Love Your Scars and Teach Them to Move

Scars get a bad rap. Celebrate them instead! Without them, surgeries are ineffective, infections enter the body, and muscles refuse to move. Scars are now part of your body, so let’s love them, too.

Often, scars are feared when too long, deep, ugly, or if one has “too many.” Knowing how scars work can decrease fear and get you back to normal function.

First, get the incision closed. When the skin is cut through and reattached end to end, an incredible healing process begins. Scar tissue forms to create a barrier to the outside world and to make the skin whole again. These are some good products to use in the first stages of healing: Use topical agents

1. Silicone Scar Gel
– First line of defense and gold standard
– Decreases itching
– Reduces size

2. Onion Extract-Based Gel (Mederma)
– Quercetin (from onion extract) is the main ingredient in Mederma
– Anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative effects
– Helps reorganize collagen

3. Vitamin E
– Reduces reactive oxygen (disrupts normal cellular function) during inflammation
– May improve scar appearance

Second, realize that anything that was repaired or “fixed” during surgery had a scar too. This is good news. As in, if you have a rotator cuff repair, the rotator cuff was also cut through and repaired and its scar tissue is undergoing this same amazing healing process. More on that in a later article.

Third, ideally, scars heal smoothly and evenly through the remodeling of collagen fibers and can take up to two years! This is where a skilled physical therapist with experience in scar tissue mobilization is critical. These therapists are able to incorporate movement into the scar itself, not just passively move the scar tissue around. Since scars become part of the body, learning to move them and not in spite of them is important for normal functioning. The brain often unconsciously tells the body to contract around a scar to help protect the area during the healing process but may not turn off the signals to allow effective motion. A highly skilled therapist will not only get the scar tissue itself to elongate but will teach the brain to produce movements at the scarred area.

Sometimes, the scar doesn’t heal in this manner and what is left are incisions that are not only obviously raised, but stiff, tender, and itchy.

These “abnormal scars” fall into two main categories, which are labeled as hypertrophic and keloid scars. The former are raised but remain within the boundaries of the initial incision and can spontaneously improve over time. The latter grow beyond the boundaries of the initial incision and do not improve on their own. Regardless of the type of surgery you had performed, the steps you can take to prevent the formation of these abnormal scars, as well as treat them once they have progressed to abnormal is fairly standard. Keep reading to find out our top two tips for post-op scar management, both of which you can perform yourself without investing much money or time!

Authored by April Oury Founder, PT MS, IOC, CFMT, FAAOMPT, Women’s Health Specialist & Anna Balling SPT

Have scars and want to learn about our top two tips for post-op scar management? Or just have general questions about your scars?  Call us at (877) 709-1090 or email us at [email protected]. Don’t forget to check out our InstagramFacebook, and Podcasts for more great information!