How To Break Up Scar Tissue

Dr. John demonstrating cross friction massage by applying moderate pressure and moving in a perpendicular motion.

At some point in our lives we all deal with some form of scar tissue.  Even if you haven’t had surgery, scar tissue forms naturally when the body repairs itself.  Adhesions, which are a form of scar tissue, are fibrous bands that bind tissues together. Breaking up these both of these formations is crucial for aesthetic and functional reasons.  Today we will take you through some of our favorite ways of how to break up scar tissue and reduce pain and friction in your body.

Scar Tissue vs. Adhesions

While scar tissue and adhesions are related, they are distinct formations with different characteristics.  Scar tissue is the result of the body’s natural healing process after an injury or surgery. When the skin or underlying tissues are damaged, the body produces collagen fibers to repair the area. These fibers form a dense, inelastic mass that is typically localized to the area of the initial injury or incision.  

Adhesions on the other hand are fibrous bands or strands that form between tissues or organs that are not normally connected. They can develop after surgery, inflammation, or injury, as the body attempts to repair itself.  We see this happen a lot within the muscle fibers and connective tissue even after a hard workout!  Unlike scar tissue, which is localized, adhesions can form between different structures or organs, causing them to stick together abnormally. This can lead to restricted movement, pain, and other complications, depending on the location and severity of the adhesions.

Lightly using 1 finger in a circular motion to break up scar tissue on the inside of the right wrist

Why Break Up Scar Tissue and Adhesions?

  1. Improve Appearance: Scar tissue can cause unsightly lumps, discoloration, and uneven textures. Breaking it up can make it look better.


  1. Restore Elasticity: Scar tissue is less flexible than healthy tissue. Breaking it up can improve range of motion and reduce stiffness.


  1. Reduce/Eliminate Pain: Scar tissue and adhesions can cause pain, stiffness, and restricted movement. Breaking them up can alleviate discomfort allowing for more free movement.

Techniques for Breaking Up Scar Tissue

Scar Massage

Applying gentle pressure in circular, parallel, or perpendicular motions to the scar can help break it up and improve circulation.  This breaks up external scar tissue.

Lightly using 1 finger in a circular motion to break up scar tissue on the inside of the right wrist

Cross Friction Massage

Dr. John demonstrating cross friction massage by applying moderate pressure and moving in a perpendicular motion.

This technique involves applying deep, perpendicular strokes across the scar tissue to break up adhesions and promote healing.  This is a more deep form of external scar tissue massage.

Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (Graston)

Using specialized tools, this method breaks up scar tissue and adhesions through scraping the muscle and connective tissue.  This technique can be done superficially or with more pressure to get deeper. 

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We are taking a curved metal tool and using it to scrape the forearm. The metal tool is being held at an angle, not directly pushing into the skin

Myofascial Release

Gently pulling the skin of the bicep in different directions helps to feel tightness in the muscle fibers and connective tissue as a method of how to break up scar tissue

This technique involves applying sustained pressure to the muscle and fascia (connective tissue) to release adhesions and restore mobility.

Active Release Technique (ART)

ART combines active movements with manual therapy to break up scar tissue and adhesions in specific muscles and tissues.

Dynamically moving from the elbow, we are using the active release technique to break up scar tissue and adhesions in the muscle of the bicep. We are pressing deep into the muscle while moving the arm at the elbow

Muscle Flossing

Using a band wrapped around the upper thigh and hamstring, we are moving the knee to dynamically floss the hamstring muscle to break up adhesions and scar tissue

This self-massage technique uses a band or floss to compress the muscles.  You then dynamically move the muscle breaking up scar tissue and adhesions.

Watch This How To Break Up Scar Tissue Video:

All of these techniques are wonderful but it’s so important that they’re not your only method of mobilization.  Breaking up the scar tissue isn’t enough by itself!  You need to OWN your new range of motion by also lengthening the muscle by stretching and strengthening the muscle with exercises.  Remember, consistency and patience are key for optimal results.

Not everyone should be attempting this on their own.  If you’re fresh out of surgery or need more detailed assistance, reach out to a trusted doctor near you.  Sometimes it’s just too painful to do on your own and you need the help of a physician to guide you in what you should and shouldn’t be doing.

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