Scar tissue. What is it? What does it do? Why is it bad?
Scar care can be just as involved and important as making sure your injured tissue heals. After an injury, the body goes through a 3 phase healing process – 1) Inflammatory phase, 2) Proliferative phase, 3) Maturation phase. During the inflammatory phase, the body sends immune system cells that contribute to the swelling process. During the proliferative phase, cell regeneration of injured tissue begins – this includes the creation of scar tissue! Scar tissue is comprised of protein called collagen, which is a strong fiber that acts like glue to healing tissue. Scar management techniques become imperative during the maturation phase, when those collagen fibers begin forming linkages between each other, scar tissue can become very stubborn – or adhesive. In addition to the naturally occurring process of scar tissue formation, other factors play a role in scar tissue formation – like genetics, swelling, degree of trauma, etc.
What is the purpose of scar tissue?
As mentioned, scar tissue acts like glue to healing tissue! Its purpose is to reinforce tissues that were injured. Scar tissue forms at the site of injury, even without surgery. Scar tissue also forms at an incision after surgery, so the skin that was cut is also reinforced and protected from further injury.
Types of scarring
• Hypertrophic scars are characterized by raised, thick deposits of scar tissue along an incision. These scars are your typical “stubborn” scar that can be extra sensitive or have altered sensation.
• Keloid scars are similar to hypertrophic scars in the sense that they are large, problematic presentations of scar tissue. The key distinguishing factor of a keloid scar is that he extends beyond the boundary of the initial laceration/abrasion that caused the scar tissue to begin to form.
• Normal scars stay true to their original size and shape. They have limited elasticity and different sensation at first, but are less problematic throughout the rehab process.
Yah, ok that’s cool... but what does this mean?
At AHT, our gain is the function of your upper extremity, including your scar! Some scar care approaches include scar pads, taping, massage/mobilization, and more! Don’t forget to talk to your provider about the best option for you!