I have recently trained in ScarWork with leading ScarWork practitioner and trainer Emma Holly. ScarWork is a new form of scar therapy, originally developed by American therapist Sharon Wheeler. Treatment is given without oils or creams, to help post operative, accident or burn scars.
Scar formation is a natural process of wound healing. Scar tissue contains more fibrous tissue and collagen deposits than normal skin, making it structurally and functionally different. The injury or surgery may have resulted in nerve damage, causing numbness or sensitivity in the area. As skin is healing after an operation or accident, different layers under the skin can stick together as the body rushes to close and heal the wound.
ScarWork is a hands-on therapeutic intervention involving light, non-invasive techniques including a combination of stroking, multi-directional skin stretches and digital or palm pressure applied to the scar site and surrounding tissue. These and other specialised techniques aim to guide the wound to return as close to pre-surgery architecture as possible. ScarWork can improve feeling and functionality in the scar and surrounding tissues, creating better movement between the layers of the skin, fascia (connective tissue) and muscle. Treatments stimulate the blood circulation, lymphatic system and nervous system to encourage renewed healing and promote tissue health. It helps release the stuck layers, allowing better function and movement in the scar and surrounding tissues (e.g joints) that were previously restricted. Other benefits may include improvement in tissue quality and texture, improved sensation, improvement in the appearance of the scar/surrounding area and a reduction in pain.
In addition to the positive physical changes clients may experience, it can also lead to improvements in mental, psychological and emotional wellbeing.
Visually, cosmetic changes can occur: scars often appear smaller, flatter, lighter and less prominent but the emphasis is on the underlying tissue changes. Dense scar tissue can reduce, nerve impairment such as numbness, pain, itching, irritation or extreme sensitivity may improve.
Changes that occur to the scar and nerve function are usually permanent. Tightness in surrounding tissues can reduce, helping restore normal muscle function. Knots and tight ropey scars are often softened and loosened, ridges and holes may be minimised. Multiple treatments are recommended to gain the most benefit and the response to treatment will vary for each individual.
Treatments are gentle, making them ideal for children or anyone with extremely sensitive scars, working at your level of comfort. All kinds of scars from very old to newly healed (once you have been discharged by your doctor) can be treated using ScarWork. The scars could be the result of an accident, operation or cosmetic surgery such as scars from:
Knee or hip replacements
Appendix or gall bladder removal
Achilles tendon surgery
Portacath and tube/drain sites
Tummy tuck surgery
Road traffic and other accidents
IMPORTANT: ScarWork is not a replacement for conventional treatment. Keloid scars, stretch marks and acne scars can not be treated with ScarWork. The treatment should also be avoided over areas containing certain types of surgical mesh e.g. mesh used in the abdominal or pelvic areas. ScarWork is also not advised during pregnancy. If you are in doubt, ask your doctor or consultant if you can safely have massage on your scar. If you are within 5 years of a cancer diagnosis, or are having ongoing oncology treatment, I will require written permission from your doctor/consultant before treating you – I can provide you with a letter to be signed for this purpose.
Photo above shows a burn mark on a 40 year old female client’s hand before and after three ScarWork sessions – the burn mark has been there since she was three years old. Scar is now softer, smoother and the edges are less obvious.