The Relationship Between Scars and Mobility

Anthony Odney

Wasilla, Alaska, United States

Chiropractic Medicine, Kinesiology, Culinary Arts, Mechanical Engineering


Chances are you probably have a scar somewhere on your body. Anyone can get a scar from just about anything. Perhaps you were goofing around as a child and fell off your bike or maybe you recently took a fall down the stairs and banged yourself up pretty well. Maybe you are an athlete who had a mishap on the field that resulted in an injury that required surgery.


Both new and old scars can affect your movement and mobility in everyday life, during sports, or workouts. Essentially, any form of movement, especially if your scar is located near a joint, can put a strain on your mobility. If you are someone who works out a lot, if you are an athlete, or if you have a job that requires a significant amount of movement, this can become a serious sore point in your life.



In this article, I will discuss how scars can affect mobility, what complications may arise if left untreated, and what the best treatments are if an old scar is causing you pain and improper mobility.


The most important thing to remember is you never have to live through pain or reduced mobility. If you can no longer ride a bike, play soccer, or even reach the top shelf in your kitchen, you can fix it and you can heal.


How Scars Affect Mobility

The human body is a complex structure. Every cell in your body plays a specific role and communicates with other areas of the body, even if they seem unrelated. This means that if you have a scar on your elbow from an old injury, other areas of your body can feel the effects.


You may have neck pain, back pain, and difficulty walking because the other side of your body is compensating for the pain or lack of mobility associated with your elbow. When this happens, movement becomes difficult and your quality of life begins to suffer.


But why is your scar from ten years ago affecting your mobility and movement now? You may have unexplained pain, or you might find your range of motion is off. The answer is both simple and complex in either case.


The most common type of scar that will affect your mobility is keloids. Keloids are raised above your normal healthy skin and spread farther than your injury alone. This means your scar may be bigger than the injury itself was. Keloids most commonly affect your mobility. These scars form due to certain types of cells overproducing during the healing process.


Scars that affect your mobility, the most common of which are keloids


The scar and mobility connection stems from collagen as well. Scar tissue is created when a part of your body gets injured, which affects the normal collagen cells. Scar tissue can form from a knife cut, a surgery incision, or anything else that opens and damages the skin.



Collagen is located everywhere in your body—from tendons to muscles to ligaments. You will also find collagen in your bones and your skin. This is why supplementing with powdered collagen has become all the rage lately. Better skin, stronger bones, and shiner hair draw many people to collagen supplementation.


When your cut or other injury begins to heal, your body will send tons of new collagen cells and other cells to the affected area to form healthy tissue to close up the wound. But the issue lies in the fact the body cannot arrange these new healthy cells perfectly.


Instead of getting perfectly smooth healed skin, you are left with new cells that have bunched and clumped together, hence a scar. These cells lose their flexibility and their structure is altered.


You also have to consider that any form of injury, both inside and outside the body, that results in a scar will affect the way your body functions in that area. Your skin, your muscles, and your fascia go through a physically taxing process and any significant change to the body affects the ways it works and moves.


As the scar tissue builds in the injured area, adhesions form, which are tiny bits of scar tissue that bind to healthy soft tissues. When this happens, the area can become stiff, less strong, and your range of motion is affected.


The scar tissue in the affected location is much less flexible than normal healthy tissue and receives less circulation. Eventually, your muscles in the area shorten, weaken, and you are left with less range of motion.



Battle Your Scars

Unfortunately, you can never completely get rid of a scar or its effects, but there are things you can do to mitigate the effects of the scar. One of the best and easiest ways to improve mobility and scar tissue is to massage your scar.


Although it may sound a little funny, massage techniques on the affected area have a lot of benefits. Massaging the scar and tissue in the area helps with the remodeling process of the skin and tissue. Your wound should be fully healed before this process begins.


The sooner you can safely begin massaging the area with the clearance of a professional, the better for the appearance of the scar and the physical effects as well.


Cross Friction Massage

This massage technique for scars is generally performed by a physical therapist and then also may be performed at home. You will use your fingers to massage in the direction that is perpendicular to your scar.


This type of massage allows the new collagen fibers to align properly so the appearance of the scar looks better. This process will also help loosen up the area and make the scar tissue more flexible, which can lead to better movement and mobility in the location of the scar.


Myofascial Release

This form of massage is used to help with scar tissue and adhesions. Your doctor, physical therapist, or other healthcare professional will use their hands to massage the skin, scar, and tissue under the skin. Massage is typically slow, controlled, and only uses light and comfortable pressure.



This type of scar massage is the most common and perhaps the most helpful for mobility. A professional can feel any tightness and restrictions in the skin and tissue by the scar and work to improve the movement and circulation in the affected area.


Stretching for Scars

Believe it or not, stretching can also help heal scars and scar tissue and help increase mobility. Various stretching and flexibility exercises help to lengthen and stretch the impacted tissue near the scar. If your tissue is elongated and not as tight and rigid, you will have better mobility and less restriction.


The type of stretching your healthcare professional will do depends on the severity of your scar and where it is located on your body. They will likely do a few different types of stretches in the affected area to ensure the tissue stretches and releases well.


It is also probable that your doctor or physical therapist will use a combination of both massage and stretching techniques. The combination of the two is ideal for helping the visual appearance of the scar and making sure the tissue in the area is flexible, has no restrictions, and heals well.


Moving Forward

After an injury or surgery, part of the healing process involves your wounds, cuts, scrapes, and incisions developing scars and scar tissue. It is something that you cannot get around or avoid. This is your body’s way of making sure you get back to normal as quickly as possible and with the least amount of side effects as possible.


With that being said, your body is not perfect and more often than not, a major scar can create issues in the long-run, most notably mobility issues and potentially pain down the road. If you fear this may happen to you in a few years, or if you have found yourself in this position currently, you do have a few options for better recovery.


Scar massage and stretching are two common and effective ways of helping scar tissue release tension and improve flexibility. When the tissue and collagen cells are functioning more like regular skin and tissue, the less pain you will have and the more mobile you will be.


Speaking with a healthcare professional about your specific situation, concerns, and needs will help make sure you are getting the treatment you deserve. If you want to talk to me directly, you can always reach me at Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Wasilla, Alaska.

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