Scars are Tatoos with Better Stories
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
“Scars are tatoos with better stories.”
I’ve always been intrigued by tattoos- the stories behind them, the incredible individuals that sport them.
While working as a Nurse Epidemiologist, I served on a task force for our State’s Board of Health. Our charge, to help educate tattoo and piercing studios statewide about clean practices- from minimizing the spread of blood borne pathogens to keeping their studios clean.
I loved this community project- we blanketed the state, presenting to group after group of artists how to keep squeaky clean without sacrificing their craft. I got to peek “behind the curtain” literally and figuratively at so many parlors, I had a ball!
A few years later I saw a quote… “Scars are Tattoos with Better Stories.” I’m sure we can debate that- I’ve heard some pretty amazing tattoo stories, but I love the quote- it made me feel kind of rough and tough, I’ve got some pretty cool scars, a huge appreciation for tattoos, and a whole lot of stories to go along…
The photograph I chose to highlight with this post is one of my knees scars- on day ten post-operative and at five years post-operative. The day ten photo I had originally posted on my personal Facebook page, with much enthusiasm and excitement. That was the day I was having my staples removed! Yahoo! My surgeon closed my knees with many internal sutures and external staples. As you can see in that picture, it’s not pretty. I remember my brother telling me sometime later, after viewing that picture, he didn’t ever think I’d ever wear a skirt or shorts again- he was shocked at how big and “bad” the wounds were! I’ll admit, I was very self-conscious in the early days AFTER I was discharged from rehab… (at rehab they were my badge of honor!) I did try to keep them covered up- and I still do to a degree, but this is me! I do wear short dresses, and let my legs hang out from time to time, THIS IS ME, and those scars tell my story.
Back to those staples… They pinched and pulled when I moved- but they held tight. Once they were removed, steri-strips, which look like pieces of sticky tissue, were applied over the wound. They stayed in place until they fell off on their own. Meticulous, watertight wound closure by your orthopedic surgeon is of utmost importance for optimal wound healing. Every surgeon has their own style of procedure, some may or may not use staples, but in the end the result will be somewhat the same; a wound that is shut tight.
Staples are out! What now? It’s a little more comfortable to move, that’s good! But the natural healing process, without a doubt will start to cause some itchiness. Do not pick, resist the urge to itch, do not submerse your wound in water. Follow your surgeon’s directions to the letter. If you are home, you will likely be seeing him or her for a follow-up to ensure the wound is healing appropriately. If you are at a rehabilitation facility, the staff will check you wound every shift.
After two to three weeks, when the soft tissue has completely knit together and the steri-strips are falling off, you will likely get the green light to begin scar care. This is the point where I began something called “Scar Massage.” I did it on my own, my physical therapists also did it for me. I still do it occasionally- at this point my scar tissue is almost like my regular skin in feeling, just not in look. I attribute that to massage! In addition to massage, keeping the area moisturized is key (using a good quality oil to massage will aide this). It’s important to start scar care early- old scars do not respond to care, attacking a newly healing, newly forming scar is the way to go. The goals are to promote collagen (the main protein in your skin) rebuilding, increase blood flow, provide flexibility,and decrease itching. I found this also helped decrease swelling as well (likely a function of increased blood and lymph flow to the area).
Scar Massage ABC’s
***Check with your Medical Practitioner and Physical Therapist prior to starting!
A- Use the pads of your fingers to slowly massage in circles, vertical and horizontal lines, in all directions over the length of the scar and the tissue surrounding it.
B- Apply only as much pressure as is comfortable. The goal is not pain here, but relief. You want to apply only enough pressure to make the scar area lighten in color slightly.
C- Massage the area two to three times daily, initially. As time goes on, you’ll do it less and less.
Sunscreen on your scar for at least the first year is also incredibly important!
Remember, no matter how old YOU are, this is newly forming, baby skin! It reacts a bit differently in the sun.
Shield it with a high SPF lotion whenever your scar will be exposed to sunshine.