We all have scars. Whether it’s a paper cut, an accident when you first started shaving, overlapping C sections or repeated spinal surgeries, we all have scars. Scars are repairs in the fabric of your body, and like patches on a sweater, they all have some effect on the quality of the whole. We have more scars than we can possibly remember, most of them trivial, however, some of them are potentially significant for our health, pain levels and wellbeing. So how do you know which scars are likely to need treatment?
1 Your Scar Still Gives You Pain Years Later
We forget most of our scars. However, sometimes there is one which is still numb, sensitive or painful years later, even though to all appearances it has fully healed. Although your ability to forecast rain with your dodgy knee may be useful, the fact that there is ongoing pain and you haven’t forgotten it suggests that there is something which hasn’t fully settled. A scar which is painful a long time after it has healed is a trail to follow, not an inevitable part of aging.
2 There is a Physical Problem in the Same Area as the Scar
If you are getting neck pain after a shoulder surgery, or digestive issues or back pain after a C section, it’s definitely worth a look to see if addressing the scar and its surrounding area makes a difference. Most people downplay scars: “it was a long time ago.” “It doesn’t hurt.” “It’s very small.” “I’m hardly aware of it.” (Though “hardly” means you are aware of it.) That’s fine if you’re fine, but if your body starts to play up, especially (obviously) in the area of your scar, maybe it’s worth revisiting. If the problem started after your surgery, it’s worth revisiting. If full movement hasn’t returned to the area, it’s worth revisiting. If there is a problem just above or below it, it’s definitely worth revisiting.
3 Pain Elsewhere that Doesn’t Respond to Treatment or Treatment Doesn’t Hold
If you have an issue anywhere in your body which doesn’t respond to treatment, or doesn’t hold improvements, it is worth a session or two’s exploration of whether the scar has a role to play. This is initially a less obvious suggestion, but there are two ways scars can stop “unrelated” issues from clearing up: 1) It is possible that during the surgical trauma, especially if you had a general anesthetic, your body developed a structural imbalance has changed whole body patterns over time. 2) It is possible that the scar adhesions are creating pulls through the body in a way which “anchors” whatever your long-term problem is. Correcting any structural issues and pulling up the “anchor” can create more space in your body and enable other issues to change. And sometimes it plain just stops the pain on the spot.
4 There are Several Scars in the Same Area
If you have a number of different scars in the same area – say a few knee arthroscopies, a meniscectomy and a knee replacement, or two C sections on top of each other (that’s two scars – not one even though they are in the same place) – it is definitely worth looking at. In the same way that putting three patches on a sweater (even if they are small) will totally distort the way the fabric sits, several scars in the same area of the body create complex lines of tension which at the very least are not going to make you feel more comfortable. The general area is also likely to need rehabilitation after repeated surgeries and whatever cause the original problem.
5 The Scar is in a Significant Location
Sometimes a single scar, if it’s positioned strategically enough, can cause as much distortion as a group of scars in a less important area. A dozen scars on your forearm create less of a knock-on effect than a single ankle scar, which will affect the knee and hip on both sides, the spine, and will change the way that the whole body moves. Any scars on your head, neck, spine, pelvis or the major joints (especially in the lower body) will have an effect which spreads much more widely through the body. Scars on the jaw (e.g. under the chin) are normally disproportionately significant. Small does not mean unimportant. Scars in significant locations are significant.
6 You Got Your Scar from Surgery
If your scar is the result of surgery then it’s worth having it looked at. Surgery is a significant event in your life (even if it’s “routine” for the surgeon who does it). Your body goes through a lot during surgery as the doctors focus on making the operation successful. When you’re under general anesthetic your jaw and neck are often pulled into extreme positions, and epidurals create scar tissue in the spine and spinal blockers actually pierce the lining of your spinal cord (the dura). This is necessary, but it’s not without drawbacks. The area of the operation itself can also be put under stress, and this can change the way the tissue sits afterwards.
7 The Events Causing the Scar Were Traumatic
Whether you were bitten by a dog as a child or had a serious fall from your bike which left you with road rash and a big scar on your knee, scars are often tied to traumatic events. Whether you needed surgery or not, having treatment for the scar can sometimes help you not only physically, but also help process those events. Sometimes this is good to do in tandem with talk therapy, sometimes it happens in non-verbally and without fuss, but it’s impossible to work on scars for more than a few months and not hear repeatedly the story that ScarWork has changed a person’s relationship with the events surrounding what caused it.
8 The Scar Bothers You
There is nothing intrinsically bad about having prominent or very visible scars. They can mark important turning points in your life. But if you have a scar that bothers you, whether that’s how it looks or how it feels, then it is possible to do something about it. The scars will not go away, they are part of you and you cannot “break them down” or “remove” them, but it is possible to make real changes to how they look and feel: you can often change the appearance of the scar itself, change how it sits in the immediate area (muscular tension, joint movement, fluid movement) and reintegrate it back into your body. It won’t go, but frequently the changes created by ScarWork neutralize your feelings about it.
Any one of these reasons is enough to seriously consider ScarWork, but the more of them describe you, the more you should prioritise it: an emergency C section that still sometimes aches 5 years later, knee and ankle surgery as the result of a motorbike crash and back pain that won’t go away, or a scar on your jaw which makes you self conscious are all examples where you have nothing to lose from a few scar sessions and potentially much to gain.
"Most musicians who train to become professional players, at some point in their lives, have to deal with the issue of injury. I am no exception and have suffered with chronic tendonitis and general weakness in my wrists since my teenage years. I have always been told that it’s something I’ll have to ‘manage’ for the rest of my life and it wasn’t until I met James that I started to believe differently.
Unfortunately, spending extraordinarily long hours sitting at a piano has also had a detrimental effect on my overall strength, stability and balance of muscle development. To add insult to injury, I’ve also had ‘dodgy’ knees for the past 7 years. After several people recommending James to me, I had a session. I’ve had many sessions with physical therapists of varying kinds, but have never met one like James. His quiet, thoughtful and calm personality was accompanied by a direct and assured approach to his modality, and I knew instantly that there was real knowledge and a deep understanding of the body behind his touch.
Prior to meeting James, the tendonitis I experienced would flare up every couple of months or so. Since having sessions with James over the past two years, I’ve had only one minor episode and, after a session, it disappeared the next day. My body is better aligned, in much better balance, and I have found that I heal much faster than I used to.
James’s work is remarkable and I strongly recommend anyone whose career relies on optimal physical performance to visit him for sessions.”
Nadine. Surrey, UK.
'I had been suffering from an extremely painful left knee for over 18 months, that hadn't responded to multiple physiotherapy sessions or sports rehabilitation. I was unable to walk either up or down stairs without sharp pain in my knee. It clicked uncomfortably with every step and I had been unable to straighten it for some months. As a keen marathon runner, my mental health was suffering badly and the advice I had been given was my running days were behind me.
James approached the first session by listening attentively to exactly what the various symptoms were, and discussing what would constitute success. I felt that my aim to run again, after such a long break, was taken seriously. After the first Bowen session, my knee no longer clicked; after the second I could walk up and down stairs without any pain and by the third session I could straighten my leg. James then used AiM to get me back to running and encouraged me to try longer distances, rather than the usual hesitation in getting back to normalcy. After only 2 months I was running a mile and 5 months later I am running for almost 45 minutes. I see him every couple of months at the moment.
The combination of Bowen and AiM has had a dramatic effect in my life, and it is strange to think I was injured for so long, and how quickly my body responded. The sessions are (mostly!) relaxing and enjoyable, yet unbelievably effective. It has quite literally changed my life: I feel normal again.'
Lloyd’s knee wasn’t responding to physio because the knee wasn’t the problem: it was his jaw (I think as a result of extensive dental work several years back) and how his body had reorganised around an accident he’d had as a teenage middle distance runner. Once I’d fixed the issue in his jaw, the knee pain stopped and then we used AiM to repattern how his body moved. I see no reason at the moment why he won't be able to run marathons again if he wants to.
Post COVID update: I wasn't able to see Lloyd for over 18 months, though he was regularly running 1/2 marathon distances during lockdown. In June 2021 he strained a calf and by the end of September his knee wouldn't straighten. Three sessions in October/November got back 95% movement and by the end of December, after 2 more sessions, he was back to running.
"I was suffering from a seriously painful neck on one side, it felt like a steel cable running from my skull to my shoulder and even just lifting my head off the pillow was horrible. I was a professional Trapeze Artist for 20 years, and so I was quite used to good amounts of pain coming and going especially in the neck and shoulder area, but this time it went on for months with only temporary relief from various attempts at improvement from massage and physio.
I started coming to London every other week for work and once I met James I knew that he was exactly what I needed. I can’t say it was comfortable, but after the first session I instantly felt the difference and in four or five 15 minute treatments I forgot that I had ever been in any pain. I can ’t recommend James' skill highly enough! He has a superb eye, laser-like attention to detail, knowledge, passion, humour and intuition in bucket loads."
Jane. Paris, France.
"Before I had the kids, I was a keen skier, but two C sections put me out of action for a while. I also had unstable ankles and hypermobility, and used to twist my ankle badly at least once a week whilst just walking.
I really wanted to get back into skiing, so I went to see James who did some work on my body and feet over a handful of sessions. The first year back skiing after children, I was more stable and my turns have improved. And I’ve stopped twisting my ankle all the time!
We do maintenance sessions every now and then and the second year of skiing was even better than before I had children. My ankle and hip joints are more stable and I’ve transitioned back to exercise and challenging yoga in a safe way and feel stronger. I continue to see James for top up sessions and I’m looking forward to the skiing season this year."
Sarah (Highgate, London)
[Update: May 2021. Sarah cannot remember the last time that she twisted her ankle. I've not worked on it for over 18 months.]
On June 15th, 2019 there was a preliminary study into the effects of McLoughlin Scar Tissue Release® (MSTR®) on Caesarean Section scars which was conducted at The Newcastle Clinic, Newcastle, UK with Consultant Radiologist Dr Peddada Raju.
A General Electric (GE) Soniq S8 ultrasound scanner was used to conduct the test on three test subjects with C-section scars. Each subject was pre-scanned and images including size and depth of scar tissue and the amount of vascularity both surrounding and within the scar were recorded. MSTR work was then applied for a total of 15 minutes per subject, as a single treatment. Immediately after MSTR treatment each subject underwent a post-treatment ultrasound scan conducted by Dr Raju.
All three subjects were shown to have decreased scar tissue in the post treatment scan. One example of improvement was of a scar that was initially measured at 31.5mm pre treatment. The scar was re-measured at just 18.1mm post treatment. Another example was that of a longitudinal scar reducing in size from 22.7mm pre-treatment to just 10.4mm post-treatment. An increase in vascularity was noted not only in the surrounding tissue but also actually through the scar. Interestingly it should be noted that NO vascularity was present in the pre-scan of the same area.
This initial work confirms the claim that MSTR helps open the densely bound collagen fibres that make up scar tissue to allow increased blood flow into the area once again. This preliminary work will be followed by a larger study that will be undertaken at ‘The Newcastle’ later in 2019.
Read Charlotte's story.
"I was initially recommended to see James by my Pilates teacher for back issues. His calm manner belies the power of his treatments. The technique is so minimal that it is hard to believe anything happens… but it does. I still don’t quite understand how.
Therefore, when I heard he was particularly interested in using Bowen on problem feet, I decided to give it a go. I was sceptical to say the least. I had had surgery for Morton’s Neuroma in one foot and arthritis in the other. Within no more than 2-3 sessions, I had begun to regain flexibility in my feet.
Now, nearly a year later, and with no further treatment needed for my feet beyond the initial 5 sessions it took for them to change, it is no exaggeration to say that my life has been transformed. I no longer need to use orthotics, but, even more life-changing, I have been able to return to dance classes after 30+ years, including Zumba and ballet - something that was quite unthinkable before my Bowen sessions with James."
CB, Primrose Hill
I saw James initially for Bowen as my ankle was sore after a strain a few years back and I’d suffered with headaches and migraines since I was 18. I noticed quite a dramatic difference in regularity of my headaches after about 3 sessions: instead of the usual 2-3 a week, it turned into 1-2 a month. My ankle pain also disappeared.
James told me about his ‘scar work’ and I booked in for a session for my C-section scar. Interestingly, after the appointment I no longer felt the emotional charge from my scar or the previous sensitivity in the surrounding area. Over time, I’ve noticed that the scar has become barely noticeable, the redness gone and the skin is smoother. Now I’m pregnant again with my second, I’ll definitely be seeing James post birth!
Beauty Expert & Facialist
"I’ve been having Bowen Therapy with James for the past 2 years for various issues. Initially I saw him for a very tight, stiff, painful lower back which wasn’t resolving after months of physio & massage therapy. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but to my complete surprise a couple of days following my Bowen treatment I felt an opening in my back. The blockage was no longer there, I felt lighter. I could bend down freely and touch my hands to floor, something that was utterly impossible to do prior to Bowen therapy.
As I got such a great result, nowadays if I have an issue, whether is back pain, muscle tightness or pins & needles in my legs, I turn to James and within one session I am back to normal.
Up to this day I am still puzzled how such a minimal rolling movement could have such a big impact in my wellbeing. Bowen must be magic."
[Bowen isn't magic, but people are regularly surprised at how a few, well-targeted moves can make a big difference to their lives.]
“Just wanted to write a note to tell you that I haven't seen my mother this active in over a decade. She's lost so much weight, is walking so much better (even her friends have complimented her on this, not knowing of the work she's been doing).
Thank you so much for everything and your sessions this summer, I never thought I'd see my mother get to this level of activity and confidence, let alone in just a few months. She's excited about her new-found mobility, and for that we as a family are forever grateful.”
I did two sessions of Bowen and Anatomy in Motion while this lady was staying in her Knightsbridge home in August 2018. She carried on doing her exercises afterwards and her daughter sent me this email at the end of October.
Body Kinetics Therapy currently offers Sharon Wheeler's Fascial Work for physical trauma and Bowen Technique for neuromuscular pain in Shepherd's Bush, W6, Primrose Hill NW1 and Finsbury Park, London N4.