I’m sure most of you have heard of SCAR TISSUE but what is it really and why does it happen?
Scar tissue is a normal and key part of the healing process of an injury. Recognizing a surface a scar is easy – most people have some childhood memories somewhere on a shin/knee/elbow to remind them. What can be tricky to understand is that the tissue you see forming in your skin also happens inside the body in muscles, ligaments, and tendons after a sprain/strain or after any kind of surgery.
So what is the downside of scar tissue? It’s is not as functional as the tissue that it replaces. Normal skeletal muscle is formed of striated muscle tissue that allows for normal contraction and flexibility in the body. Scar tissue, like tendons, is made up of non-contractile material called collagen. Our bodies produce collagen excessively after injury to provide tensile strength to the injury tissue. However, the formation of the scarring can result in messy patchwork in regenerating muscle. It is the messy patchwork that can often cause pain and/or dysfunction.
DO NOT PANIC! It is important to know that all injured tissue will develop scarring to some extent – it is supposed to! This is why we encourage all of our patients to have their injuries assessed, to receive advice in the early stages of injury and to have a proper treatment regimen started right from the get go.
So you’ve got scar tissue, now what? It’s not a permanent complication in the body. After healing of the injury is complete, the scar tissue needs to be remodeled so that it can deal with the stresses of being pulled on throughout each day. This last step is essential to regain normal range of motion and strength in the injured tissue. However, before the remodeling process can begin, the injury site needs to be check by your doctor or Athletic Therapist to ensure that proper healing has taken place and that scar tissue massage is appropriate. Massaging or stressing a scar that is not fully healed can cause further damage and can delay healing significantly. A general rule is that the scar must be fully closed with no scabbing present (if it is a surface scar) or outside the acute stage of healing before scar remodeling can begin.