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
While the body’s healing ability to replenish the skin by forming scars, the resulting fibrous mass can set the stage for problems down the road. The scar is made up primarily of collagen which creates fibrous tissue and prohibits adequate circulation. In addition to the physical limitations, the lack of blood flow and lymph drainage occurring in scar tissue makes it hard to move and is dysfunctional. The resulting abnormal stress on a scar’s surrounding structures may include:
- Nerve impingement
- 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. Body workers addressing scar tissue early in its development can help minimize any of the preceding secondary scar tissue problems.
A scar’s healing progression consists of two phases, immature and mature.
Immediately after a wound heals, the scar is immature. During this period it may be painful, itchy or sensitive as nerve endings within the tissue heal. While it is typically red in appearance, most scars fade to normal flesh color with maturation. Exercise, massage and heat application will have the greatest positive effect on an immature scar.
Depending on the size and depth of the wound, scar tissue will cease production 3 to 18 months following wound healing. When scar tissue is no longer produced, the scar is considered mature. While techniques to reduce scar tissue in a mature scar are effective, a more disciplined and vigorous approach is necessary.