A scar, as defined by Webster’s dictionary, is a mark left behind as a result of damage or wear or, as a verb, to do lasting injury to. The tendency is to consider a scar as simply physical and overlook the emotional toll it embodies. As human beings who interact with a challenging world, we are often harmed from external forces as well as internal forces, which can sometimes resulting in surgery.
In my view, scars represent what has happened TO us; those events and experiences that were in some way out of our control and therefore remind us of our vulnerabilities in this journey of life. This emotional sense of exposure, coupled with the physical trauma, can result in a numbing around the scar, as though the reminder of our susceptibility is too powerful to accept and we “dumb down” the senses in that area. Unconsciously allowing a breakdown of connection to that area, we dismiss the injured area as cut off or almost dead to us. And that can, in fact, be what we create with that attitude – a death of feeling and function in the area in and around scars. Whoa. That’s a whole lot more that a “mark” and can become a lasting injury in a variety of ways.
My own abdominal surgery happened long before my knowledge of the human body expanded through yoga and the study of movement; and my scar tells that very story. It is about six inches long across my low belly as a result of an oophectomy (removal of my left ovary. The ovary had a terratoma growing on it). The tumor was the size of a grapefruit and weighed in at over a pound so full abdominal surgery was needed.
Now, at 12 years old, the scar had developed a bulge above it and a thick density across the seam. Truthfully, before I discovered Yoga Tune Up®, manipulating the scar simply never occurred to me – I could bear to rub a flat hand over it but pulling, pushing, pinching the area brought up a strong feeling of discomfort for me. Squeamish is the best word for it, but it felt as if I was kicking off my gag reflex when I considered the idea at my Core Immersion last year. But after that training, my curiosity was piqued, not only from stories shared but also because the bulge really bugged me. It was ugly, a part of me that I wanted to ignore and tamp down instead of innervate with stimulation. Yet, as I traveled the road of Yoga Tune Up®, the very thought of rejecting a part of my own body began to create a new type of discomfort, one that trumped the grossed out feelings I got when I moved the scar around. So I started to skin roll.
I began with Coregeous ball techniques directly on my skin (as written about here) and graduated to direct contact of my fingers to my scar. Because “all surgery carries a risk of adhesions between tissues resulting in dysfunction in the form of restricted tissue glide, muscle imbalance, weakness or loss of flexibility” (Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Human Body, Schleip, Findley, Chaitow and Huijing, p. 412), I knew I was beginning to untangle years of bunched up layers in my belly and likely beyond, because “disturbed patterns may even become evident some distance from the scar” (p. 412).
At first, the method of skin rolling taught in YTU trainings was too intense for me, but I found a series of step-up techniques that allowed me to work at my own pace and level of tolerance for the emotional and physical changes I was seeking. These techniques will be addressed in a follow up article on the blog later this week.
Not only will it build your arsenal of tools to approach your healing of scars, both old and new, but these will also empower you to face those difficult experiences in life that happen TO us and make us feel defenseless and vulnerable. Vulnerability is a necessary part of life that can make us wiser, kinder and more whole but it sure can leave scarring in its wake. By addressing these scars with compassion and self-care, we can absorb their wisdom without further damage.
A beautiful message about learning to love ourselves inside and out! This might not even have to explicitly apply to scars, but people who have emotional trauma surrounding areas that don’t display any physical signs of injury
For example, a relative’s colon cancer was removed without the creation of surface scars, but her internal discomfort remained and created a self consciousness surrounding her belly and her metabolic processes. She treated her emotional numbness as it being just “the way things were now”.
Rolling out helped reconnect her brain to her digestive track, both in confidence and metabolic process- rolling gave her the power to reclaim an area she didn’t think physical touch could access.
Being someone without scars. Thank you for this unique approach I need to consider with my students. The emotional side to rolling is very real.
I work on many cesarean section scars and love educating women about the healing power of self-massage to the areas. I definitely see the common theme that touching the scar and the area around it doesn’t even occur to so many people. Definitely going to find that Fascia book mentioned and educate myself even more.
Great information and encouragement as I always feel drawn to try so nothing new with each read. I will begin skin rolling with myself and my clients who suffer scar tissue trauma.
Great post! I feel like using the coregeous ball will help me embrace my scars,
Great info! Looking forward for the next post.
This is such great info! People are so afraid of scars and scar tissue. It is great to have this real life story of YTU balls helping with scars. Students will love to hear about this!
Thank you for sharing Kate, I have a friend who has recently gone under several emergency surgeries leaving a very large scar. It is nice to hear another first hand story about the emotional and physical experience with rolling scars and how you have worked through to free the space and bring the whole area back to life.
Love you article on scar tissue and awareness of being able to release and change it. Than you.
I have thought so many times about how scars leave behind a story. It’s probably subconscious for most people, but I would argue that there is definitely a physical, mental, and emotional component to almost any scar. I know a lot of individuals who are sensitive about their scars and don’t want to have to touch them. It’s great to know you’ve had success healing yours via skin rolling and the various YTU techniques.
I do a fair bit of scar-tissue work in my physiotherapy practice and could not agree more. Once we get over the squeamishness, the emotionality of it, and the potential for discomfort, scar mobility/skin rolling techniques are incredibly effective way to elicit change in tissue. I’ll have to track down your follow-up blog regarding the techniques you have learned and use!
Thanks for this information Kate. I have the original balls, but don’t yet have a Coregeous. I have a twenty year old surgery scar on my abdomen that I would definitely like to start rolling after reading your post.
After reading a recent article questioning the ability of SMR tools to help with scar tissue I felt slightly upset. However once I walked away from the article and really thought about it I realized that all of this work is subjective and each person will respond differently. There is zero question that rolling on the therapy balls has helped my body and especially the scar tissue in my body after having four abdominal surgeries in the same scar. I have less pain and more mobility in my hips as a result of the work i have done with my coregeous ball. Thanks for sharing your experience!
Thanks for sharing. I too have a abdominal scar in need of the techniques you mention from a recent c-section birth. I look forward to reading your next article.
I’m so thankful for this article, Kate! I previously committed to becoming more acquainted with my scar, but I wasn’t sure how, other than to force myself to touch it, to grin and bear it. How appealing does that sound? : ) Your advice to use the Coregeous ball first is a game changer for me. I now have a manageable, gentle place to start this courageous work.
Thank you for sharing! After having abdominal surgery recently, I and trying yo use these techniques everyday to aid my recovery. To read other people’s stories is very encouraging!
Thank you for sharing this! Scars for me has never been an easy topic to open up about. I’ve had a scar on my right wrist since I was 13 (which crazily looks like an evidence of a past suicide attempt but is not the case) and it’s for a ganglion cyst removal. I never had thought that this can be treated or improved, nor do I have the persistence of working on it consistently, but you really inspire me. Thank you _/_
Thank you for writing this – I think it is really helpful to show that it is not unusual to feel reluctance, avoidance or squeamishness to work with our scars – and that through doing the work as you suggest, we can start to alter the impact they have in our body.
As a massage therapist I love having the resource of the therapy balls to give my clients so they can work on releasing bound up connective tissue from scars out of the office.
Thank you for this! Helping people live and feel better in their bodies gets easier with rolling. My sister has had so many abdominal surguries beginning with a ‘C’ section over 30 years ago. I truly hope she allows me to help her help herself. looking forward to reading the next article.
I think that scar therapy takes an integrative approach for treatment. As an Acupuncturist, I use needles and laser. I now add skin rolling, and the balls to also mobilize the fascial layers and help to break down and soften the collagen fibres. I also add caster oil packs to help break down adhesions.
I use Graston tools in my practise and work on scar tissue frequently, and as interested as I am with emotional anatomy and how our emotions are so closely connected to the way our body reacts to circumstances life throws at us, the emotional side of scars hadn’t occurred to me. Odd I know, but because I get so engulfed in the anatomy of the scar and how it can affect our bodies in a variety of ways, I have overlooked a HUGE part of that. Thank you for sharing your story
A big thank you for writing this Kate. When I was nine I had a double inguinal hernia and hence have a big scar right across my lower abdomen (the doctor called it a “bikini cut”) . There is some minor nerve damage on the right side and I can’t bear to be touched there. I did the core immersion with Jill Miller last year. While it was very powerful, I might have approached it in a kinder, gentler way. Compassion for myself and others feels important these days. So I am looking forward to your next blog — particular learning more about how you paced the step-up techniques.