Dry Needling vs. Scar Tissue Adhesions
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Improving Scar Tissue Mobility with Dry Needling
Have you ever had a surgery or a significant trauma that left you with a scar? Did you have the opportunity to have effective scar mobilization during your recovery time? Or were you left with a deep scar that feels tight and stuck to the tissues beneath it? If so, it’s not too late to make improvements in the mobility of your scar and free up those restrictions.
Scar formation is a necessary phase in the wound healing process. Our body needs to be able to lay down scar tissue in order to properly heal. Unfortunately, our body is not always efficient in how it goes about this. Mobilization of the scar tissue throughout the healing process can help the body to lay down this tissue in a more organized manner without adhering to the tissues surrounding it. Scar formation that is left unmanaged can become excessively stiff and restrictive, limiting movement and sometimes even causing pain. Fortunately, physical therapy offers various tools to address these issues, and one promising technique is dry needling. This intervention, performed by a qualified physical therapist, involves inserting thin needles into specific tissues to stimulate muscle relaxation and improve tissue quality.
Research increasingly suggests that dry needling can effectively address scar tissue mobility limitations. Here’s how it works:
Mechanisms of Action:
- Mechanical disruption: The needle breaks up adhesions and fibrous bands within the scar, promoting tissue realignment and increased flexibility.
- Neurological modulation: Dry needling stimulates the release of pain-reducing chemicals and inhibits pain signals, easing discomfort.
- Stimulation of blood flow: The needles trigger a controlled inflammatory response, encouraging blood flow to the area and promoting tissue remodeling and improved healing.
- Improved collagen organization: Dry needling may influence collagen production and alignment, leading to a more organized and less restrictive scar tissue.
A study published in the Medical Journal of the Islamic Republic of Iran examined the effectiveness of dry needling in the management of scar tissue mobility and pain following total hip replacement surgery. In this case study, the examiners found that providing dry needling twice per week for six weeks, targeting the scar and surrounding muscles, showed a significant improvement in hip range of motion, along with reduced pain intensity. So in this case, freeing up the scar tissue allowed for improved overall joint function after surgery.
Another study from the Journal of the British Medical Acupuncture Society also examined the effects of dry needling on scar tissue management. The authors discovered functional improvements with strategic needle placement allowing for the breaking up of adhesions, improving blood flow, and stimulating collagen remodeling. These are all vital steps in the production of a healthy scar. If a scar has already formed, it’s going to need some sort of external force to break apart the poorly formed tissue to allow for the remodeling of something better.
And finally, a systematic review of multiple randomized control trials published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine examined the effects of dry needling on myofascial pain syndrome specifically addressing restricted tissue mobility. The study compared dry needling with a sham procedure and found that dry needling significantly improved range of motion and pain intensity in the treated areas. These results suggest that not only can dry needling be an effective tool for addressing pain and mobility limitations related to trigger points, but it can also have an impact on tissue mobility to include scar tissue management.
So have you been struggling with an uncomfortable scar that causes you movement limitations or pain? It’s not too late to make a change! Dry needling, when performed by a qualified physical therapist, presents a promising approach for improving scar tissue mobility and reducing discomfort. This along with treatments like frequency specific microcurrent can make significant changes in your scarring and overall tissue mobility long after the wound has healed. Do you think this could be a good fit for you? Give us a call and we can discuss your options. We look forward to hearing from you!
Bahramian M, Dabbaghipour N, Aria A, Sajadi Moghadam Fard Tehrani B, Dommerholt J. Efficacy of dry needling in treating scars following total hip arthroplasty: A case report. Med J Islam Repub Iran. 2022 Dec 20;36:156. doi: 10.47176/mjiri.36.156. PMID: 36660004; PMCID: PMC9845656.
Espejo-Antúnez L, Tejeda JF, Albornoz-Cabello M, Rodríguez-Mansilla J, de la Cruz-Torres B, Ribeiro F, Silva AG. Dry needling in the management of myofascial trigger points: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Complement Ther Med. 2017 Aug;33:46-57. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2017.06.003. Epub 2017 Jun 15. PMID: 28735825.
Rozenfeld E, Sapoznikov Sebakhutu E, Krieger Y, Kalichman L. Dry needling for scar treatment. Acupunct Med. 2020 Dec;38(6):435-439. doi: 10.1177/0964528420912255. Epub 2020 Mar 30. PMID: 32228036.