Have you ever wondered if massage therapy would help with scarring? I am here to tell you, in most cases, that yes, it can. Currently, there is no treatment that can make scars disappear completely but massage could help. The therapist who is working with you would need to have a full understanding of the situation causing the scar if your main goal is to diminish the scarring. We have to weigh the potential outcomes of massage techniques against the possibility of poor response and treatment related complications.
Scars are areas of fibrous tissue but have replaced layers of skin which have been compromised by injury to an area of the body. Scar tissue is vastly different than the skin that was originally there. The depth and severity of injury determines the scars formation.
There are five common types of scars. The first is a hypertrophic scar; they tend to be red and raised but they do not grow outside of the injured area. A keloid scar on the other hand can keep growing outside of the original injured area making a larger scar. Keloid scars are a type of hypertrophic scar but generally differ because of more inflammation. The third type of scar is a trauma scar. These types of scars make their own path making them all look different in some way shape or form. There may be inflammation at first like the first two types of scars but sometimes the "gap" where the injury was, during the remodeling phase, can heal and look sunken in with no signs of inflammation whatsoever. Surgical scars are the fourth type of scar. They will be uniform in shape and size depending on where the surgery was done. Almost all surgery scars heal well due to the cleanliness of the injury to the area because of the surgical field. The fifth and final type of scar are acne scars. There are three types of acne scars: Boxcar which are wide, u-shaped edges and are shallow or deep. Ice pick scars are narrow, v-shaped and are deep. Rolling scars are wide dips that have circular edges.
Now that we know a little more about scarring let's talk about how massage can help. Whether the inflammation causes tenderness to the area, the scar tissue causes pain under the surface or the scar causes some kind of self-consciousness, massage is a great way to improve these things. The therapist should not work directly on the scar for the entire duration of the session. The scar is just a part of you and you are still getting a massage to address other issues as well. During your intake with your therapist be mindful to let them know what kind of treatment you would want to help in reducing the scar. A full background on how the scar happened and if it is causing you pain are essential to how your session will go. Each session your therapist will know how the scar changes by tracking inflammation, redness, size and depth of the scar. It is important to remember the goal isn't to "cure" a scar but rather stimulate the inflammatory response that leads to the remodeling phase which is the last step in the injury/scar healing process. Each therapist has techniques that can help in different ways to reduce a scar. Constant communication is key and being open about the process and goal is essential.
Post surgical wounds, open wounds, fractures in newly grafted skin should not be worked on directly until the wound is fully closed and a physician has signed off for massage. Common contraindications would include diabetic ulcers, recent cortisone injections, bed sores, infections of any kind, specific and general inflammations and or secreting wounds.
If you have scarring that you are interested in discussing further, please talk to your therapist or reach out to our studio for an appointment.