Want to earn continuing education credit for this article? Learn more.

Scars develop on the skin’s surface as the result of burns, deep lacerations or a variety of other injuries that penetrate or interrupt the skin’s integrity. Possessing an amazing capacity to heal and regenerate, the skin forms a scab over a wound within three to four days following an injury. By day ten the scab typically shrinks and sloughs off as the body focuses on laying down collagen fibers to strengthen the former site of injury. The damaged tissue can be in recovery between three months to over a year before it returns to full strength. Additionally, some diseases or skin disorders (such as acne) may also result in scar tissue formation. While scars can result from a variety of traumatic events to the skin, they share some common characteristics. As a general rule, the earlier and more consistently scar tissue is exercised, massaged and warmed, the less possibility of developing any long-term concerns.

Scar Traits

While the degree of scar formation varies from person to person, there are some distinguishing characteristics:

  • Becomes hard and non-pliable
  • Bands of fibers on or below the surface
  • Skin tightens or shortens. When crossing a joint, this contracture may limit range of motion, comprise function or cause deformity.
  • Becomes dry and reopens to form a wound if not managed properly. This is especially true for skin grafts, which do not produce oil or sweat.

Long-Term Effects

While the body’s formation of scar tissue is an awesome demonstration of self-preservation, the resulting fibrous mass can set the stage for problems down the road. Composed primarily of collagen, scar tissue’s fibrosity prohibits adequate circulation. In addition to the physical limitations of collagenous tissue, the lack of blood flow and lymph drainage occurring in scar tissue makes it vulnerable to dysfunction. The resulting abnormal stress on a scar’s surrounding structures may include:

  • Nerve impingement
  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Limited range of motion and flexibility
  • Postural misalignment
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Tissue hypoxia
  • An increase in potential for future injury

In fact, some professionals believe that scar tissue is the root of a majority of physical imbalances. Bodyworkers addressing scar tissue early in its development can help minimize any of the preceding secondary scar tissue problems.