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How to Manage a Scar

23rd March 2017
By Lin Wegener

Scar tissue forms after injury or surgery and is similar to our body’s ‘glue’. This process is an interaction of important cellular events that promotes healing of structures and restores the strength of the injured skin. Scar tissue may involve only the superficial skin or it may involve deeper tissues, such as tendons and nerves.

An active scar is normally red, raised and firm; however, this often reduces in size and colour over the three months following injury or surgery. After this, the scar continues to ‘remodel’ and become softer and more natural in colour.

Why do I need to manage my scar?

Excessive scarring can have significant consequences, such as stiffness, scar contractures, tenderness, itchiness, sensitivity, unpleasant appearances, reduced function and pain. Therefore, proper scar management is vital and better outcomes are achieved if this is started early. Even though you cannot completely get rid of your scar, you can take steps to minimise the amount of scar tissue present.

What are some scar treatments?

Currently, there is a wide variety of different scar management measures which will vary depending on the type of injury or surgery. Therefore, it is important to discuss any treatments with your therapist.  

Some general scar treatments can include:

  • Scar massage to decrease sensitivity and reduce adhesions to deeper structures.
  • Controlled exercises (when appropriate) to prevent stiffness and keep certain structures moving.
  • Silicone gel to assist with a smooth scar and reduce the tension of the scar tissue.
  • Compression (by bandages or garments) to flatten and smooth the scar tissue.
  • Splinting or casting (when appropriate) to improve scar-related contractures.
  • Protecting your scar when going out in the sun as this can discolour the scar and potentially slow down the healing process.
  • Injections or surgery for complex scar cases.

Some scars can take over a year to become completely mature. It is important to remember that early changes in your scar tissue do not have to be permanent. Learning the correct methods to remodel scar tissue can help reduce pain, improve movement and restore full function of your hand.

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