Massage After Gynecomastia Surgery
Here’s a question we often hear in our New York gynecomastia consultation room and online as well: does massage help with scar tissue after man boob surgery?
Our answer is usually along the lines of “yes, no, maybe.” The topic is actually more complicated than it might seem at first.
Internal Scar Tissue
When guys are concerned about scars, as most of our man boob patients are, the first thing we want them to understand is that the formation process is somewhat unpredictable. Not only does every person heal in his own way, two wounds can mend differently for the same person. Generally speaking, internal scarring tends to begin a few weeks after gynecomastia surgery and peak a few weeks later.
If you read about massage for scar tissue on the web, you’ll find lots of positive articles. Close inspection will show that many are written by massage therapists and companies who market related products such as gels and creams. Our observation, grounded in three decades of specializing in gynecomastia, is that scar tissue does not disappear if it’s massaged. We also find that most of our colleagues don’t believe massage is useful after many cosmetic procedures–you can read this sample Q & A on RealSelf.
But there are ways massage can help:
* Gentle massage can mobilize pockets of fluid so the body can get rid of it. This is helpful in reducing swelling.
* Massage can have a positive effect on tissue that might otherwise become tight over time. Gentle movement may make internal scar tissue looser and more flexible, thereby helping prevent “tethering.”
The majority of our New York gynecomastia patients undergo procedures that leave barely noticeable superficial scars. Those with more dramatic cases of man boobs may require larger incisions, and questions about post-operative scars usually come up in these cases.
There have been surprisingly few studies done on massaging and scars. One source of information is a literature review published a few years ago in the journal Dermatologic Surgery. Researchers examined ten publications that included 144 cases of patients who had received scar massage. The scientists concluded that there’s little evidence that massage has a beneficial effect.
The Livestrong website suggests one reason to go ahead and massage external scars: if you rub lightly with a cream or oil, you can prevent the scar from drying out and perhaps cracking.
If You Want to Massage
We don’t advise guys not to massage after gynecomastia surgery. It may help in some ways, and it can’t hurt if you follow directions. We give our patients these guidelines:
- * Wait until six to eight weeks after surgery before starting massage. Prior to that, it may actually cause swelling.
* Raise one arm above your head. Using the opposite hand’s three middle fingers, gently press around the chest, feeling areas that are soft and areas that are firm. Apply some skin cream to serve as a lubricant (it needn’t be expensive cream). Then gently press down with the three middle fingers on the firm parts of the chest and move the fingers in a circular motion. Increase the pressure but not to the point of pain.
* Do this for about five minutes twice a day on each side, and be patient.
The Crux of the Matter
The body heals from trauma with scars both internally and externally. The tissue can be bumpy (and even appear cross hatched) because the body knits wounds back together so the tissue will hold. This is a good thing, but it can cause guys who have been obsessed with their man boobs to panic. â€œFeel this!” we are sometimes told, as a patient presses a hand to his chest. Some worry that breast gland has returned. Some believe their chest should feel uniformly soft, smooth and scar-free after surgery, even though instruments have been inside.
After healing, there can be some firmer scar tissue under the skin (scar tissue, not new breast gland), but it doesn’t impact the overall appearance, which is the real goal. We suggest our patients avoid the â€œfeel test” and appreciate the fine contours that were achieved. There is just no way to perform surgery without leaving scars. If a few firm areas remain under the skin, only intimate partners may be able to detect them. In any case, no one will care.
We don’t want to give you the notion that we’re not enthusiastic about massage in general. Massage therapy can be beneficial for many,even those who suffer post surgical pain. A study performed on veterans a decade ago confirms it.
If you’re seeking man boob surgery, the very best advice we can give about scars and every other aspect of the procedure is to listen to your plastic surgeon. Know when and how to massage, and when to refrain. And if you are concerned about scars as you heal, ask questions. If you should end up with more scarring than most, your doctor may be able to minimize it through injections or minor scar revision.
We would be happy to hear from you about this or any other topic related to gynecomastia and male breast reduction. Give us a call at 212-570-6080.