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Achey Scars

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"It is the old wound, my king! It has never healed."
Sir Lancelot, Excalibur

Scar tissue is assorted connective tissue the body produces in an attempt to close up an injury. While sturdy, it tends to lose the original tissue function, including touch and feel. In real life, pain in scars is usually caused by sensitivity in the skin around the scar rather than in it.

In fiction, this tissue has an interesting ability to ache or throb when someone's old nemesis comes by, especially if the injury was caused by said villain. (Such significant injuries are of course also permanent.) Achey Scars can also refer to scars that were acquired a lifetime ago that still make the bearer gasp or cry out when touched by either a love interest or a particularly perverse Big Bad. Often times this is meant as hyperbole; in such instances, it isn't the scar that hurts per se but the memory or feelings associated, with scars being symbolic, analogy, or both. If such happens without a scar being mentioned though, it becomes Your Worst Memory.

See also I'm Having Soul Pains and Wound That Will Not Heal. Compare Spider-Sense, which can convey equally ambiguous warnings but does not manifest in a scar.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • AIR: Yukito was born with a scar that suddenly relives the time that his past life received the same scar, causing Yukito to collapse to the floor. Justified since his past life was the victim of a curse for being too close to Kanna, resulting in the wound not healing properly. Yukito began to suffer it because was likewise getting too close to Kanna's own reincarnation of that time period, Misuzu.
  • In Ai Yori Aoshi, Kaoru's scars (the result of years of child abuse at the hands of his grandfather) have a tendency to ache whenever he's reminded of his family (whether during flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety attacks, etc.). It's a major point in the plot's resolution when they finally stop hurting. Also, they tend to hurt less when in presence of his girlfriend Aoi.
  • The Brands of Sacrifice act as this for Guts and Casca of Berserk when demons draw near, doubling as Wounds That Will Not Heal as well.
  • In Bleach, chapter 523 reveals that Unohana and Kenpachi have scars that ache whenever they are near each other since each is responsible for the other's scar.
  • Buso Renkin: It's not mentioned until the epilogue but when Tokiko finally explains the origins of the scar across her nose she mentions that it's still sensitive enough to detect air patterns and that, when Kazuki touches it, she feels a calming sensation.
  • Superintendent Matsumoto from Case Closed says that the massive scar he has on his left eye has started to hurt a LOT through the investigation of a case involving a Serial Killer who both murdered his best friend and partner and caused said scar 20 years ago. Later, he explains that said scar stopped hurting towards the end of the investigation, which he sees as a sign that it's time to move on.
  • Cain in Count Cain has whip scars across his back, inflicted by his father, which ache whenever his father's evil organisation is doing something bad, i.e., near constantly.
  • Eureka gains a lot of scars in Eureka Seven after a certain episode, which stick around for most of the series.
  • Getter Robo has Hayato Jin, whose scars are normally invisible but suddenly flare up all over his body when tense.
  • Hajime no Ippo: Eiji Date has a scar on his nose bridge, which hurts sometimes when it's cold or he's tense. He got it in his match with Ricardo Martinez, which he lost badly and triggered his early retirement. It stops throbbing before his second match with Martinez, signifying that his career had come full circle.
  • One Piece:
    • Shanks says that the three scars on his left eye, made years ago by Blackbeard, have started to ache at the same time that Ace is dueling with Blackbeard on Banaro Island.
    • Whitebeard's also complained of aches from scars he received from Shanks' old captain.
    • Duval's scar on his back used to hurt whenever he thought about Sanji. It was forgotten about when he underwent a Heel–Face Turn.
    • Shortly before the Timeskip, Luffy got a scar on his chest from Admiral Akainu. First time Akainu is mentioned after the timeskip, Luffy takes a hand to his scar and squints one of his eyes as if in pain, implying that this trope also has affected him.
  • Most of Xanxus' scars in Reborn! (2004) remain hidden until he gets really really angry.
  • In Saiyuki Hakkai's old scar sometimes aches when it rains.
  • ∀ Gundam goes so far as to apply this to the eponymous Gundam's Evil Counterpart, the Turn X, which sports an X-shaped scar across its chest (apparently from its last encounter with the Turn A) that glows in the presence of its "brother".
  • In Ultimate Muscle, the scars from Ramenman's coma-inducing head injury reopen when he passes by Lord Flash (who is actually Warsman, the one who inflicted the injury in the first place).
  • In Vampire Knight, there's an "achey bite wound", for Zero.
  • Dilandau has one inflicted by Van in Escaflowne.
  • In Wonder Egg Priority The scar Neiru received when her sister stabbed her before committing sucide aches constantly. Only going through the Wonder Eggs alleviates the pain.

    Comic Books 
  • How the Best Hunter in the Village Met Her Death: The hunter has a large birthmark on her back that aches every so often and grows larger after her encounters with the Beast. Fur grows out of them when she succumbs to the Beast’s allure, the start of her own transformation.

    Fan Works 
  • HERZ: Even after twelve years, the scars that Asuka received when she battled the MP-Evas still hurt. Her blind eye bleeds every so often.
    She had told him before that the injuries throbbed with a dull, constant, and persistent ache.
  • You Are (Not) At Fault: Subverted. Asuka's right arm, which was split in half, is constantly hurting. Asuka expects to see an ugly scar going from her elbow to her fingers when she removes the bandages, and she is shocked when she finds her skin perfectly smooth.
  • The Bridge: A scar Godzilla Junior got from Destroyah aches whenever he thinks about that day, the same day as the death of his father.
  • In Return to the Past, NOW!, a scar Cassidy has on her back shoots up with pain twice, and it is sensitive to the touch, due to a psychic connection to the tower that started it all. After she deactivates it in the Finale, it stops hurting, acting like the aversion. It doesn't stop Georgina from asking about it, though it is justified since she didn't see the tower deactivation herself.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Dark Crystal: Kira's getting stabbed by skekZok seems to have left a permanent scar even after her resurrection, as she can still occasionally feel pain from it in The Power of the Dark Crystal.
  • Justified in Final Justice. Sheriff Geronimo was shot in the gut prior to the film's events and it never fully healed. Spicy food especially causes it to hurt, so he often requests milk or Maalox to soothe it.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring shows Frodo Baggins receiving a painful scar that nearly kills him, and it just about serves as the Trope Codifier. The Nazgul confront him and his friends on Weathertop and attack them; it is in the ensuing battle that Frodo receives a wound from his enemy that will never fully heal. In The Return of the King, Frodo's journey takes him right next to the castle owned by the Nazgul that stabbed him; ironically, at the same time that Frodo must pass the castle, the Nazgul journeys out of the castle to oversee the transport of his troops. Though he is unaware of Frodo's presence, he still screams; once Frodo hears it, he clutches his scar in agony, saying to his companion, "I can feel his blade." As in the book, the pain that occurs on every anniversary of Weathertop on top of his psychological scars is bad enough that he leaves for the Undying Lands. (The pain from Shelob's sting and his severed finger isn't explicitly mentioned, but it's not discounted either.)
  • In Shortcut to Happiness, the scar at the base of the Devil's spine where Daniel Webster cut off her tail is still sensitive. So much so, in fact, that she flinches away just as Jabez Stone is about to touch it.
  • When the Last Sword Is Drawn: Saitou Hajime walks with a limp in the film's present day, a souvenir of a gunshot wound to the ankle he received during the Boshin War. He's shown clutching at the wound as he recalls the last time he saw main protagonist Yoshimura Kanichiro: making an Underequipped Charge against the Imperial Army as Saitou tried to follow but was shot down.

  • The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness: In Viper's Daughter, Torak, Renn and Wolf feel the scars they received in the previous books from tokoroths and the demon bear itch when they're in Naiginn's presence. It's the only warning they receive of his demonic nature before he reveals his true colors.
  • Carnival of the Deepgate Codex series has a multitude of scars, which constrict and even start bleeding when she's in a state of mental trauma.
  • Gurney Halleck, from Frank Herbert's Dune series, has a deep-red scar down one side of his face which causes residual pain at times of great stress.
  • Kavi, in the Farsala Trilogy, had his hand badly scarred by a deghan as a child, and it still pains him as a young man.
  • Gods Of Jade And Shadow: The Physical God Vucub-Kamé has raw, painful scars on his palms from wielding a cursed Cold Iron axe to maim and usurp his older brother fifty years earlier.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry's famous curse scar hurts when Voldemort is nearby or feeling a strong emotion. Justified by the magical link between them — it stops hurting altogether when Voldemort is finally dead.
    • In addition, Harry acquires another one in book five after the Tyrant Takes the Helm. Professor Umbridge forces him to write lines with a magical quill that carves what he wrote into the back of his hand. This left the lines permanently scarred into his hand, and they tingle every time he thinks of Umbridge. Whether this is psychological, or if it's just another perk of the quill is unknown.
  • In Inheritance Cycle Eragon has a scar on his back through most of Eldest, left by the Shade Durza that continues to cause debilitating spasms of pain throughout the book. Presumably it was some magic in the wizard's sword. Fortunately for Eragon, it goes away when he gets transformed into some sort of human/elf hybrid towards the end of the book.
  • The Lord of the Rings, where Frodo's injury from a cursed weapon aches when the One Ring's power is active, specifically during the Council scene when Gandalf reads the inscription. In the book, he falls horribly ill every October 6 thereafter, the date he acquired the injury. If Gandalf's quote about the Shadow (read: evil) returning is to be believed, Frodo might actually have a connection with any malevolence left in the world. On top of the knife wound, the place he got stung by Shelob (an Eldritch Abomination in her own right) aches. So does the stump of finger that Gollum bit off, which might have less to do with the wound and more that it lost him the Ring. All of this makes life in Middle-earth painful, and he's eventually invited to the Undying Lands in hopes that he can be fully healed there.
  • In Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, Toc the Younger bears a scar in place of a lost eye. The scar itches in the presence of magic and during pivotal scenes the outcome of which furthers the novels' plot(s).
  • The scars that mark Matthew Swift as the Midnight Mayor often burn and fill with blood, primarily in the presence of powerful magic.
  • Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick can apparently feel in his missing leg whether Moby Dick is nearby, although his insanity makes it hard to tell if this is actually true.
    • Ahab also sports a (presumably) body-length scar obtained either from the whale or the incident with the Spaniard. It functions as a lesser form of the leg, contributing to his madness.
  • In The Stars My Destination Gully Foyle is the unwitting recipient of an extensive facial tattoo. When he later adopts a new identity he has it removed, but the process leaves him with scarring which only becomes inflamed and visible when he is angry. He therefore has to learn to control his anger in order to avoid blowing his cover.
  • In The Tenets of Futilism, Sasha never quite recovers from having her arms and stomach cut up by cultists. Even after the wounds close and scar, she still occasionally feels pain in them.
  • In The Wheel of Time series, main protagonist Rand al'Thor gets not one, but two. The first is taken in a fight with the Dark One's Dragon. It's not able to heal, but at least the Aes Sedai keep it from spreading. He then gets a second one right next to it from a Darkfriend wielding a cursed weapon. The healers aren't even able to contain the second wound, so how do they keep it from killing him? Why, release the bonds on the first wound so that the two corruptions fight each other rather than spread. This keeps Rand alive but in constant pain.
  • In the World of Warcraft novel War Crimes, Prince Anduin often feels his body ache since only recently he was healed from nearly being crushed to death during Mists of Pandaria. His mentor and healer, Prophet Velen, notes that the pain may be with Anduin for the rest of his life. Naturally, it flares up when Anduin sees Garrosh Hellscream for the first time since the incident since Garrosh was the one to nearly kill him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Castle: After Beckett is shot in the Season 3 finale, she complains a few episodes into season 4 that the scar from the bullet wound and subsequent surgeries sometimes pulls.
  • Ghosts (UK): Thomas has a musket wound on his torso from the duel that killed him, and it seems to hurt whenever his death is referenced or discussed.
  • The Glory: Moon Dong-eun's arms and legs are covered with burn scars inflicted by her high school bullies, they frequently itch when she is considering her revenge plans.
  • In Once Upon a Time, Granny has a nasty-looking one on her arm that aches every month on the full moon because it's the wound she got when she became a werewolf.
  • Sam has one on his palm in Season 7 of Supernatural. He presses on it, using the pain to ground him, when Lucifer is taunting him and he has trouble telling reality from horrific hallucination.

    Video Games 
  • In Dragon Age II, the white scars all over Fenris' body cause him some fairly intense pain. Justified, as they're more like tattoos made out of lyrium than anything else, which has a well-documented range of nasty side effects.
  • Fang had one in Final Fantasy XIII because her l'Cie scar has been warped and could not change since she was thawed out of her crystal.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel has Rean's massive scar on his chest that aches a few times whenever he's about to lose control of his Superpowered Evil Side. The reason for the scar is revealed in Cold Steel III where Rean was impaled by a wooden splinter when his home is attacked and Osborne, Rean's real father, had to transplant his own heart to his son so that he may live because Rean's heart was fatally wounded.
  • Reiji in Namco × Capcom and Endless Frontier gets a pain in the scar over his temple whenever Saya, the fox-woman who gave it to him, is near.
  • Maya Amano of the Persona 2 duology. In Innocent Sin she has the burns from when she almost burned alive by King Leo's arson and in Eternal Punishment, she has a bruise on her chest where Maya Okamura stabbed her with the Spear of Longinus. They ache when she is reminded of the events.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Manfred von Karma has a habit of clutching his shoulder when under stress. This is because he had been shot in the shoulder when a young Edgeworth threw a gun in a panic while trapped in an elevator during an earthquake. Von Karma later used the same gun to murder Edgeworth's father in retribution for ruining his perfect reputation. After fifteen years, he never had the bullet extracted.
  • In RimWorld, poorly treated injuries can form scars that cause constant, but minor, pain. This causes a minor mood penalty unless the character is a Masochist, which gives a mood boost instead.
  • In the Street Fighter Alpha series, any time Ryu and Sagat meet up, Sagat clutches the massive scar Ryu gave him on his chest... which glows.
    • Not only that, in Alpha 2 Gold, Alpha 3, the EX series, and IV you can make his scar glow on command and make his next Tiger Blow a lot stronger as a result.
  • Tsukihime: The scar on Shiki's chest tends to hurt whenever he sees traffic accidents or large quantities of blood... but also seems to have a distressing tendency to bleed in really stressful situations.
    • Possibly because SHIKI/Roa is draining his life energy.

    Web Comics 
  • Siai from Aquapunk is often seen rubbing/stroking the scars around her wrists, which were rubbed raw from the heavy shackles she was forced to wear while in prison. This tends to happen when she's deep in thought, anxious, or both.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Raven pretends to have these from an encounter with a wild boar in order to wield a concealed Sword Cane.
  • Hanna Falk Cross from Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name is revealed to have a rather...interesting Z-shaped scar running down his front, shut with surgical staples. When a ghost passes through that part of his body, he collapses and apparently is in immense pain.
  • In Inverloch, the permanent bandage around Varden's right arm isn't for show. His arm broke when a guard almost hacked it off with a sword and it didn't heal properly, so Varden kept the bandage on for support and his arm hurts badly when he moves it the wrong way. When he does take the bandage off while washing, the scar is quite sizable.

    Web Original 
  • Caleb from Critical Role keeps his forearms bandaged all the time, and compulsively scratches them whenever he's reminded of his Dark and Troubled Past. In episode 49, he reveals that his arms are severely scarred from the experiments his former teacher performed on him, during which he would have residuum crystals implanted in his skin.

    Western Animation 
  • In a Season 5 episode of American Dad!, one of Roger's alter-egos stabs Steve for not getting an anniversary present for their parents. He and Hailey flee to Argentina when his scar starts to hurt.
    Steve: He's thinking about me!
  • In Transformers: Animated, Ratchet finds his old war wound is acting up again. Turns out the Bounty Hunter who made it came to Earth to capture Optimus Prime.

    Real Life 
  • As the top layers of skin heal faster than lower layers, a scar can hurt for a while even after it appears healed because the surface has closed but there is still an injury healing underneath.
  • This type of pain is usually of psychological origins. For example, if you have a scar on your arm from a chainsaw-related accident, there's a great chance that if you even see a chainsaw, or hear it working, that scar will hurt a bit. See also: phantom pain.
  • This can occur if a scar develops into a keloid. (WARNING: Disturbing photos.)
  • Adhesions can result as a junction between scar and normal tissue. These hurt.
  • Nerve damage can result in this too.
    • Or when the scar tissue is putting pressure on a nerve bundle.
  • Scars (or, rather, the tissue around said scars) also tend to be painful well after the fact if they are in a particularly sensitive part of the body, eg the abdominal area.
  • While it doesn't really ache as such, knocking a large scar against something like a table or door can make it feel odd and can make the surrounding area ache.
  • Also, scars tend to be stiffer than the surrounding tissue. If the surrounding tissue happens to be a bicep, for example, it will hurt whenever you extend the arm and the scar gets stretched. It gets better with time.


Video Example(s):


Yoshimura charges the Army

Late in the Boshin War, the samurai of the Shinsengumi are cornered by a musket company of the Imperial Army and commanded to withdraw or be destroyed. Yoshimura Kanichiro instead draws his wakizashi and charges into the guns with only his two swords, disappearing into the gunsmoke as Saitou Hajime, wounded in the leg, screams for him not to die. It was the last time Saitou ever saw him.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / UnderequippedCharge

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