Bodies are clever things and they contain intricate webs of tissue (“fascia”) that are able to heal from significant trauma.
Sadly the healing process doesn’t manage to replicate the organisation of the original tissue you see in this first image.
Instead, the scar tissue orients itself in many different directions and often it binds to nearby organs and tissues that should move freely, commonly resulting in tension, pulling or tugging sensations and sometimes pain. These adhesions, as they’re known, can also be a source of digestive/bowel problems, incontinence, lower back pain and sometimes even infertility. And the reduced mobility that comes with it can impact on your posture and movement.
Plus if your scar got infected you might find that you have even more scar tissue to contend with, which can feel quite lumpy to touch.
It’s not all bad news though…scar massage, particularly during the first two years (which is how long it can take tissues to fully remodel) brings with it enormous benefits…
- improved blood flow and much needed moisture to promote healing
- decreased build up of scar tissue and adhesions
- decreased numbness, tingling and soreness, and general desensitisation of the over-sensitive nerve fibres around the scar, helping to return “normal” sensation to the area
- returning “normal” movement to the surrounding tissues and entire body
- it may also help with the appearance of your scar
So how do I massage my scar?
Once your scar looks healed on the outside and is no longer a wound or scab you can start with gentle massage. Note that in the beginning it tends to feel best to work around the scar rather than directly on it, progressing on to your scar as and when you feel ready (normally from about 12 weeks, but every woman is different).
It can help to relax beforehand, so think about having a warm bath or shower and getting comfortable lying or sitting, using cushions as needed. And obviously making sure you have clean hands.
- Start by using a clean make up brush, cotton wool bud or face cloth, gently stroking around the scar in different directions. (Think side to side above and below the scar, up and down, round in circles, etc.) This should be done daily initially for c. 5-10 minutes at a time and you can vary up the texture of what you’re using.
- Then with your fingers a few inches away from the scar gently start to move and stretch the skin in different directions using the pads of two or three fingertips together. (So again think up and down, side to side, round in circles.) Apply as much pressure as you can tolerate without causing pain, noting that it’s normal to feel some light burning, tenderness or discomfort when massaging your scar. Ideally you’ll work up to applying enough pressure to make the scar area lighten in colour. And spend more time on the areas that don’t move as freely, switching between movement of the area and holds of the stretched skin.
And when you’re able to start working on the scar itself (commonly from c. 12 weeks)…
- You can then start to apply these techniques to the scar itself and potentially add in the use of a gua sha tool too.
- You can also start to gently lift the skin and to roll it along the length of the scar, picking it up between your index finger and thumb. (6d tape can be a nice way of achieving this lift using kinesiotape). At this point, aim for 10-15 minutes once or twice a month.
I hope that helps! Happy massaging!
And if you’re not confident doing this yourself, you have any questions or you just want someone to show you how to do it in person, please do feel free to book in with me for a scar massage session.