Did you ever think a cause for lingering shoulder pain could be an old scar, such as from an appendix removal?
Well it could … just like that childhood song “Dem Bones” (you hip bone’s connected to your thigh bone; your thigh bone’s connected to your knee bone; …), your body’s fascia and connective tissue are not isolated, but connected for purpose and function!
Scar tissue, whether from injury, surgery, or repetitive motion, replaces the regular fibrous connective tissue that is now damaged. Additionally scar tissue is tough and not as functional, or elastic, as the original tissue, creating limited circulation, movement or even sensation to an area.
Common scars that can have a strong impact on your body:
- Abdominal scars (open & even laparoscopic)
- Mastectomy scars
- Carpal tunnel surgery scar (palm)
- Many more ...
Scars can have a lasting effect, and actively impact the fascia, as well as new injuries and their recovery. The fascia is a layer that penetrates, surrounds, and protects the muscles, tendons, nerves, blood vessels, and organs. When a scar occurs, it is important to understand that it has a link, and may impact/limit other regions to the body as well.
Don’t’ quite get it yet? Try this analogy:
Imagine a tablecloth with a heavy rock in the middle. If you pull at one end of it with your eyes closed you can figure out where the rock is now, due to its tension. Same thing goes but for our typically seamless layer of skin. But if that rock was permanently set in the middle, you may rip or stretch the tablecloth somewhere along the path of resistance/pull.
What Can I do?
Now that you understand the intricacies of our body’s tissue layers, next comes the question, “What now? What can I do to help heal my scars?”
Many techniques exist and have proven beneficial in reducing scar tissue’s negative impact to our function:
- Trigger point release
- Friction massage
Though many of these techniques are utilized by trained physiotherapists & massage therapists in our clinic, you can help yourself too. Follow the steps below to attempt your own deep transverse frictions of your scar.
Scar Tissue Self-Massage
- Put your fingers right on top of your scar and move up and down (North and South). This is repeated the full length of the scar, lasting approximately 60-90 seconds for each zone.
** Make sure you are not stroking the skin, but rather fingers stay on the scar as you rub it down against the underlying tissue.
Going against the grain or direction of the tight tissues is known “deep transverse friction”.
- Same as the last except this time move your fingers side to side a few times, and then relocate to a neighbouring area, slowly moving along the full length of the scar, as well for approximately 60 seconds per zone.
- Now move in small circles with your fingers on top of the scar, again covering small areas at a time, across the full length of your scar for approximately 60 seconds per zone.
- Eventually, gradually with time, you want to be able to “pull up” your scar in a pinch-like motion across your scar. You want the scar to be pliable and the tissue layers to return to independence (not stuck together).
Remember, our body is a series of chain links and changes to one link will directly affect the neighbouring links and beyond!
If there is ever any tension between that region it can definitely contribute to those muscles not working as well as they could, and ultimately affecting your function and quality of life.
Our Physiotherapists Can Help
Contact one of our Ottawa area physiotherapists if you have a scar that is causing discomfort. Our physiotherapist can develop a customized plan for you.