How to Massage Scar Tissue to Break it Down


Massaging your scars holds significant importance as it helps maintain the suppleness of the tissue surrounding the incision, preventing it from adhering to the tissue beneath. It is crucial to wait until your skin has fully healed before beginning scar massage, as your skin will be considered healed when the scar’s edges are well-closed with no gaps and without any drainage. You can perform massages for breast, chest, and armpit scars at this stage.

So, if you’re seeking medical assistance to help you learn how to massage scar tissue to promote its breakdown effectively, you’ve come to the right place. Massaging newly formed scar tissue is crucial because, after surgery or injury, untreated scar tissue can become lumpy and aesthetically undesirable. This occurs due to the clumping of collagen cells, necessitating massage or acoustic wave therapy to return their natural structure.

This process is necessary to ensure that collagen cells are appropriately aligned, maintaining their strength and integrity. Additionally, massaging your scar helps prevent the scar tissue from sticking to the tissue underneath.

By understanding and implementing proper scar massage techniques, you can promote healthier, smoother, and more natural-looking healing of your scars.

What Exactly is a Scar Tissue?

Collagen, a protein present in muscles, bones, and various tissues, plays a significant role in scar tissue formation. When you experience an injury, your body deposits collagen, eventually transforming into normal, healthy tissue.

Under normal, healthy conditions, collagen aligns to strengthen your tissues. However, collagen cells formed in response to an injury do not align in an organized manner; instead, they arrange randomly. This haphazard layering results in the accumulation of scar tissue.

Scar tissue can develop in almost any part of the body. Here are some examples of how scar tissue might appear:

  • After surgery, scar tissue will form at the site of the surgical incision. In cases where muscles and tendons were cut or repaired, scar tissue will grow in those areas.
  • In the event of muscle injuries: like a hamstring tear or rotator cuff tear, scar tissue will develop within the muscle as part of the healing.
  • Following a fracture: a bony scar tissue known as a callus will form on the bone to aid in healing the fracture site.

In summary, scar tissue is the body’s natural mechanism for healing injured tissues. As time progresses, the scar tissue undergoes remodeling and functions similarly to your regular healthy tissue.

When Can Scar Tissue Be Safely Massaged?

Although massaging can aid in remodeling scar tissue, it is crucial to do so only when the scar has matured. Massaging a scar before it is healed can disrupt the healing process and may even reopen it, making it susceptible to bacteria and infection.

A mature scar is normally fully closed, shows no scabbing, and is not red or inflamed. When in doubt, it is best to consult your doctor or a qualified medical professional to assess if your scar is ready for massaging. Prioritizing proper healing and seeking expert guidance ensures safe and effective scar management.

What are the Advantages of Scar Tissue Massage

In general, treating scar tissue offers numerous benefits, including:

  • Enhanced mobility and elasticity of the scarred area
  • Improvement in the scar’s appearance
  • Restoration of feeling and sensation in the affected region
  • Reduction of numbness and tingling sensations
  • Relief from pain
  • Restoration of normal function

It is necessary to address scar tissue damage promptly to experience these advantages. Delaying treatment may result in excessive scar tissue buildup and limited flexibility in the scar. Swift action, such as utilizing wave therapy, is crucial for effective scar tissue management.

Is Scar Tissue A Permanent Condition?

Scar tissue is not a permanent feature within the body. Once it forms and heals, the scar undergoes a process called remodeling.

Remodeling is a standard and vital aspect of the healing journey. During this phase, the body reconstructs the scar tissue, making it stronger and more akin to the tissue that existed before the injury. This adaptation is crucial to enable the new tissue to withstand the stresses and forces commonly encountered in daily activities.

It also plays an important role in restoring your injured tissue to its normal range of motion, strength, and mobility. Proper remodeling is vital because when scar tissue doesn’t undergo correct remodeling, it may result in mobility loss and joint contractures, where the fibers shorten and tighten, making movement difficult.

What Is The Duration Of The Remodeling Process?

The timeline for the remodeling process varies for each individual, as healing rates differ from person to person. Generally, it takes about six to eight weeks for the injured tissue to undergo complete remodeling. However, it’s important to remember to move slowly and allow your body time to heal properly.

Strategies for Managing Scar Tissue

If you have developed scar tissue following an injury or surgery, your physical therapist (PT) might conduct scar massages on the affected area to aid in the remodeling process. Additionally, they may provide instructions to either you or a family member on correctly performing scar tissue massage.

Consult with the Doctor

Before getting a scar tissue massage, check with your health care provider or physical therapist to ensure that your scar has healed appropriately. Massaging a scar that has not fully healed can harm the developing scar tissue and potentially delay the healing process.

Moreover, massaging an unhealed scar may open it up, creating a pathway for bacteria to enter, which may lead to infections. Avoiding this scenario to promote proper healing and prevent potential complications is important.

Lubrication Techniques

Physical therapists (PTs) normally use a small amount of lubrication like baby oil, lotion, or vitamin E oil during scar massages. The application of lubrication helps keep the scar and surrounding skin flexible and soft during the scar tissue massage.

However, it’s essential to avoid using lubricants if you have open sores or incisions, as this could increase the risk of infection. Prioritize your wounds’ safety and proper healing by refraining from using lubrication in such cases.

Cross Friction Massage Technique

An effective scar massage method is known as cross-friction or transverse friction massage. This technique entails using one or two fingers to massage along the scar line.

Cross-friction massage serves to remodel the scar and align the collagen fibers properly.

Physical therapists commonly utilize this technique to help remodel the following conditions:

  1. Tendonitis
  2. Muscle strains
  3. Ligament sprains

The massage is usually performed for five to 10 minutes, and if advised by your therapist, you may be able to perform scar tissue massage on yourself two to three times per day.

Myofascial Release Technique

Myofascial release (MFR) is employed to address scar tissue and any accompanying adhesions. This technique involves gently massaging the skin and underlying tissues around the scar using the hands.

The motions are slow, and the force applied is typically light. During the process, your physical therapist (PT) will identify tissue restrictions, known as fascia, in different directions. They will then work on enhancing to improve movement in those restricted directions to promote healing and flexibility.

Instrument-Assisted Scar Tissue Massage Technique

In the realm of physical therapy, a modern approach known as instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) has emerged. This technique utilizes specially designed stainless steel instruments of different shapes and sizes to massage and mobilize tissues. 

Your physical therapist may employ IASTM by gently rubbing the scar tissue with these instruments to help “break up” the tissue. However, current research has yet to provide substantial evidence for the effectiveness of IASTM.

Stretching and Flexibility Exercises

Another common approach to aid in the remodeling of scar tissue involves stretching and flexibility exercises. Stretching helps to elongate the injured tissues and enhance their overall mobility to turn to normal.

If you’ve experienced an injury or undergone surgery, your physical therapist will likely include scar massage and stretching exercises in your rehabilitation program.

Stretching the scar tissue can be a crucial aspect of your recovery process. Most physical therapists agree that prolonged, low-load stretching (slow, moderate stretching held for an extended duration) is essential to remodel scar tissue and promote optimal healing fully.

Managing Scars Following a Fracture

The scar tissue forming in the bone following a fracture is called a callus. It typically remains present four to 12 weeks after the fracture.

During physical therapy sessions after a bone fracture, your therapist may perform massages on the surrounding tissue near the callus. This technique aids in restoring normal mobility. If you underwent surgery to repair the broken bone, scar massage over the incision site may also help.

In addition to scar massage, another effective way to enhance callus formation in the bone is by engaging in weight-bearing exercises. The bone responds to the stress during these exercises by growing and strengthening.

Moreover, your physical therapist will select suitable exercises to enhance bone strength after a fracture. It is crucial to collaborate with your health care provider and physical therapist to ascertain that your fracture has sufficiently healed before initiating weight-bearing exercises.

Is There Scientific Evidence Supporting The Effectiveness Of Scar Tissue Massage?

While more research is required, some evidence suggests that massages may offer moderate-to-strong pain relief for burn scars. A 2020 meta-analysis investigated the role of massage in managing physical scar tissue. The study specifically examined its impact on pain, pigmentation, pliability (elasticity of the scar), pruritus (itchiness), surface area, and scar thickness.

One study included in the meta-analysis found that massage could significantly improve the pliability of burn scars. Furthermore, the meta-analysis concluded that massage therapy might moderately affect pruritus.

Regarding scar thickness, two studies in the meta-analysis indicated that massage could help reduce it, while two other studies did not observe such a benefit. The authors noted that differences in the findings might be attributed to the length of the massage treatment (30 minutes versus 5).


How long does it take for scar tissue to heal and remodel after surgery or injury?

The time it takes for scar tissue to alleviate and remodel after surgery or injury can vary depending on various factors, including the type of injury, individual relieving capacity, and the scar’s location. Generally, it may take several weeks to months for the scar tissue to mature and undergo significant remodeling. Following proper scar management techniques and consult with healthcare professionals for personalized guidance throughout the relieving process is essential.

Is scar tissue massage safe, and when can I start massaging my scar?

Scar tissue massage can be safe and beneficial when done correctly and appropriately in the relieving process. However, it’s best to ensure the scar has fully matured and is relieved before starting scar massage.

Can physical therapy help with scar management and improving scar appearance?

Yes, physical therapy can play a significant role in scar management and improving scar appearance. Physical therapists are trained to use various techniques, such as scar massage, stretching exercises, and specialized modalities, to promote scar tissue remodeling and enhance scar flexibility and mobility.

Are there any specific exercises to enhance scar tissue flexibility and mobility?

Yes, specific exercises can help enhance scar tissue flexibility and mobility. These exercises are designed to gently stretch and mobilize the scar tissue, promoting better relieving and reducing the risk of adhesions and stiffness. Some common exercises include:

  • Scar Massage
  • Stretching
  • Range of Motion Exercises
  • Myofascial Release
  • Weight-Bearing Exercises 

What are the potential complications or risks associated with scar tissue buildup?

Scar tissue buildup, a normal part of the relieving process, can sometimes lead to certain complications and risks. Some potential issues towards excessive scar tissue formation include:

  • Limited Mobility
  • Pain and Discomfort
  • Adhesions 
  • Contractures 
  • Cosmetically Undesirable
  • Impaired Function
  • Nerve Compression


Scar tissue massage is a rehabilitative approach that involves pulling and stretching to remodel scar tissue. This type of massage helps restore mobility and strength in the damaged tissue.

Physical therapists (PTs) employ various techniques during scar massage to achieve the desired outcomes. Moreover, they may provide browser instructions on how to perform these exercises independently at home. 

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