Unlocking the Power of Massage Therapy for Scars

massaging a tummy scar from a c-section operationScarring is a common concern for many people, whether it’s from an injury or surgery. These marks on our skin can often be a source of self-consciousness and physical discomfort as well. Whilst there are various scar treatments available, one method that has shown promising results is massage therapy. Yes, you read that right – massage therapy can help improve the appearance of scars and help a wound repair tissue better as well. In this article, we explore the power of massage therapy for scarring and how it can be a beneficial scar treatment option. We first look for evidence that massage works. Then we investigate how it can improve the look of scar tissues. Next, we detail how it can improve the way your scar feels when you touch it. After this, we look at how painful and itching scars can be helped.

The Science Behind Massage Therapy as Scar Treatment

Picture of a man giving a thumbs upScars are a natural part of the healing process for us all. However, they can be a reminder of a painful trauma from the past day in and day out. If there was evidence that massage treatment can help improve scar appearance and promote better tissue healing, wouldn’t you give it a try? I know I would. That’s where the scientific evidence behind massage scar therapy comes in.

To start with our well-respected NHS (2023) says massage of scar tissues can be a helpful part of their management. Also, according to Patel B PhD (2023) and many other scientific studies, it can improve how burn scars look. Additionally, Wang H. PhD et al (2022) also say it improved pruritus (itchiness) and relieved some of the anxiety due to the issue. Lastly, according to Garncarczyk A et al (2023) massage and some other manual therapies are viable affordable treatments for other types of healed wounds. It can be very helpful for thick raised scars (hypertrophic) and scaring that has become bigger than the wound was (keloid scars). So, experienced professionals like we have here in York providing you with a good scar massage is feasible and can be effective for many different types of scar patients.

Massage Can Improve the Look of Scars Your Well-being & Self Esteem

Before and after 8 week of scar massage
Post operation elbow scar before and after 8 weeks of massage.

You might be surprised to hear all this but, let’s face it the above is good evidence that treatment of damaged tissues with regular scar massage can be a powerful solution for you. It can also help your wellbeing and self-esteem by diminishing their psychological impact. This can happen by improving the way your scars look.

One of the main ways massage therapy can improve the appearance of scars is by increasing blood flow to the area. By gently manipulating the scar tissue, massage stimulates blood flow via heat from stroke friction. Also, if you can imagine cells are all in a liquid. We are on average 60% water according to Kubala, J MS, RD et al (2020). So, massage can loosen cells in the area of concern allowing more free movement of them in the tissue. Massage strokes also encourage the removal of deoxygenated used blood. This in turn means accelerated delivery of new blood full of vital healing nutrients and oxygen to the site. This increased blood flow and cell movement can help to break down old scar tissue and promote the growth of new, healthier, better-looking skin cells. This means the underlying scar tissues can become refreshed as well as the surface of the skin. If it looks better to you this can make you happier, and more self-confident increasing your well-being and self-esteem. It’s an all-round win really.

Improvement of Scar Feel Flexibility & Pliability

In addition to all the possible benefits above, massage can also help to improve the flexibility and pliability of scar tissue. When scars form, the overexpression of collagen fibres in the skin can become somewhat disorganised. They are definitely required to heal the wound as best the body can. However, the excess collagen fibres, fibroblasts and new small blood vessels all of which make up scar tissues according to Chapelle S (2016) can lead to unsightly, discoloured, tight, inflexible and oversized keloid scars. Through its soothing, gentle, repetitive motions, massage therapy can help to align the collagen fibres and break up adhesions, where tissue is holding onto other tissue unnecessarily. This can result in a scar that is more supple and flexible. So, not only can it end up looking better but, massage can help what your scar feels like too as an added bonus.

Relief from Itching and Painful Healed Wounds

massage can offer you itchy scar reliefIn addition to the evidence that massage therapy can improve the physical appearance of scars, it can also provide good relief from common symptoms such as itching and pain. The gentle pressure applied during massage can stimulate nerve endings and disrupt the signals that cause itching and discomfort. More specifically Patel B. PhD et al (2023) tell us gentle, soothing effleurage strokes and medium-pressure petrissage strokes (e.g. kneading and wringing) in longer sessions helped with scar pain as well as how it looked afterwards. But, all types of massage improved how itchy scars were. So, in essence massage can bring much-needed relief to individuals who have been suffering from the ongoing effects of their scars. Let’s face it, life would be much improved if your itching and pain were reduced.

Limitations of Massaging Scars and Other Treatment Options

We are an ethical practice and like to be honest with you. So, we want to inform you about limitations as well as what can be done. It is important to note that massage therapy does not magically remove scars or completely eliminate their appearance. It can help with pain and how they look to an extent but, it is not a cure for scarring. In the 21st century scar removal is questionable or at least in its infancy thus, if anyone tells you they are offering treatment to remove scars, be wary. Having said this, when massage is used regularly or even as part of a multifaceted and comprehensive scar treatment plan, it can significantly improve the overall healing, itching, pain and the appearance of scars.


Chapelle S (2016) UNDERSTANDING AND APPROACH TO TREATMENT OF SCARS AND ADHESIONS [online] available form https://www.squamishintegratedhealth.com/wp-content/uploads/Evidence-Based-Scars-Adhesions.pdf last access 10/11/2023

Kubala, J MS, RD et al (2020) What is the average percentage of water in the human body? [online] available from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-percentage-of-the-human-body-is-water last access 14/11/2023

Patel B. PhD et al (2023) Efficacy of Massage Techniques for Hypertrophic Burn Scars – A Systematic Review of Literature [online] available from https://academic.oup.com/jbcr/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/jbcr/irad140/7270579?login=false last access 12/11/2023

Wang H. PhD et al (2022) Effects of scar massage on burn scars: A systematic review and meta-analysis [online] available from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jocn.16420 last access 21/11/2023

NHS (2023) Scar management Scar massage … [online] available from  https://www.southtees.nhs.uk/resources/scar-management/ last access 17/11/2023

Wikipedia (2023) Scar [online] available from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scar last access 23/22/2023

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