How Physical Therapy Can Help Scar Tissue

Published by Shauna Burchett, OTR/L on

The body is a closed system, safely sealed from the outside world.  The openings of the body are highly protected areas that have many failsafe features to keep what comes in and out of the body well regulated.  This ensures that the systems inside our body can function effectively without any major insults.

If the body is forced open at any other location (i.e. surgery or injury), the body will produce scar tissue in an attempt to support the damaged area and begin repair.  This scar tissue will be created very quickly in an attempt to reseal the skin’s barrier and keep the exposed area from opening further. Its purpose is two-fold: to protect through immobilization, so as not to allow for further injury of the inflicted area; and to expedite healing by quickly generating an effective and necessary closure of the wound.

As the body normally replaces cells in our tissues,  new connective tissue will be laid down in a fairly organized fashion.  Scar tissue, however, will be created as fast as possible.  The body needs to complete this job quickly to maintain its seamless barrier against infection from the outside world.  To effectively immobilize the area the scar tissue will adhere to as much of the body’s tissue as possible to ensure a strong and lasting support.  The scar tissue has no regard for what it adheres to, be it an artery, nerve, ligament or organ.  It simply needs a place to anchor its support.  This haphazard attempt at correction creates tension and stress on areas of the body that the individual parts were not meant to handle. If scar tissue wraps around an artery or nerve significant tensile forces might be directed through these structures creating increased pain or detrimental restrictions in blood flow.

In this regard, scar tissue is like an iceberg.  You can only see the surface of the scar.  Deep to the external scar can be a vast reaching web of strong connective tissue that grabs on to anything it can.  These connections can limit range of motion in a lot of different ways.  Many people recover well after surgery and need no further intervention; however, some people have a tendency toward dramatic scarring with significant post-surgical problems.   In this case, there are two main ways to address these problems.

One technique is further surgery to cut out the scar tissue formation, but this may activate the body’s natural reaction to formulate more scar tissue.  Another technique is to manually release scar tissue using mild and progressive self-applied techniques.  These techniques can be taught to a patient and can then be done by them at home.  They are part of a home stretching/exercise program that can be taught in the treatment room and then re-addressed in following visits.  Scar tissue release techniques are relatively easy to learn, once you get the feel for it.  If you are having issues following a surgery, all of our therapists know how to treat this issue. Don’t be left with unexplainable pain or limitations after medical intervention. Come see us and find out if there is more that you can do to improve your health.

Synergy Healthcare offers physical therapy, and occupational therapy  in Spokane Valley, WA. Our highly trained therapists are ready to get you back on track fast! We try to prepare helpful articles that can help enrich your life. Have a question you want answered? Email us at or call at 509-413-1630 for more information. Comment below or give us a shout-out on Facebook– we love to hear whats on your mind!

Shauna Burchett, OTR/L

Shauna Burchett, OTR/L is a skilled occupational therapist and the owner of Synergy Healthcare. She graduated from the University of Alberta in 1993 with a degree in Occupational Therapy. Shauna began her career as an occupational therapist specializing in traumatic head injuries. She has also worked in skilled nursing facilities specializing in long and short term geriatric rehabilitation. Shauna has been in private practice since 1998.