Stitches Feel Like They’re Pulling (Normal Healing Or Red Flag?)

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Your stitches can give you a pulling sensation due to the formation of scar tissue, which is a far less serious problem than having your stitches ripped apart. Scar tissue can be dealt with by engaging in various massages and applying silicone gel. In rare instances, your stitches can pull apart in situations medically known as wound dehiscence and evisceration. You can take care of your stitches by strictly following your surgeon’s orders, refraining from strenuous activities, and applying petroleum jelly. Red flags of infection can flare up through symptoms of fever, swelling, and bleeding.

Stitches, also known as surgical sutures in medical language, become essential after an injury or surgery to hold our body tissue together. This is usually done by using a needle with an attached thread.

Unlike simple cloth stitching, surgical stitching is rather complex to carry out and can leave you feeling uncertain about its strength to hold your skin together. The paranoia itself can make it seem as if your stitches are loosening. It’s a valid excuse that needs further exploring to understand what to expect after getting stitches.

Is it normal to feel like your stitches are pulling apart?

After getting stitches, especially for the first time, you may feel paranoid from time to time since you feel its presence at times.

After about 10 weeks, you might even feel a pulling sensation around your stitches as if it’s trying to open back up. This is absolutely nothing to worry about since the time that has passed makes it highly unlikely to break open.

So, what exactly does this pulling sensation signify? By this time, your incision should be healed. The pulling feeling that you’re experiencing right now is the shifting or tearing of the scar tissue.

Scar tissue refers to the collection of cells and collagen that start producing on top of the injury or incision. This is a natural feeling and not something that you should be concerned about unless you notice pain or excessive redness around the area of your incision.

By the time you reach 5 to 6 weeks of getting your stitches, your body will have produced scar tissue, and it will be prone to slightly tearing. It’s completely okay to wait until your next appointment to consult your surgeon regarding this matter.

What can you do about your scar tissue?

If the pulling sensation that you’re feeling is indeed scar tissue, while it isn’t threatening in any way, it can still be quite annoying as it hinders your mobility.

Thankfully, we can control the consequences that come with scar tissue to minimize its side effects, as presented in the table below.

Techniques to relax scar tissueHow to perform it
Scar massageVitamin E oil would be perfect for this. Apply it on the area, apply pressure with your thumb, and massage in a circular motion.
Skin rollingStart pinching your skin from one end to the other end of your scar. Afterward, roll your fingers back and forth on your skin.
Silicone scar padSilicone gel is very effective in minimizing the texture and redness of scar tissue. These are available in drug stores. Research conducted by the US National Library of Medicine proves the healing effects that silicone gel has on scar tissue.
Active activitiesMoving any joint in the vicinity of your scar from time to time will help in reducing scar adhesion.
Retraction activitiesKeep your thumb at the corner of your scar and while adding pressure, bend your body to either side.

Can your stitches pop back open and how?

If you’ve spent quite a while with your stitches, it’s less likely that it’ll pop back open.

However, on rare occasions, if you’ve just had your surgery, there is a possibility that your stitches can open. This occurs in 2 particular instances.

  1. Surgical wound dehiscence – If one of your stitches comes loose post-surgery and leaves even a minor gap along the sides of your incision, there’s a chance that this opening could let bacteria into your wound. It’s crucial to notify your surgeon in such instances as your wound could get easily infected in such situations.
  2. Post-surgery evisceration – If your incision starts to open up completely, you’ll need immediate medical assistance. This is undoubtedly a serious matter since this means that your internal organs are trying to push out from the opening. This is more common on incisions done around your abdominal area, as intestines try to come out through your abdominal cavity.

How do you take care of your stitches to stop them from pulling?

Care and precaution need to be taken as instructed by your doctor to you after your surgery. Generally, certain steps are a must to ensure that your stitches remain strong and stay in place.

  1. You’ll need to keep your incision area bandaged for at least a day. During this time, you mustn’t allow it to get wet in any way.
  2. After you’re advised to take your bandage off you can wash your wound with water twice a day. Make sure you stay away from alcohol and hydrogen peroxide for cleaning purposes since it can slow down the entire process of healing.
  3. Petroleum jelly like Vaseline for instance can be applied to your wound for comfort.
  4. After applying such ointments, it’s best to cover your wound with a nonstick bandage.
  5. It’s also safe to avoid any urge that you get to scratch since being rough with your incision can cause it to pull apart.
  6. You should take some time to recover and stay away from sports requiring physical contact for a while.

What are the red flags when it comes to stitches?

When it comes to stitches, any sign of infection could be a red flag. The signs to watch out for include:

  • Worsening of pain
  • A red line on your skin traveling upward from your wound
  • Redness
  • Warmth around the wound that worsens
  • Swelling
  • A foul smell emitting from the wound
  • Fever
  • Pus
  • Bleeding

If you experience any of the above, there’s a possibility of bacterial infection.

A 2019 study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine also states the need to consider adherence properties of stitches since stitches may carry certain bacteria as well, which can be the source of infection.

Certain aspects can also weigh in on the chance of your stitches getting infected. If the wound hasn’t been cleaned well before stitching, if sanitary precautions have not been followed, if the surgery exceeded 2 hours, if you’re obese and have a weak immune system, your wound may be more prone to infection.


In a study conducted among 400 patients who have undergone stitches, only a 5% infection rate was reported.

So, while it’s safe to say that infection isn’t a common occurrence, it’s always best to take the safe road and take preventive measures to make sure you avoid pulling out your stitches and risk an infection. By following proper guidelines, you can ensure a faster recovery and a more comfortable recovery in the long run.

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Kavisha Rodrigo
I'm a sports person that enjoys researching into pushing the limitations of the human body. When it comes to health, I'm a big fan of working out and staying healthy. For hobbies, I'm a big fan of Pokemon and Coldplay.

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