Unlocking Healing Potential: The Transformative Role of Massage Therapy in Scar Tissue Recovery

chording integrative cancer treatments lymphatic massage mastectomy massage oncology massage scar tissue Jul 14, 2023

Scar Tissue is a Natural Part of the Body

Scar tissue is a natural part of the body's healing process, but when left unaddressed, it can cause discomfort and limited mobility. As massage therapists, we have the unique opportunity to unlock the healing potential within scar tissue, providing our clients with relief and a pathway to improved well-being. In this article, we explore the transformative role of massage therapy in scar tissue recovery and its profound impact on the lives of individuals seeking healing.


The Complexity of Scar Tissue

Scar tissue development involves a complex interplay of cellular processes and the restructuring of collagen fibers. It can arise from various sources, including surgical incisions, injuries, or medical conditions. Left unattended, scar tissue may become dense, restrictive, and prone to complications such as becoming hypertrophic or carrying pathological levels of avascular adhesions. 


Understanding the Power of Touch

Massage therapy harnesses the power of touch, creating an environment conducive to scar tissue healing. The skilled hands of a massage therapist can soften and stretch the scar tissue, reduce adhesions for more flexibility in the scar, improving blood circulation to nourish the new tissue, and promote lymphatic flow for a clean environment. Our therapeutic touch helps to remodel scar tissue, leading to improved mobility, reduced pain and restriction.

When patients receive their scar due to potentially life-threatening illnesses such as breast cancer, it can carry a high level or trauma.  This can create disassociation from the body in whole or in part, as the person attempts to mentally distance themselves from what they see as the source of their problems.  A skilled massage therapist can help their patient reconnect with their body and come to terms with their new shape, helping to overcome altered body image, through the application of healthy, non-judgemental and healing-focused touch. 


Evidence-Informed Approaches

As massage therapists, it is crucial to incorporate evidence-informed approaches into our scar tissue treatments. Research studies have highlighted the effectiveness of massage therapy in scar tissue recovery:

  1. Study: "Myofascial Massage for Chronic Pain and Decreased Upper Extremity Mobility After Breast Cancer Surgery" (Massingill et al., 2018)

    • This study demonstrated that massage therapy techniques, such as skin glide, frictions, fascial arm pull and j-stroke, can significantly improve scar tissue mobility and overall shoulder mobility following breast cancer surgery.
  2. Study: "Dynamic Angular Petrissage as Treatment for Axillary Web Syndrome Occurring after Surgery for Breast Cancer: a Case Report" (Lewis et al., 2016)

    • The findings of this case study report indicated that dynamic angular petrissage can have a positive effect on a specific type of scarring that can happen after breast cancer surgery, called Axillary Web Syndrome, or Chording for short.  While case studies carry very small sample sizes, it does show promise that massage therapy can improve pain and restriction levels in this condition.
  3. Study: "Mastectomy, body image and therapeutic massage: a qualitative study of women's experience" (Bredin, M., 1999)
    • While this study is old, it is still relevant in observing the profound chance that can come through mindful therapeutic touch in helping to overcome altered body image after breast cancer surgery.


Mindful and Individualized Approach

Each scar is unique, requiring a mindful and individualized approach to treatment. By carefully assessing the characteristics of the scar, including its location, texture, and sensitivity, massage therapists can tailor their techniques to address specific needs. By working closely with clients, we can understand their goals, provide support, and empower them throughout their scar tissue recovery journey. This is an essential component of human-centric care. 


Collaboration with Healthcare Professionals

Effective scar tissue recovery often involves collaboration with other healthcare professionals, including surgeons and physical therapists. By working as an integrated team, we can provide comprehensive care, combining massage therapy with other modalities to optimize healing outcomes.


Empowering Individuals for Life Beyond Scars

Our role as massage therapists extends beyond the physical realm. Scar tissue can have significant emotional and psychological impacts on individuals. By providing a safe space for open communication and empathy, we can support our clients holistically, helping them embrace their scars as part of their unique stories and empowering them to regain confidence and live life to the fullest.


Massage Therapy's Potential in Scar Tissue Recovery

Massage therapy holds immense potential in scar tissue recovery, offering a holistic and transformative approach to healing. By combining evidence-based techniques, a mindful approach, and collaborative care, we can guide our clients towards renewed mobility, reduced pain, and enhanced well-being. Let us continue to explore, innovate, and advocate for the transformative power of massage therapy in scar tissue recovery, empowering individuals to embrace life beyond scars.

Remember, as thought leaders in our field, we have the opportunity to educate, inspire, and promote the value of massage therapy in scar tissue recovery. Together, we can make a lasting impact on the lives of those seeking healing and transform the way scar tissue is understood and treated.



Bredin M. Mastectomy, body image and therapeutic massage: a qualitative study of women's experience. J Adv Nurs. 1999 May;29(5):1113-20. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.1999.00989.x. PMID: 10320494.

Lewis, P., Cunningham, J., Dynamic Angular Petrissage as Treatment for Axillary Web Syndrome Occurring After Surgery for Breast Cancer; A Case Report. InternatIonal Journal of therapeutIc Massage and Bodywork—Volume 9, number 2, June 2016. 

Massingill J, Jorgensen C, Dolata J, Sehgal AR. Myofascial Massage for Chronic Pain and Decreased Upper Extremity Mobility After Breast Cancer Surgery. Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. 2018 Aug 5;11(3):4-9. PMID: 30108667; PMCID: PMC6087660.

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