Post surgical scar tissue is a soft tissue injury that results after a surgical intervention has been performed. For clarification the term soft tissue refers to all structures in the body that are not bone, for purposes of this article it refers to muscle, fascia, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and skin. Scar tissue in general can be loosely compared to a spider web. It’s a spider web that binds the structures it comes into contact with. This is important because for proper movement and strength our soft tissues need to be able to move both together and independently of one another. When scar tissue has formed the movement of soft tissue becomes lessened, this will often create more problems and potentially lead to future injuries.

Scar tissue is on a microscopic level more fibrous than normal tissue. What does that mean? Fibrous tissues do not bend, stretch or contract as efficiently as non-injured tissues. Think of healthy tissue like a rubber band, it has the ability to stretch and then return to its normal resting state. In contrast scar tissue is more like a rope, when pulled it does not give, nor does it have the ability to contract. Fibrous tissue is however more prone to tearing and re-injury. Sports medicine science has shown us that previous injury is a great predictor to future injury. The occurrence of re-injury is due in part to the fibrous changes that have occurred in the tissue and the adaptation to movement that occurred due to the injury. A description of how movement affects us can be viewed under the tab Functional Movement Screen.

It should also be noted that surgery is not the only way to obtain scar tissue. Acute injury such as a motor vehicle accident or some other traumatic event can cause scar tissue. Chronic injury such as carpel tunnel or rotator cuff injuries all have some level of fibrous change and scar tissue development. The fibrous changes to tissue can even result from bad ergonomics.

Scar tissue forms after all surgical interventions, it is the bodies’ way of reconnecting areas that have been separated. Some of the most common post-surgical scars we treat are;

  • Cesarean scars from a “C-section”, these scars affect core strength and stability problems. The core is responsible for stabilizing the spine and allowing the limbs to move properly. As such core instability can affect the spine (low back pain) and the limbs such as the hips and shoulders.
  • Scar tissue from breast augmentation, this is very common. This usually manifests as shoulder pain, upper back and neck pain
  • Orthopedic surgery such as hip, knee or ankle, shoulder, elbow or wrist surgery
  • Back or neck surgery
  • Mastectomies

So what can be done about scar tissue, and post-surgical scar tissue? A comprehensive exam will show what structures are affected and are in need of treatment. Treatment is aimed at manually breaking down the scar tissue, making the tissue more resilient, returning blood flow and proper nerve communication. After this has been accomplished treatment should be aimed at strengthening the muscles, and either stabilizing the un-stable structures or working on mobility (flexibility) in areas that lack mobility.


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