How to Combat Scar Tissue
We often find scar tissue is a major contributor to the chronic conditions we treat at Midwest Pain Solutions. There are several ways in which patients develop chronic scar tissue: major accidents, major surgeries, and joint replacement therapies. The common cause of them all was damage done to the body that required repair and rehab. And while scar tissue is your body’s way of healing a damaged area, it often leaves lingering, chronic pain long after the initial trauma. This blog post offers insight into how you can combat the impact of that pain on your life.
Scar Tissue Basics
Scar tissue starts to form 24-48 hours after an injury and will mature into its full version in about one year. When a body heals with scar tissue, the damaged area will have less mobility and function. Take a look, if you can, at a scar on your own skin. You’ll find it doesn’t stretch as well as the skin around it, lacks hair and sweat glands, and is slightly discolored. It does, however, meet the primary requirement of skin by keeping the outside environment out of your body while keeping all of your insides in.
Scar tissue can cause major issues around joints, including reducing range of motion. The scar tissue binds the joint so it cannot move as well as it did prior to the injury. A telltale sign of early scar tissue formation is when the area tightens overnight, leaving a patient feeling stiff in the morning. Another major problem with scar tissue, which is less talked about, is that it has more C-type nerve fibers that carry pain signals to the brain. That certainly sounds less than ideal, but there’s an evolutionary explanation. Let’s consider a hypothetical example:
A patient has a major injury which takes a year to fully heal. The tissue is now less mobile and doesn’t function nearly as well as the previous healthy tissue. The body needs to monitor areas of major injury, so more nerve endings grow in scar tissue to better sound the alarm if there is trouble (more pain). Ten times the amount of pain receptors are found in scar tissue versus regular tissue.
I tell my patients to visualize two Christmas trees, one strung with 10 lights and the other wrapped in 100 lights. The light coming from the second tree will be stronger and more intense. Likewise is the pain perceived by the brain coming from scar tissue.
Pain is the body’s ultimate red flag, its final warning sign to chart a different course from whatever stimuli the body is experiencing. Pain teaches us what our body can and cannot do, sometimes through trial and error. In summary, scar tissue is less flexible, less functional, and more susceptible to increased feelings of pain in the injured area.
Learn more about how scar tissue forms in ligaments here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3949797/
Learn more about how scar tissue forms in muscles here:
Learn more about how scar tissue forms in tendons here:
Why not just cut out the scar tissue?
There are two main problems with this line of thought.
1) Scar tissue on the body is connected to healthy tissue, so removing it would cause further damage to normal, healthy tissue.
2) The body created the scar tissue to help heal an injury, so its response when scar tissue is removed is to just lay down more scar tissue in the affected area.
How can I avoid an overabundance of scar tissue?
The answer is diet, exercise, and living in a bubble where you can’t be injured by yourself or the outside world. The first two preventative measures are attainable, while the third one is not. This means at some point in our life, we will be injured and our body will form scar tissue. So, after the injury, accident, or surgery, the best way to help the affected area is proper rehab. That means not pushing it so much that you aggravate the injury, but still working hard to get as close to “normal” again as you can.
Proper rehab does not end when you are sent home from the PT, OT, or chiropractor. The real work happens when you are in charge of continuing the recovery. You must keep exercising and stretching the joint or area the way you were shown. The idea is to isolate the joint or area struggling with scar tissue and keep working it. If you encounter any problems completing rehab at home, you should contact your PT, OT or chiropractor for suggestions.
Finding the Root Cause of Scar Tissue Pain
Part of our mission statement is to work on the root cause of pain, so we encourage you to avoid injections, medication, or any other band-aids that won’t stop the pain from coming back. Only hard work can make you feel better, move better, and live a more enjoyable life. Put in the hard work and your body will respond. The good news is that Midwest Pain Solutions is ready to help make that hard work a little easier to accomplish.
Combat Scar Tissue with High-Intensity Laser Therapy
At Midwest Pain Solutions, we provide High-Intensity Laser Therapy that softens existing scar tissue and reduces the formation of new scar tissue following damage to the body. High-Intensity Laser Therapy can soften scar tissue, allowing me (Dr. Jackson) to work to lengthen the fibers and increase a patient’s movement and mobility. These lasers are unique to our clinic and have the highest designation of power for a therapeutic laser.
The process of forming scar tissue is a marvel of the body’s resilience and ability to survive. At Midwest Pain Solutions, we firmly believe you can thrive, not just survive, with scar tissue and its associated pain. Contact us for more details about creating a tailored treatment plan and how our High-Intensity Laser Therapy will shrink your scar tissue’s impact on your life.