7 ways to relieve chronic scar tissue pain

Scars are a normal part of life during the healing process. Scar tissue is different from normal tissue. It is less elastic, which can lead to tightness, limited movement, or pain. This pain can become chronic. Pain from scar tissue may not be immediate. Scar tissue can take up to a year to fully heal. 


What is chronic pain? 


Pain is an indicator of an injury to muscle, tendon, bone or nerve. Signals of pain go from nerves near the injury site to your brain. Typically, as the injury heals, pain stops.


When this pain doesn’t stop, it becomes chronic pain. Chronic pain can last months or even years. It can impact your physical and mental health. 


How can scar tissue lead to chronic pain?


As mentioned earlier, scar tissue is different from normal tissue. Scar tissue in soft tissue like muscles can cause issues, including chronic pain. 


Soft tissue is made up of fibers that run parallel to each other. When the soft tissue is injured and scar tissue forms during healing, new fibers form in a random crisscross pattern. These fibers are structurally weaker than regular tissue. This leads to an increased risk of further damage. This scar tissue is contracted and doesn’t move as freely as regular soft tissue. 


Scar tissue in muscles can creep to other areas that surround the original injury. This spreading could lead to excessive scar tissue. Excessive scar tissue, or fibrosis, can lead to ongoing pain and inflammation. If the fibrosis becomes excessive enough, it can cause a loss of tissue function. 


Fibrosis can lead to a vicious cycle. It prevents normal movement, which leads to ongoing pain. This ongoing pain triggers inflammation. Inflammation is the driver of healing. Healing triggers scar tissue formation. Scar tissue then again leads to limited movement, which starts the cycle over.


Excessive scar tissue may become heavy enough that it causes the body to produce calcium, which hardens scar tissue. This adds further pain caused by scar tissue, which can impact your life. 


Physical therapy to help relieve chronic scar tissue pain


Chronic pain caused by scar tissue can often be relieved by physical therapy. A visit to a physical therapist can help formulate a customized plan to best meet your needs. Your treatment plan may include passive and/or active treatments. Active treatments are exercises completed by you under your own power. Passive treatments will be performed by your physical therapist on you. 


Some treatment options physical therapy can offer:


  • Manual therapy — Manual therapy is any form of hands-on treatment that is designed to help a certain part of the body to better function. Your physical therapist can see how your body is moving and create a custom treatment to best help your condition. Each custom treatment depends on your pain level and location affected. Soft tissue mobilization is likely to be the process selected to aid in breaking up your scar tissue to help ease your chronic pain.


  • Electrical stimulation — Electric stimulation is a safe and effective method to reduce, eliminate, or control your chronic scar tissue pain. Electric stimulation will likely give you a tingly or prickly sensation. 


  • Dry needling — Dry needling is a technique using sterile needles inserted through the skin into muscles, tendons, ligaments, and or close to nerves to immediately reduce pain. It is excellent at helping relieve chronic pain and can be used with other PT treatments. 


  • Astym® — Astym treatment focuses on built-up soft tissue in order for the tissue to rebuild properly. Your physical therapist will use a special instrument that is pushed against your skin along the location of the damaged tissue. This is to break down scar tissue and help relieve your pain. The next step is following a specialized stretching routine to help the damaged area and relieve your pain. 


  • Therapeutic ultrasound — Therapeutic ultrasound uses sound waves to help treat your chronic scar tissue pain. It helps increase circulation, reduce swelling and inflammation, and promote tissue healing. It can also help prevent scar tissue from forming.


  • Aquatic therapy — Aquatic therapy typically happens in a heated pool. Sessions often include stretches as well as strengthening and relaxation exercises. The heated water can help soothe your muscles, which can help improve your chronic scar tissue pain. 


  • Trigger point therapy — Trigger point therapy is a type of manual therapy targeting the location of the scar tissue causing your chronic scar tissue pain. Manual pressure is applied by your physical therapist, intended to help decrease the pain you’re experiencing. 


As you go through your journey with chronic pain, your physical therapist will adjust your treatment as your needs change. 


Excel PT can help you with your struggle with chronic scar tissue pain 


Our Excel Sports & Physical Therapy team is proud to offer all of the above options to help ease your chronic scar tissue pain. Our physical therapists are highly trained and experienced in helping treat scar tissue pain. When you’re ready to experience relief from your chronic pain, our initial evaluation will allow us to create a PT plan customized to assist you achieve pain relief and better health. 

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.