the scar. Accordingly, sunscreen use is often recommended. Lubrication and heat application also promote pliability and flexibility. Stretching aids may be used to further increase the range of motion by lengthening scar tissue.


Content reviewed by Dr. Lili Shiabu, MD

Last updated: 01-Feb-10


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