Have a Scar? Here's Why You Want To Rub It
Updated: Jan 27, 2020
There's one simple task I instruct patients to do when they've had a surgery and there remains a scar: rub it. That's right-- rubbing the scar offers multiple benefits, and this is something that my patients are often never told to do.
If any of you have ever had a scar, ranging from a relatively small cut to a long incision following surgery, you know that scars can be painful or at minimum have abnormal sensation. It often can also be tight or have irregular texture. Mobilizing a scar (that's a fancy way of saying "getting it moving") is a common practice we providers do in the PT clinic for our patients, and it's something I educate my patients how to do themselves Day-One.
Rubbing your scar once it has fully healed offers many benefits. Here I've offered my top three reasons to rub your scar.
Rubbing your scar.....
1. Helps gets scar tissue moving normally again- By loosening scar tissue it simply will move better instead of staying tight and restricted, a concept referred to as "tethering".
2. Reduces pain and improves normal sensation- Touch begins to give input to your nerves, and the more you touch it, the more the signals from the nerves to your interpretive brain will say "touch is normal" (as opposed to "touch is painful/prickly/weird").
3. Improves appearance- It will smooth any lumps of excessive scar tissue by breaking up scar tissue and improving blood flow.
Rule #1: Make sure your scar is fully closed and healed! Don't yet rub it if you still have sutures or scabbing present.
Pressure should be rather moderate to maximum. You need to be able to tolerate it, of course, but give more pressure than just lightly touching the superficial aspect of the skin. Get in there! If the scar truly is healed and you provide deep pressure as you rub, you will mobilize even the deepest layers of the scar tissue in order to be thorough and reap the most benefit.
Do this for a few minutes throughout the day. The more frequently you do it, the quicker your scar will begin to normalize. Do this until you no longer have impaired sensation or texture. (It may take just a few days to weeks.)
Rub in all directions: circles, diagonals, pressing the scar together toward the midline, longitudinally. All are great. I just advise people to not start from the middle and pull apart (for obvious reasons!).
Take a look at this article by the British Skin Foundation that has evidence supporting this practice of scar mobilization.
So I know this isn't the most glamorous topic, and it may not be something you've ever thought of before. But I assure you, for those who have scars it can be a game-changer. Do you have a scar? Give this a shot, and let me know how it works for you!