8 Ways to Reduce Scar Formation & Increase Mobility

Learn to man­age post-sur­gi­cal scar com­pli­ca­tions so you can get back to your nor­mal activities.

Scar for­ma­tion is a nat­ur­al occur­rence after surgery as scars help to strength­en the tis­sues that are heal­ing. How­ev­er, too much of a good thing may not actu­al­ly be ben­e­fi­cial. Scars can become both­er­some and lim­it move­ment.

Your body has an amaz­ing abil­i­ty to assist in heal­ing by lay­ing down col­la­gen fibers that make up the sub­stance of a scar. Research shows that scar for­ma­tion can last up to 1 year after surgery. At first, the fibers are laid down ran­dom­ly. This caus­es the scar to become thick and firm. If left this way, the scar becomes very rigid and acts like glue. The scar may stick to mus­cles, ten­dons, and even bones. When this hap­pens, you may notice that it is dif­fi­cult to move the joints near the sur­gi­cal area. It may also become uncom­fort­able and painful to put pres­sure direct­ly on your scar. You may also expe­ri­ence sen­si­tiv­i­ty to dif­fer­ent tex­tures.

Luck­i­ly, we have the abil­i­ty to manip­u­late scar tis­sue to decrease the effects of scar adhe­sion. Although we can’t change the amount of scar tis­sue our body cre­ates, we can impact the flex­i­bil­i­ty of the scar. Imag­ine you had a lump of bread dough on your kitchen counter. This is what your scar is like in the ear­ly stages of for­ma­tion. If you knead the dough or use a rolling pin, you can soft­en it and thin it out. Like­wise, sev­er­al tech­niques may be used on your scar as soon as the inci­sion is healed. 

How to reduce scar formation

  • Scar Mas­sage: Apply a small amount of lotion or Vit­a­min E oil to the scar. Using firm pres­sure with your thumb or fin­gers, mas­sage the scar in a cir­cu­lar motion. Next move your thumb across the width and length of the scar. This should not be painful, but may be slight­ly uncom­fort­able at first.
  • Active Motion: Sim­ply bend­ing and extend­ing the joints clos­est to your scar will assist in min­i­miz­ing scar adhesion.
  • Retrac­tion: Place your thumb or fin­gers at the end of your scar. Move the body part in the oppo­site direc­tion, as you place con­stant pres­sure. For exam­ple, if the scar is in your palm, place thumb and end of scar clos­est to your fin­gers, then bend your wrist backwards.
  • Skin Rolling: Start at one end of the scar and pinch the skin between your thumb, index and mid­dle fin­gers. Now roll the skin back and forth.
  • Scar Activ­i­ties: Con­sid­er mas­sag­ing your scar in the fol­low­ing ways:
    • Roll your scar on a golf ball and/​or mark­er with mild to mod­er­ate pressure
    • Rub scar with a marble.
    • Use an elec­tri­cal mas­sager on/​around the scar
  • Sil­i­cone Scar Pad: Use of 100% sil­i­cone gel has been shown to reduce red­ness and improve the tex­ture of the scar by form­ing a seal to keep mois­ture in, pro­mot­ing greater flex­i­bil­i­ty. Gel sheets are avail­able at most drug stores. Liq­uid sil­i­cone gel is also effective.
  • Scar Sen­si­tiv­i­ty: If your scar is hyper­sen­si­tive, gen­tly rub dif­fer­ent tex­tures on your scar dai­ly for 2 min­utes each. Begin with soft tex­tures (cot­ton, silk) and progress to rough tex­tures (den­im, Vel­cro, tow­els). You can also desen­si­tize your scar by immers­ing the scar in a con­tain­er of dried rice or pin­to beans. Rotate the body part while immersed in the material.
  • Sun Sen­si­tiv­i­ty: Apply sun­screen over your scar to min­i­mize col­or changes. Your scar is more sen­si­tive to sun­light and may turn a deep pur­ple col­or with­out pro­tec­tion. Sun­screen should be applied to the scar for approx­i­mate­ly 2 years to reduce the like­li­hood of discoloration.

If you con­tin­ue to have issues fol­low­ing surgery, con­tact your physi­cian to dis­cuss treat­ment options. You may be referred to the Occu­pa­tion­al or Phys­i­cal Ther­a­py depart­ment for an eval­u­a­tion and treat­ment to restore the qual­i­ty of your dai­ly activ­i­ties. Man­u­al mas­sage and oth­er exer­cis­es may be just what you need to regain your range of motion and reduce dis­com­fort at your sur­gi­cal site.

Learn more about the diverse range of ther­a­peu­tic treat­ments offered through our Phys­i­cal and Occu­pa­tion­al Ther­a­py clinics.

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