Over the years, you must have endured a good amount of nicks and cuts. Be it a clumsy fall, a stumped toe, acne, or surgery – they all must have left a mark on your body in some way or the other.
For many people, scars fade away on their own. But for others, the scars may be prominent and make them self-conscious. In this article, we explore all about scar tissue – from its formation to its effects. Keep reading if you are interested in learning about how to get rid of scar tissue!
In This Article
What Is Scar Tissue?
Scar tissue is the fibrous tissue that develops on the site of an injury. It differs from regular tissue as it is relatively new and initially softer. Over the course of the healing period, it can become thinner and break down easily.
The following steps result in the formation of scar tissue:
- When you are injured, your body’s first response is inflammation. This allows the body to naturally get rid of bacteria and other foreign substances. You may notice the area swell up as a result. You must be careful during this period, as disturbing this area can cause further damage.
- After this comes the stage of increased blood flow. This is beneficial to the healing process as it brings nutrients to repair the tissue.
- The next stage is when the fibroblasts and collagen kick in. These skin tissues and proteins are essential for rebuilding damaged tissue. This is when the structure of the skin begins to form, which determines the outcome of the scar.
- The last stage is the maturation phase. During this, the collagen solidifies, matures, and shrinks. This final phase can take quite a while.
Sometimes, an increase of collagen during this healing period can lead to scars that form beyond their boundaries. This can result in scarring that appears to be excessive in its growth.
Scar tissue can take different forms, like:
- Keloid Scars: These are raised, red-colored bumps that are left after an injury.
- Hypertrophic Scars: These are similar to keloid scars but usually fade away with time and are not as big.
- Contracture Scars: These scars are commonly the result of burn injuries. Here, the tissue is pulled at the edges, which creates a contracting feel. A contracture scar may impair movement.
There is no exact cause for scar tissue formation – it can happen to anyone. It can also be inside the body due to internal damage or surgery, e.g., in the lung from cancer or the abdomen after surgery.
We now know how scar tissue forms, but how does it cause pain? Keep reading to know more.
Scar Tissue Pain
The wound healing process can take quite a while since the body has to rebuild the damaged tissue. The new scar tissue that replaces it can initially be very soft and elastic. But over time, if more and more collagen accumulates in the area, the extra tissue may restrict the surrounding area and even cause pain.
In the initial stages of healing, you may not feel the pain due to medication or damaged nerve endings. But as it begins to repair, you may become more aware of the area. Even during the healing process, you may find it uncomfortable or tight as the tissue rebuilds.
Interestingly, the real scar tissue pain may arise long after the site has healed. The pain may be caused by prolonged inflammation as well. There is also a chance of developing abdominal adhesions. This is when the scar tissue forms between the abdominal organs. It can be painful and harmful.
Now, let’s talk about all the ways scar tissue affects your body.
Scar Tissue And The Ways It Can Affect Your Body
Scar tissue may hamper movement and cause pain. It can also seem aesthetically unpleasing to some people.
In fact, research has noted that people with scars are more likely to feel depressed or anxious and feel a strain in social interactions.
If you are wondering what scar tissue pain feels like, keep reading the next section.
Symptoms Of Scar Tissue Pain
Scar tissue pain can differ between individuals and types of wounds. Some people may not feel anything, while others may notice the following symptoms in exterior scar tissue:
- A throbbing feeling in the surrounding area
- The scar and the surrounding skin is sensitive to touch
- Tightness and restriction of movement
- A creak-like feeling or sound whenever you move
If the scar tissue is internal, it may be harder to identify until you get it checked. But, you may notice the following:
- Tightness and restriction of movement in the site.
- Pain or an uncomfortable feeling in the area when moving.
- The surrounding area may also ache and feel stiff.
You can try the following home treatments to get relief from scar tissue pain.
At-Home Treatments For Scar Tissue
Scar tissue treatments are tricky when done at home. They will not give you great results as compared to in-clinic treatments. Regardless, you can try the following home remedies to relieve the pain and discomfort:
1. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a common treatment for scars due to its antioxidant and antitumor properties. Though its benefits from topical use require more research, it is still preferred in many cosmetic anti-scar formulations.
2. Onion Extract
This is a preventative method for the formation of scar tissues after surgery or tattoo removal. Onion extract has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which are beneficial for wound healing. It has also been found to provide satisfactory results in topical scar therapies.
While home treatments may put your mind at ease initially, they are not strongly backed by scientific research. To see significant results, you should consider getting a professional scar treatment.
Professional Scar Tissue Treatments
Your doctor may recommend any of the following professional treatments to eliminate your scar tissue:
Cryotherapy is known to be an effective treatment for managing scar tissue. It works by delivering nitrogen vapor to the scar, which freezes the tissue from its core. It works on the underlying scar tissue to reduce the appearance of scars.
According to some studies, about 51% of the volume of the scar is reduced after just one cryotherapy treatment. Your doctor may suggest this scar tissue treatment in combination with others.
This form of treatment is often used after the removal of scar tissue to prevent another keloid from forming.
Radiotherapy involves using low-level radiation to minimize the growth of collagen and cells in the area. But your doctor must surgically get rid of the scar tissue before using this therapy.
3. Laser Therapy
Laser therapy is another method that is often used for external scar tissue treatment. It works by heating the area to reduce scar tissue, pigmentation, and vascularity.
4. Silicone Treatments
Silicone treatments provide a wider variety of scar tissue treatment options that do not have to be in-clinic. They can be creams or gel adhesives.
Topical silicone gel treatments or gel sheets have been used for over 30 years in the treatment of scars. Users claim to have observed a reduction in size, color, and firmness of scars after usage. This treatment requires regular use for a period of time to see results.
5. Pressure Therapy
This form of scar tissue treatment involves applying pressure on the affected area with the help of dressing. It can reduce the blood supply to the tissue, which helps flatten it. Pressure therapy also helps with scar tissue pain.
However, this method can be quite uncomfortable as you may have to wear the dressing for many hours a day over the course of months.
6. Vibration Devices
Vibration therapy can be used as a preventive measure for scar tissue. It may also provide some relief from pain and have a calming effect. The devices involved in this treatment use high-speed vibrations that are claimed to break up scar tissue. Though more research is research to back this up, it has gained decent popularity.
Many prescribe for treating keloids and hypertrophic scarring. Corticosteroids are drugs that are similar to the hormone cortisol. When injected into scar tissue, they help by breaking down the collagen fiber bonds, resulting in reduced scar tissue. They are also used in scar tissue prevention.
Interferon is a more expensive scar treatment. This drug is a signaling protein that can diminish the functioning of collagen, thereby decreasing the size of keloids. Research has found it to reduce scar size by 50% in 9 days (4)!
10. Mitomycin C
This drug is an antitumor agent that has been shown to reduce the chances of keloid recurrence and its size. But research on it is limited, so it is not highly recommended for usage as a scar tissue treatment.
Now, let’s talk about how to deal with the pain caused by scar tissue.
How To Manage Scar Tissue Pain
Dealing with scar tissue pain and its other side effects can be quite exhausting, especially if you cannot get in-clinic treatment right away. Here are some tips for managing it:
- Physiotherapy: Different types of scars may require different forms of physical therapy. This comprises massages and movements that eventually help break down the tissue and improve mobility.
- Pain Relief Creams: You could use topical pain relief gels and ointments to help reduce the scar tissue pain in the muscle. However, this is just a temporary solution.
- Regular Moisturization: Massaging a rich moisturizer into the area may help keep the tissue soft and reduce some discomfort.
- Vibration Devices: As stated earlier, you can try an electronic self-use vibration device to get some relief from scar tissue pain. But, ensure you use the proper techniques to prevent further damage.
Massaging is another way to deal with scar tissues and the pain it causes. Here is what you need to know.
Scar Tissue Massage
Massage therapy can be effective in the management of scar tissue pain. It is to be done at regular intervals over the course of a given time period for positive results.
For the most effective outcome, it is best to use massage therapy in combination with other techniques. Massage therapy varies in its results for scar tissue, but further studies need to be conducted to prove its benefits.
The Take Away
If you have scar tissue, be sure to get professional advice to treat it the right way. There are tons of home remedies and professional treatments that you can use to reduce its appearance and deal with the pain. If you have been dealing with scar tissue pain for a long time, consider getting it removed, as chronic pain can cause various physiological and psychological effects.
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- Skin scarring
- Identifying the Culprit of Surgical Scar Tissue
- The Psychology of Scars: A Mini-Review
- Vitamin E in dermatology
- Emerging Therapies for Scar Prevention
- Intralesional cryotherapy for hypertrophic scars and keloids: a review
- Radiation Therapy In The Treatment Of Keloids
- Advances in the treatment of traumatic scars with laser intense pulsed light radiofrequency and ultrasound
- The Use of Silicone Adhesives for Scar Reduction
- Effect of pressure therapy for treatment of hypertrophic scar
- Vibration Therapy and Its Influence on Health
- Management of Keloids and Hypertrophic Scars
- The treatment of keloids and hypertrophic scars with intralesional bleomycin in skin of color
- Physical Management of Scar Tissue: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis