It’s a natural human response for the body to respond to physical injury by creating scar tissue. Whether it’s internal scarring from a physical injury, cuts, burns, sores like acne, or the remnants of scar tissue after surgery, the body naturally attempts to heal the wound by growing this type of tissue.
Unfortunately, scarred tissue is less flexible than healthy skin or tissue, and it can inhibit movement, while also causing pain. In addition, scarred tissue that forms on the outer surface of the skin sometimes looks unattractive.
So it’s no surprise that many people want to know how to get rid of scar tissue.
There are several different approaches for treating scar tissue pain and the scarring itself. First, though, it’s important to understand more about exactly what is scar tissue.
What is Scar Tissue?
The body’s natural response to an injury sometimes results in repairing the injury or damaged area by creating scar tissue.
Healthy skin has collagen proteins that form in multidirectional fibers, which allows our skin to be flexible and elastic as we move. Scarred tissue is not like regular, healthy skin because the collagen proteins form in just one direction making the tissue less elastic.
When a scar forms, it usually results in a tough, fibrous collection of cells or tissues that cover normal, healthy tissues at the site of an injury.
It’s important to note that not all scarring is external. It can develop in the joints from overuse injuries such as Golfers Elbow in professional and amateur athletes, as well as in people whose occupations require repetitive movements.
When tendons and ligaments are repeatedly stressed or injured, a build up of scar tissue can lead to less mobility, pain, and chronic inflammation.
Causes and Symptoms of Scar Tissue Pain
As scarred tissue develops, it may not be immediately noticeable, especially for internal injuries. With a burn, cut, or external sores such as acne, damage to the skin is usually what leads to pain and inflammation.
However, as the healing process continues and fibrous tissue grows, the area over the original wound may become raised, thick, and firm, causing less flexibility and mild to severe pain.
Long-term pain issues can occur with the buildup of fibrous tissue under the skin where tendons and ligaments are likely to be damaged, as well as the nerves. Fibrosis is the growth of excessive tissue that can cause loss of function in soft tissue and joints.
Symptoms of scar tissue pain can include some of the following:
- Itching and burning sensation near the scar
- Tenderness and sensitivity in the region around the scar
- Inflammation or swelling near the injury
- Warm feeling in the affected area
- Lack of mobility in the injured joint
Treating scar tissue pain, along with understanding how to get rid of fibrous tissue under the skin, is important for people seeking medical intervention for pain, discomfort, and mobility issues.
Treatment to Break Up Scar Tissue
For minor scars, people can take several at-home treatment approaches to get rid of scar tissue. Regularly applying moisturizer to an external scar and massaging it in the direction of the tissue can keep the scar softer and more flexible and it may decrease tissue sensitivity.
There are also silicone gel patches that adhere to the skin and can help promote tissue healing. Wrapping or taping the injury might also decrease tension and inflammation.
Scar tissue pain treatment for people with more serious issues can involve some of the following approaches:
1. Physical Therapy
Physical Therapy can be useful for breaking up scar tissue around a joint. Learning joint exercises and stretches can help reduce stiffness and may alleviate some of the pain cause by scarring.
This is also a useful way to learn and practice proper techniques for specialized movements, as a way to avoid future injury and the development of additional fibrous tissue.
2. Laser Therapy
Laser Therapy involves treatment that penetrates the skin and promotes the growth of healthy collagen. This treatment method is unlikely to get rid of scarred tissue completely, but it can be an effective way to help reduce minor itching, decrease pain, and improve some mobility.
3. Corticosteroid Injections
Corticosteroid Injections have shown to be effective for improving pain symptoms due to tissue scarring. Steroids are a very powerful anti-inflammatory, but the downside to these injections is that steroids can damage surrounding, healthy tissue, which may lead to further injury.
While some people respond right away to steroid injections, others require several shots over a period of a few weeks, which increases the danger of damaging healthy tissue.
4. Shockwave Therapy to Break Up Scar Tissue
Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy, also called ESWT, sends impulse pressure waves deep into injured and scarred tissue to break up damaged tissue on a cellular level.
Pressure waves created by a Shockwave Therapy machine increase blood flow and the growth of new blood vessels to the affected area to improve healing more quickly than other methods.
Unlike surgery or injections, Shockwave Therapy is a non-invasive treatment approach, so there is no risk of infection or recovery downtime.
It can be used for chronic or acute soft tissue injuries, as well as post-operative surgery scarring and pain.
5. Surgery to Get Rid of Scar Tissue
Surgery is typically a last resort for treating scar tissue pain on injuries or problems where the scarred area is deep and excessive. Here, physicians try to remove damaged tissue or may even perform skin grafts by transplanting healthy skin from another part of the body.
There are always associated risks with surgery, as well as significant recovery downtime. Because of this, every outcome should be thoroughly discussed with your physician.
While scar tissue may appear to simply be an unattractive skin condition to some people, others have internal scarring damage that causes pain or impedes movement and overall athletic performance.
If left untreated, damaged tissue that becomes scarred can cause more severe problems in the future.
Whatever the case may be, the treatment methods outlined here should provide some good options for people who are wondering how to break up or get rid of scar tissue.
Image courtesy of Sander van der Molen.