Scar Tissue Release Therapy


Scar tissue therapy is generally overlooked by health professionals because the extent of physiological effects scars can have on the body have never really been acknowledged. As massage therapists, we know that the slightest restriction in the elaborate matrix of fascia can have major repercussions from one end of the body to the other. 


In scar tissue massage, the depth of the pressure is determined based on the state of the scar – its age, location, how much it restricts movement, how much pain it causes. The pressure needed to work at that depth is determined by the state of the scar as well. Next, movement is introduced at that depth and pressure with the intention of mobilizing the scar into functional fascial planes. Mobilizing fresh scar tissue into these planes is fairly easy because the collagen fiber network is, by nature,amenable to change in its orientation.


Clearly, the sooner the scar is treated with scar tissue massage the easier and more thorough the freedom of tissue movement and function. When the collagen network is less ‘set’, the fibers themselves are thinner and less dense. Tissue chemicals, primarily collagenase, are more active. Still, no matter the scar’s age, it can always be treated with scar tissue massage for more mobility.


Another technique used during scar tissue massage is direct scar manipulation. This technique uses all eight of the therapist’s fingers to play, or work into the scar directly, almost like playing a piano. the therapist allows the tissue to move on its own accord in any direction it chooses. The movements are usually subtle. The pressure is light, really just touching the scar, although the intention is deep into the totality of the damaged tissue. This, like all scar tissue massage, is patient work, waiting for the tissue to lead the therapist. This it will do, because the tissue is seeking to heal. It will, in effect, ‘come’ to the therapist. Fresh scar tissue (less than three months) will always do this. Middle age (up to a year) will also, though it responds slower in most cases. Old scar tissue (more than a year) must be pushed. Again, this move is most effective when depth and pressure are considered, with sensitivity for the feel of the scar tissue and its age (and this can be said for all these techniques). This means that younger scars are worked more lightly in the early stages and progressively deeper and more aggressively as healing progresses.


In scar tissue massage, each of these techniques is used and combined in a variety of ways, organized and guided by the ever-changing natures of the scar’s pliability and the client’s pain response. In this way, the manner in which the wound remodels itself is influenced and controlled by the therapist. After scar tissue massage, collagen is reorganized alonf the lines of fascial planes, allowing more independence between and among muscular movements. By relieving affected joints of constriction, scar tissue massage allows more movement through the joint capsule with less pressure on it from hypertonicities. The result is healthier and more functional muscle and connective tissue, and a greater range of motion.

In cases where scar tissue massage has been employed, clients report increased range of motion with less pulling on local structures and, in most instances, full function restored with no restrictions.