3 Soft Tissue Therapies For Scar Tissue

Posted on: 27 July 2022


Some people with soft tissue injuries may be frustrated by a lengthy recovery period or a decrease in their muscle functionality. The Journal of Sports Medicine says that this decrease in functionality—especially in the case of severe injuries—is often due to the formation of fibrous scar tissue. Scar tissue can impair your range of motion and cause stiffness and/or pain. If you have scar tissue that is impacting your healing times, here are three soft tissue healing therapies to consider.

Active Release Technique (ART) Therapy

ART is somewhat similar to massage therapy in that a therapist will use their hands to manipulate soft tissues. During ART, however, the patient or the therapist will actively flex and extend different muscle groups during manual therapy. This active motion improves circulation and helps to break down scar tissue. ART can help people with:

  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Tennis elbow
  • Shin splints
  • Carpal tunnel
  • Neck pain
  • Back pain

One study found that ART was helpful for people with neck pain as it improved range of motion and the pressure pain threshold score.

Graston and Astym Therapy

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there is a therapy called Gua sha, which is where a therapist uses a tool, such as a smooth stone, to scrape the skin. Gua sha improves circulation and helps to break down scar tissue. Many therapists have taken the gua sha concept and applied it to different physical therapy techniques, such as the Graston technique and the Astym technique.

Therapists that follow Graston and Astym protocols use plastic and/or metal tools to rub down soft tissues instead of their hands. If you have deeper areas of scar tissue that can't be resolved by manual therapy, then these types of tools can be beneficial since the therapist can apply deeper pressure. These tools also come in a variety of shapes, which can help therapists pinpoint difficult-to-reach muscle groups, like the iliopsoas. Lastly, these tools help stimulate new cell growth in soft tissues and help the body resorb scar tissue.

Dry Needling

Dry needling is a therapy where practitioners use thin needles to break up scar tissue and reduce inflammation in trigger points. Trigger points are tight muscle fibers that can form from soft tissue trauma, muscle imbalances, and repetitive motions.

Some people may confuse dry needling with acupuncture treatments. While dry needling looks like acupuncture, Healthline points out some distinct differences. For example, acupuncture is rooted in TCM and is meant to improve energy flow in the body; dry needling's main focus is on correcting overly tight muscles with scar tissue. If your soft tissue injury has caused muscle spasms, then dry needling may be a good option. Some people's soft tissue injuries may cause extreme sensitivity to touch, so dry needling may be a better option for these patients instead of ART or Graston/Astym therapy.