Massage Your Scar(s) for Better Overall Movement
It is rare that someone comes into Energy Fitness who doesn’t have a least one scar from a scrape, fall, cut or surgery. When our personal trainers are doing fitness assessments on our clients at Energy Fitness, personal training studio located downtown Memphis we see all kinds of scars. Mostly we see scars in the abdomen and core area when pinching body fat and taking measurements. Most of us want to hide our scars or hope that no one mentions them at all. Some scars hold onto emotional traumas from the past we don’t want to revisit. You may have heard that we store emotions in our fascia. This can be around scars, burns and stretched tissues because they are also are living tissue.
I have a small 1 inch dent on the outside of my upper thigh from a dog bite in middle school. I had four stitches. My kids always tried to poke it because they thought it was fascinating. Until only about 8 years ago I didn’t like people touching it as it freaked me out and always felt like it was glued to the tissue underneath. It wasn’t until I started pinching it away from the underlying tissue, trigger point rolling it and cupping it (recently) that it is totally in-sync with the rest of my thigh. Armed with this knowledge I was much better about caring for my bunion surgery scars.
Left foot 7 years post bunion surgery
Right foot 5 week post bunion surgery Right foot 13 months post surgery scar
Taking care of oneself is a proven way to stimulate health and wellness and this means your scars also. Overall daily stretching and movement, frequent manipulation of the affected tissues, rest, sleep, and general health and wellness principles can all help to aid in healing scar tissue or old affected sites.
Although it’s not something that’s widely discussed with care teams and surgeons, the size and appearance of a scar is something that patients think about. Whether you’ve had a hip replacement, knee replacement, meniscus surgery, ACL reconstruction, shoulder or back surgery, breast implants or C-Section a scar is inevitable. Although you won’t have a ton of control over how your body will scar, there are things you can do when it comes to breaking up scar tissue and adhesions with massage, kt taping and cupping therapy. You can play a role in healing your scar(s).
Massage therapists can help address the fallacy that nothing can be done to change this tissue by practicing focused therapy on scars and burns as well as personal trainers and fitness professionals teaching clients this concept.
Clients need to be educated about the living matrix so they can bring attention and touch to injured or damaged areas. This attention will help re-program false thoughts and rewire the brain to re-map and re-integrate this tissue back into the whole system.
The body feeds and nurtures all parts of the body—so why would a scar or stretched tissue be any less deserving? Oxygen, nutrients, fluid and waste products are all found in the matrix of any scar.
Scars tend to be missing lymph return and blood supply (capillaries). The research I have done shows manual manipulation may stimulate the creation of blood vessels (angiogenesis) by stimulating the area, causing local inflammation and then triggering a remodeling phase.
This is thought to occur because various growth hormones are released in the remodeling phase of scar or wound repair. These hormones can trigger angiogenesis.
Did you know scars don’t tan…they burn? The structural properties of a scar are different from regular skin. Scar tissue doesn’t have melanin (which is responsible for skin pigmentation). In fact, scars are more susceptible to UV damage and get sunburned more easily than regular skin. Always put sunscreen on and cover your scar in the sun!
Scar tissue forms during the healing process as the body produces collagen fibers to close and heal a wound. These collagen fibers do not grow in the same, consistent direction, and therefore are discolored and can have an uneven texture.
The appearance of a scar largely has to do with your genetics. In addition, if your incision or wound is on part of the body that is under tension, is tighter, more stretched, and is less fleshy or fatty (like a shoulder, shin, or knee) your scar will be more pronounced than say, if on your buttocks.
Scars will continue to heal and fade for up to two years after an incision or injury.
- remodeling phase in your incision healing involves the lightening of your scar as the scar heals
- mature scar is smaller, flatter, and paler
- during the healing process, there are ways to improve how your scar heals and for larger scars over joints, it’s critical that you “work” your scar to prevent tightness
Before you start massaging your scar or enlisting a professional to perform scar tissue massage, your scar has to be in a good place. Do not massage until your incision has fully healed and is a scar (not just a wound or scab). If you massage your scar prematurely you could cause it to reopen or tear, leading to an infection.
Do not massage a scar until at least 2 weeks after a surgery or injury. Massaging scar tissue is most effective in the first 2 years while the scar is still forming and healing.
Why Scar Tissue Massage?
Massaging scar tissue has many benefits. Here are of the main reasons to regularly scar massage;
- Decrease scar tissue build-up. Excess scar tissue can make muscles stiff and weaker, and in some cases can require scar tissue removal surgery.
- Helps improve blood flow, which promotes healing and the scar’s pliability.
- Drains excess fluid to reduce swelling and proliferation.
- Helps regain feeling in the area and decrease numbness, tingling, soreness.
- Increases range of movement and the scar’s flexibility. This makes movements feel less restrictive and “tight”.
- May help with the appearance of your scar.
How to Massage Your Scar
As listed above, there are lots of benefits to scar tissue massage. When scar tissue is broken down through massage, you can help your body heal faster, and possibly reduce the appearance of your scar. Here’s how we recommend you massage your scar tissue at home:
- In early healing phases, try and massage your scar for 10-15 minutes a day (2-3 times a day for 5 mins).
- Apply a non-perfumed Vitamin E lotion or oil to your scar area. Vitamin E is proven to help build collagen and massaging with lotion lubricates the skin, cutting down friction.
- Using the pad of your thumb or finger, firmly massage in a circular motion. You should be pressing hard enough that your fingernail turns from pink to white, but it should not be painful. First go up the scar clockwise, work your way up and around your scar slowly but maintaining a firm pressure. Switch it up by massaging counter-clockwise. This will help to drain excess fluid from the area.
- Next, stretch the skin apart around your scar, and repeat your massaging with a firm circular motion using your thumb or finger.
- With pressure, slowly slide your finger up the scar while apply pressure. Change direction by slowly sliding down.
- Repeat the process several times for 5 minutes or so.
- Ladies post C-Section and have a scar. Try this: try lowering your legs to floor from a lying on your back face up position. Start with feet in air and keeping your back flat on the floor keep your upper body in contact with the floor throughout the whole range of motion. Difficult? Now pinch your C-Section scar and try again. You can help deactivate the tissue surrounding or decompress to aid in better function of your core.
Scientific proof: A case study of kinesiology taping for scar management
Stretch marks (epithelial stretch marks) are different than scars, but may also be addressed in a similar manner. Clients who have quickly gained or lost a lot of weight, had lymphedema or been pregnant are all candidates for stretch marks. Generally, this is a condition where the skin (the epidermis, dermis and superficial fascia) is stretched quicker than the epithelial tissue can adapt, so the tissue that is affected is elongated and stretched. Generally, there is a weaker matrix to support this stretched tissue; thus, the epidermis appears rippled and has wrinkles.
LIVE IN THE MEMPHIS AREA AND NEED TO BE INSPIRED TO GET INTO YOUR BEST SHAPE, EAT HEALTHIER, WORK AROUND INJURIES, NEED MASSAGE THERAPY, ROCK TAPE, CUPPING, OR DETOX BODY WRAPS & DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START OR NEED
TO GET OUT OF THE GYM RUT?
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SERVICES AT 552 S. MAIN, MEMPHIS, TN
Tonya Tittle, M.S., ACSM, TPI Level 1 Certified, Rock Tape, Rock Pods (cupping therapy), FMT Basic, Metagenics FLT
Owner/Dir. of Training, Energy Fitness (established 2002)
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