How to assess and treat your scars


Have you had an injury or even surgery that left a scar? Have you ever worked on your scar? And do you know why it is so important in your healing? 

Today, we will discuss scars, how to assess them, how to treat them, and why it is so important that we do both.

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Understanding Scars

Let’s first talk a little bit about what scars are. If you look at a tensegrity model, you want to think about our fascial tissue as our three-dimensional network, our glue that holds us all together, our force transmission system. 

What’s fascinating about the fascia, among many things, is that we are able to create tension and elasticity. This is what happens in dynamic movement, whether that is walking, running, stairs, breathing, or whether that’s the motility and mobility of our viscera and our organs.

When we have scars, we form cross-links, which is what makes the tissue strong. That’s exactly what we want from a scar. But it is not elastic. We need this elasticity of the tissue to move freely and generate and transmit force through our body.

Scar Releases

Now, let’s dive into what we do when we’re doing scar releases. First, a lot of times, we think that we’re breaking up scar tissue. Well, we are not breaking anything up because fascial tissue requires thousands and thousands of pounds of force to break. We would have to actually go in with a cadaver and cut the tissue. So, we’re not breaking it up. However, we are influencing it from the sensory aspect because there are tons of sensory nerves in the fascia, and we are helping to improve the elasticity of the tissue by helping to realign the collagen fibers and create elasticity in the tissue. That’s the main goal.

Who Should Undergo Scar Work

Scar assessment and scar work do not need to be aggressive, but they should be very intentional. Who should do this? Anyone that has a scar. It doesn’t matter how small or old the scar is or why you have it. All of these can influence the surrounding tissues.

For example, if you have a C-section, there is the obvious superficial scar, but then there are effects of cutting through seven layers of tissue. In that particular area where the actual scar is on the outside, it can affect all of your abdominal muscles and your viscera, too. That’s one of the underlying potential root causes of something like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or any gut dysregulation. 

If you’ve had a tummy tuck, breast implants, or a scar from an injury, all of these things can affect the surrounding tissues as well as distant tissues. Our fascial lines connect us from the bottom of our feet to the top of our toes. Something to consider before you even assess your scar is recognizing the emotional component and potential trauma of scars. 

Depending on why you have the scar, significant emotional responses can occur when addressing it. Make sure that you either work with a professional to do this or do this in a safe place and honor any emotions that may come up because, ultimately, every scar has a story. This is a really important part of scar work.

Scar Assessment Techniques

Imagine you have a scar on your hand. It could be from a recent injury or a past surgery. The first step is to examine the scar closely. Using your fingers, gently pull in different directions around the scar. Notice how the tissue responds. Is there any resistance? Does one side feel tighter than the other? You can pull in different directions, and essentially, you’re looking at the elasticity of this tissue because we want our tissue to move freely.

Now, sensitivity is another important factor to consider. So, does it feel very hypersensitive? As I mentioned, we have a lot of sensory nerves on our fascia. So, it could feel almost burning or super hypersensitive, and in this case, we would do some scar desensitization before performing the actual scar massage. 

Next, if the scar is sensitive, you can use a washcloth and gently massage it over the scar. This will help desensitize the scar. Typically, you only need to do this for a few days—maybe not even—but it could be very, very helpful. It can also be an opportunity to connect with the scar and help with nervous system regulation as it relates to the scar and the injury or surgery that you might have had.

Scar Treatment Techniques

General Technique

To begin, we’ll start with a more general technique. Instead of directly massaging over the scar, we’ll focus on moving the skin over the tissue surrounding it. This allows us to gauge how the scar tissue moves in various directions. As you perform this technique, pay attention to any areas where you feel tightness or restriction. It’s normal for certain areas to feel tender or uncomfortable.

Smudging Technique

Once you’ve identified areas of tightness, you can transition to the smudging technique. This involves applying pressure to the skin and moving it up and down or side to side over the scar. By doing so, you’re promoting better tissue mobility. This technique can be applied to the entire scar area for maximum effectiveness.

Specific Technique

The most targeted approach involves focusing on particularly tight or restricted scar tissue areas. If you notice a specific area that feels especially constricted, gently apply pressure and hold it there. As you maintain this pressure, you may feel the tissue gradually soften and release. This indicates a successful fascial release, allowing for improved movement and reduced discomfort.

Key Takeaway

These are some basic techniques for assessing and treating scars. It doesn’t matter how old your scar is. It is important to honor any emotions that may come up with compassion. Scar massage is an extremely important part of your emotional and physical healing.

For example, if you’ve had shoulder surgery and experience shoulder pain, neglecting scar treatment can impede muscle function, particularly stabilizing muscles, due to potential neurological effects on the scar. Similarly, addressing a C-section scar can be vital for addressing gut issues, and knee scars from falls may relate to hip or knee pain. So, the impact of scars isn’t limited to their immediate location; it can affect distant areas, too. It’s essential to recognize the importance of scar treatment, including tattoos, which are essentially scars, as part of maintaining healthy movement and organ function.

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