Scar Management

Scarring caused by injury, disease, burns, skin grafting, and surgery—called hypertrophic scarring—can result in pain, disability, and impairment—especially if the scar is over a joint. Scar management is an occupational therapy treatment that can improve, minimize, and even prevent hypertrophic scar tissue.

Scar management can decrease functional impairment, increase patient strength and independence, improve the appearance and texture of scars, and prevent the spread of scar tissue. Occupational therapists use a variety of treatments for scar management, including compression, massage, and desensitization techniques.

Scar management treatment is lengthy; typically, patients receive scar management treatment for 12-18 months—or until the scars have matured. For recent injuries, burns, or surgeries, once the wound has healed enough to begin treatment, an occupational therapist will assess the scar and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

For example, burn treatment typically starts with light scar massage—progressively becoming more aggressive over the course of treatment—and may also include protective splints. Desensitization—to reduce pain and discomfort—and the application of compression—using scar pads that minimize the development of scar tissue—are used in conjunction with massage to provide comprehensive treatment.

For pregnant women who plan to have a caesarean during delivery—or who have already had one—occupational therapists can create scar management programs to improve existing caesarean scars or prevent cesarean scarring, which tends to be itchy, thick, and raised, and likely to spread.