With the lessons of scar neglect learned from my abdominal surgery and covered in my previous article, my husband and I were ready to apply my new knowledge when he had surgery last summer. He had a thyroglossal duct cyst removed from the space at the root of his tongue and has a short scar across his neck beneath his Adam’s apple. Of course, immediately following the operation, he needed to allow the wound to drain and the inflammation to subside. There are always necessary precautions against beginning any rigorous intervention with recent wounds in order to allow the three distinct stages of repair to commence – the initial inflammation stage to prepare the area for healing (please note inflammation occurs to varying degrees in all stages), the fibroplastic phase to rebuild, and the remodeling phase to begin to provide the final form (Schleip, et al, p. 412). In the second stage, gentle stretching of the area is recommended while during the third stage direct stimulation can begin.
Using fingertips without oil provides a nice tugging at the skin and superficial fascia. With my older abdominal incision, I began at the outermost edges of my scar and slowly worked my way in, simply pulling away from the center of the seam and later applied the full palm of my hand on either side of my scar and pulled away. This technique is called Gross Stretch according to Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Human Body.
This work started some slight movement and stretching of the area. Beneath I could feel the entwined layers of my belly and the density of those layers after years of neglect. Again, the sensation of yuck and a desire to stop were my overriding sensations but I stuck with it and eventually could apply both sets of fingertips on either side of my scar and gently draw AWAY in both directions as I made small circles on my skin, stretching the actual fibers of my scar (Gentle Circles, Schleip, et al, p. 416).
“Vertical lifts” were my next hurdle. To perform this, I pinched the skin around my scar and pulled the skin upward and away from my body; spreading the fascial tangles buried beneath the scar. This was a tough one for me but vertical lifts helped set the stage for my next stop – Yoga Tune Up® skin rolling, a myofascial release technique for scars.
In contrast, my husband started soon after his scar was ready to be manipulated and began applying a variety of techniques. His scar is pliable, smooth and barely visible across his neck, a much more observable place than the abdomen. In regards to my own scar, I wish I had these tools in my toolbox of healing sooner. Taking these skills into healing of the scars of your own life will ease your tissues back into function and form sot they can work well together no matter what vulnerability they have endured.
Enjoyed this article? Read Soothe Your Scars
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Living with surgical scars can be a bear, a true impediment to ease. Thank you for sharing your experience and techniques, for sparking curiosity. I’m already pulling out my copy of Schleips text to learn more about gross stretch, gentle circles, and vertical lifts.
Thank you for sharing both your experience and the tools you used to break down the scar tissue. Compartmentalizing and blocking off areas within the body that are seen as ‘damaged’ is unfortunately common when trauma is involved. These repeated small steps bring change to both the physical and emotional aspects of a scar. I look forward to sharing this information, and hopefully helping those that need it to move past some of these impediments.
I never realized the ‘yuck’ factor that comes along with manipulating ones own scars. I’ll have to keep that in mind when educating clients about self-massage, the fact that there may be more to overcome than just the physical pain they’re feeling. Thanks!
This post was an interesting read. I can see how individuals who are recovering from surgeries can greatly benefit from the skin rolling technique on their scars.
Great info.. I have students recovering from surgeries that can benefit from this practice. It is great to have some strategies to use pre tune up balls.. to prep the area for massage
Thank you for sharing the experience of feeling “yuck” when starting the skin rolling process! I recently began skin rolling around my 16 year old ACL reconstruction scars and this is my initial reaction. I’ve been practicing in small increments to get used to the sensation. It feels great to my knee, but the hand sensation is the one that sends the queasy signal. Super interesting! I love the different techniques, I’ll be using them next time!
Looking forward to trying some of this on my scars. Thanks for posting.
Great tips, I will use on my Scars.
Thank-you Kate! I am a Massage Therapist and have clients with scaring that inquire what we can do with them. You have shared some simple techniques that would be a great starting place and appreciate that you shared the reference you pulled some of your information from. I will look that up! =:0)
I took Gil`s workshop a few months ago and he had really amazing videos about scar tissues including fascia `fuzz` aka `patchworks`. We can build up scar tissue even without a surgery, having an injury or a trauma in the body can actually cause that patchwork effect. That limits the ROM of the muscle or the tissue. So important to start the aftercare as soon as that is possible.
It has only been in the last 3 years that I discovered how damaging scars can be and their impact upon movement and compensation. Investigation of scars can be a real eye opener to creating better flowing movement and increased range of motion.
It is also wonderful to know that there are strategies out there like YTU which can help with these scars.
I believe that most people think that there is nothing that can be done about their scarring or remnants of surgery. I wish there was more information out there to let people know that they have options or that their sudden chronic pain may be due to a scar from years past.
I also recently learned that tattoos can also be considered scars and should be treated accordingly. This is yet another reminder to be actively courageous in your own wellness journey.
Thank you for the detailed techniques, I look forward to trying them. I am 2 weeks post surgery and I have a raging desire to get my hands on my scar but I will wait to see my surgeon in the next few weeks to make sure I am out of the inflammation stage. Patience is not my strong suit, so I’m referring back to my sankalpa constantly 🙂
Thanks for sharing. I plan to start using these techniques immediately.
Whoa, Kate! I think you just helped me uncover a new body blindspot. I have an abdominal scar that’s been healed for decades and looks quite innocent from the outside. But I still get the yucks when I think about touching it. It makes me wonder what other compensations I’ve made to avoid connecting with that area. Now that my eyes are open, I’m committed to getting to know this part of my body better. Maybe not today (I need to work up the courage hehe), but you’ve planted the seed. Thank you!
Thank you for this article! I have a lot of clients who suffer from adhesions, mostly from c-sections, these are great techniques to share with them!
I think it is so cool that you can use the balls to loosen up the tissue to help with the build up of scar tissue. It’s too bad that the doctors don’t know about this. It would cut down on so many problems that people have in their bodies. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks Kate, this is an important topic. One other thing to possibly consider is the reorganization of the nervous system at the site of a scar. Nerve damage from an actual incision and adhesions are well-known causes of increased pain sensitivity. But also the development of new nociceptors in scar tissue itself as well as the intrusion of fibroblasts and the physical pushing of a nerve from its normal position by the actions of these cells are possible mechanisms that might explain why people with nerve damage resulting in a scar have increased pain sensitivity despite having reduced impulse conduction in the actual nerve(s) damaged.
Wow! This is so helpful and nurturing. I had surgery on my abdomen early last year and I have been hesitant to try laser or any other invasive techniques to help with scarring. Thank you for these helpful and accessible tips.
As a massage therapist I do quite a bit of scar treatment through manual manipulation. I am amazed that so many people have no idea they can change a scar and release the pulling or discomfort they experience. Thank you for sharing this!
Thanks for this. I have an internal cardiac defibrillator. It has been replaced twice, meaning the incision has been made three times in the same place. My scar is right at the shoulder crease. I keloid so the scar is kind of puffy. I can’t really use a ball there because of the device so your warm-up methods seem like a good alternative.
I too have been working on scar tissue from an abdominal hernia. I’ve been using the coregeous ball to help free up restrictions, but will definitely try the more hands on approach you describe!
Thanks so much for sharing Kate! I’ve had a few abdominal surgeries or biopsies requiring incisions, some that were very neglected and painful to even touch. I like how you talk about using your fingers to gently move the skin starting at the edge of the scar. For my scar where even using my fingers felt like too much “pointy” pressure on areas where I could feel adhesions, I have used a Corgeous ball against the wall for some gentle massage which has helped dramatically to get at those adhesions and help them release.
Thank you for this post- it was especially nice to acknowledge the body’s own healing mechanisms and honour that process (healing phase, the fibroplastic phase to rebuild, and the remodeling phase). And to talk about the importance of supporting your body’s work with a liitle extra love. So many people live with scars that limit range of motion or inhibit the fluidity and flow of energy through the body.
Really interesting, I’ve never thought about visible scars being pliable, and really, they are simply different arrangements of body fibres that have stuck together as they are because they haven’t been touched. Scars aren’t taboo areas!
Thank you for posting your experience! I’m going to try it on my husbands recent scar. I feel this is a great tool to try as long as the area is accepting. I can only think it will help increase new growth and blood supply to the area.
Thanks for sharing. Having visible scars on my foot, I have wondered what else I can do to help with the scar tissue. I will start slow and stick it out.
Thank you for sharing! Some of the best blog posts are from personal experience and this will encourage so many people to help themselves! Cheers
Thanks Kate. I’ve never massaged my double inguinal scar from the time of my surgery at 9 years old. Yes, there will be a yuck factor but I’m going to try the finger massage you suggest, then the balls as I feel ready. I’ll stay open to the process. Thanks for the tips.