BURN SCARS AND MASSAGE THERAPY

As a burn survivor, and knowing other burn survivors, I’ve found that we have different experiences with certain things than other people due to our burn injury. One of these include massage therapy.

I was lucky enough to get my classmate and fellow PR major Amy Tuckett , who is also a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT), to answer a couple questions about how it’s like to massage someone with burn scars.

The lovely Amy. Photo taken by Terry Proveda

bwamy

Here’s our Q and A:

1. Can you tell me a little about your massaging career i.e. how long have you been massaging, what’re your credentials etc.

I’ve been a massage therapist since March 2005. I’m currently a member of the Massage Therapy Association of Manitoba and have worked at both Intrinsic Massage Therapy and Healthview Therapy Centre, which is a multi-disciplinary clinic that has everything from Chiropractic Treatments to Physiotherapy.

2. Can you tell me about your experience with massaging a burned person

In my Advance Treatments class at the Massage Therapy College of Manitoba, I learned treatments for burns and scars. After all the acute healing has passed, I’m able to work on scars, whether they are from burns or otherwise. Depending on the severity, it may not be realistic for the scar to completely disappear, though we do have several goals of treatment:

  •  To breakdown the collagen fibers, which are often laid down in an unorganized and random manner. Massage therapy uses techniques which try and realign the fibers, which can also provide increased elasticity (collagen fibers are not flexible).
  • To breakdown adhesions of underlying tissue. Often tissues can surrounding the scar become adhesed and/spasmed and the immobility can result in increased pain. As RMT’s often have advanced palpation skills, we can feel the adhesions and break down the adhesions below and around the surface of the burn.
  • To reduce redness and elevation of the scars. The optimal goal is for a scar to be light coloured, flexible and flat. Scars can also have some residual edema (swelling) as well as itching. Both of these things can be helped with a massage treatment.

3. Is it much different than massaging normal skin? What’s different and what kind of things do you have to consider?

Working on scar tissue is MUCH different than working on normal skin, and it is important to go to a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) who has working knowledge of treating scars. As I mentioned before, there’s less flexibility and it’s important that the scar is healed enough to be worked on, so that no tearing occurs.

I’ve worked on several different types of scars throughout my career as a RMT. I’ve worked on small incision scars from surgeries, to burns and other issues. One of the most rewarding and life-altering experiences from my career came from working with someone who had a case of Necrotizing Fascitis on their torso. A large portion of his torso (over 60%) had skin grafts, and he was extremely lucky to have made it out alive. Prior to his treatment, I’d never worked on such a big area – and it was amazing to see what a body can handle and still make it through. He had a great attitude, and spoke extremely highly of the quick medical interventions it took to save his life.
He wasn’t  from Winnipeg, but had lots of massages prior to seeing to me that dealt specifically with scar rehabilitation. His scars had quite a bit of flexibility and were healing well – he credited it to massage therapy.
I’ve worked on some burns, largely older ones, which can be harder to affect change – though change can still happen. If you are a survivor and your burns are over 2 years old, I really recommend seeing a Massage Therapist to see how they can help. It often takes multiple treatments, and best used in coordination with other healthcare practitioners.

A special thank you again to Amy for all this useful information!

2 thoughts on “BURN SCARS AND MASSAGE THERAPY

  1. I found this really helpful. I have a two year old who has scars of second n third degree burns from boiling water. Rite now the outcome of scaring is an appearance of(bubble like)swelling n itching. I have been debating on whether or not to go on ahead with skin surgery. I will consider massage therapy to the health nurse and hope she can get her in for the therapy somewhere.

    • Happy to hear that this article helped you. The RMT is a personal friend and classmate of mine. I’m not sure if you’ve read my story, but I was burned the same way as your child. I was lucky enough that after my first hospital stay I didn’t have to have any further treatments aside from check ups. The biggest side effects I found were that my sweat glands were damaged causing me to sweat in different areas (my hands and feet) and getting sun burns on my burns because the skin was more sensitive. Where abouts are you from? I can forward you some more burn support resources if you’d like 🙂

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