Scaring from traumatic injury can pose a reminder of unwanted memories. Research suggests scars on the hand & arm are particularly difficult for people to accept, as they can be repeatedly seen throughout the day by the person who suffered them. Reminders of injury and altered appearance can result in negative emotions that limit people to achieve their best. Minimising the appearance and impact of scars is an important role of therapists and surgeons who in the field of burns, plastics & reconstruction.
Therapists employ non-operative techniques which help decrease the size and appearance of scars as they change over time. Discomfort, itchiness and decreased joint movement can also be improved with the right approach at the right time.
Some techniques burns & plastics therapist employ to manage scars include;
Hydrate & mobilise the scar
Frequent application of an oily cream to the scar via firm massage can help minimise the scar height, thickness and itchiness. Scar massage and hydration is required at regular intervals to optimise outcomes. Scar massage helps maintain pliability and movement of the scar around joints or underlying tissues.
Silicon contact media can also help to hydrate the scar, which can result in a flatter, smoother and paler coloured scar. It is believed that applying appropriate silicon products to the scar for a prescribed time frame, can decrease evaporation of moisture through the scar, which in turn may slow down the production of scar within the scar bed.
Some scars can become raised or thickened over time, specifically deeper scars and burns. The application of pressure over the scar in the form of a compression garment can help to flatten a scar as it changes over time. Compression is especially required for hypertrophic, keloid and full thickness burns scars.
Splinting & exercise
Most scars will contract, that is get smaller, over time. This can also result in skin contractures, which can limit movement and function. Splinting and exercises can be used to maintain joint range of movement. Preventing skin contracture due to scarring early is far better than trying to fix the problem once it has occurred.
Therapists work closely with Plastic & Reconstrucitve Surgeons to obtain optimal outcomes for clients. Surgeons employ other techniques to help minimise the appearance and impact of scars, these include injecting corticosteroid into the scar and various operative techniques. Along with sustaining a deep scar can come a emotional and psychological hurt- talking this through with the right professional can help to overcome the trauma. And working together with a hand therapist to help manage the appearance of scars can have a positive impact on outcomes all round!