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.
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Body Kinetics Therapy currently offers Neuro-structural Integration, ScarWork and AiM in Shepherd's Bush, W6 and Finsbury Park, London N4.