How Does Scar Tissue Cause Pain?

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Scar Tissue wound careFor some people, scar tissue causes pain. So, what is scar tissue? Scar tissue is the thick, fibrous tissue that replaces damaged tissue after injury. At one time, that skin & tissue was normal and healthy. Damage can occur for a variety of reasons, including deep cuts and  surgery. Scar tissue is natural and grows during the wound healing process. 

Scar tissue isn’t always painful. For some people, it will never be painful. But, for some, scar tissue eventually begins to hurt. In the early stages you likely won’t be bothered by scar tissue at all. But because scar tissue affects the nerves, it may eventually become painful as the nerve endings regenerate. How you’re affected by scar tissue depends on a few things, including the severity of the injury, your tolerance to pain, and the location of the initial wound. If you’re curious about whether the pain you’re feeling is from scar tissue, read further. 

What are the Symptoms of Scar Tissue Pain? 

While scar tissue can sometimes be painless, many times it isn’t. Scar tissue pain often comes with other signs and symptoms, which we’ll outline below. But first, you should make sure that what you’re dealing with is scar tissue. A great indicator of scar tissue is that the skin and tissue is thicker in texture compared to the rest of your body. 

Scar Tissue Pain Symptoms 

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Inflammation 
  • Itchiness at the sight
  • Sensitivity (sensitive when touched) 
  • Throbbing 
  • Creakiness (a creaky sound or sensation when moved) 
  • Reduction in range of motion 

What Causes Scar Tissue? 

Scar tissue can form for a variety of reasons, including internal wounds, surgeries, or underlying diseases. As a result, you may feel pain and stiffness at the scar tissue site and in the surrounding joints. Often knee scar tissue is painful, as is scar tissue of the spine and scar tissue that was formed due to facial surgery or a hysterectomy

Most Painful Scar Tissue Sites

  • The Knee
  • The Face (after plastic surgery) 
  • Site of an internal surgery (for example, hysterectomy) 

Does Scar Tissue Pain Happen Right Away? 

Scar Tissue wound care ocNo. It doesn’t. In some cases, scar tissue pain isn’t noticeable in the beginning. In fact, for some people, scar tissue pain may come on years later. The reason is, sometimes the nerves associated with scar tissue pain don’t form until years later – often after the initial injury heals. Scar tissue pain may also be delayed in the case of a severe burn or a significantly deep wound. That’s because deep wounds and burns can affect the underlying bones and joints – often years after the initial injury. This leads to subsequent pain at the site of the scar tissue. 

Internal Damage

In the case of internal damage, pain may develop because the scar tissue is taking the place of healthy tissue. Such is the case of lung and liver disease. As the condition gets worse, pain may develop because of a lack of functioning of those body parts. 

Here’s an example: for patients with lung disease, the scar tissue forms in the lungs develops due to pulmonary fibrosis. Patients with this diagnosis may experience a painful cough and shortness of breath, as well as achy joints, and fatigue. In the case of liver disease, fibrosis or cirrhosis of the liver may not be painful at first. Yet, soon scar tissue begins to  accumulate, causing jaundice, fluid retention, and bruising of the skin.

Treatment for scar tissue pain

There are a few ways to treat scar tissue pain, which we’ll outline below. 

Surgery to Revise or Remove the Scar Tissue

Skin revision and removal surgeries may help with scar tissue pain. Excisions and skin grafting may be viable options for those who have pain and significant aesthetic concerns. This route is especially good for those with third degree burns, severe wounds, and severe injuries. The downside of corrective surgery is additional scarring and keloid scars. For this reason your doctor or plastic surgeon will determine if the new scar is more or less significant than your existing scar.

The downside to corrective surgery is that the process could lead to additional scarring and even keloid scars. Therefore, your plastic surgeon will determine whether the new scar would be more or less significant than the existing scar tissue. If your doctor determines that the corrective surgery will help, you may find a great deal of relief from revision or removal. 

If the scar tissue was formed as the result of a recent surgery, it’s best to wait about a year before considering revision surgery. That’s because the initial scar tissue might actually go away on its own. 

Dermatologic procedures

If scar tissue is caused by burns, cuts, and/or severe acne, the patient may find some relief from dermabrasion or laser therapy. It could take multiple sessions to work. A downside to dermatologic procedures is that for a time the scar tissue is actually more noticeable. Also, the area will swell and likely cause pain. 

Topical solutions

Scar Tissue wound care orange countyTopical serums, specifically those that contain the antioxidant vitamin C, may work wonders for healing scar tissue. But, the truth is, topical solutions might not work for very invasive scar tissue. Serums work best for minor scarring. So, if the scar tissue is significant, the patient may require a more aggressive treatment. For those seeking over-the-counter relief, an antihistamine cream may work, especially if the scar is new and itchy.

Injections and injectables

Corticosteroid injections may decrease the pain and inflammation caused by scar tissue. Steroid injections are another route. They work best for keloids (also called hypertrophic scarring). This type of scarring happens on the surface of the skin. Botox injections are another method for getting rid of scar tissue pain. Keep in mind, Botox will not take away scarring. Botox works by relaxing the muscles and therefore getting rid of pain and discomfort. 


One great way to get rid of scar tissue pain is with massage. It can do wonders for reducing scar tissue pain. Your massage therapist will use deep tissue techniques and myofascial release to help reduce inflammation and also encourage movement. 

The Graston technique

The Graston Technique is a joint treatment that helps improve your range of motion. The technique uses stainless-steel instruments to break up the scar tissue. This technique works best when scar tissue is getting in the way of joint mobility. 

Visit Wound Care OC for all of your Wound Care needs 

Contact Wound Care OC for wound treatment in Orange County, CA

Dr. Faried Banimahd is a board-certified physician specializing in emergency medicine, wound care, and pain management. Our team will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan that meets your needs and unique conditions. Our clinic includes highly trained and experienced physicians, registered nurses, and certified medical staff who work together to provide you with the highest standards of wound care treatments.

To make an appointment

1533 E 4th St,

Santa Ana, CA 92701

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