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. You can read about the sometimes devastating effects of scar tissue here.
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 can stimulate the blood circulation, lymphatic system and nervous system to encourage renewed healing and promote tissue health. It can help to 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 may 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 cannot 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 advice 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.
Case Study: Steve H. Male aged 62
Steve received 6 ScarWork sessions between October 2018 and January 2019. Each session lasted an hour and I worked for 20 minutes on each scar using ScarWork techniques. This was followed by 20 minutes of massage with oil on both legs and feet. Below are Steve’s comments regarding his experience of ScarWork.
Steve has given me permission to share this case study and says: “Thank you so much for the scar work treatments which I have found very beneficial. There is less pain from the areas where the scars are and this has helped me sleep better.”
Regarding my scar work treatment:
“In March 1992 I had a motorcycle accident, which resulted in me having major surgery on my left leg. As I was thrown forward my left leg hit the road with my full body weight on it. As a result the impact knocked a large triangular shaped section off the top of my tibal platau. A butress plate was put around the tibial plateau with metal straps and pins to secure it to the tibia. The meniscus cartlage was also injured and had to be removed. My left knee joint was reconstructed using bone harvested from my left hip from the region of the iliac crest. The pins and plates have since been removed.
As a result of the surgery I have scar tissue around the area of my left knee and also in the area of my left hip where the bone was harvested.
I have made a good recovery since my accident. This has been through me carrying out physiotherapy exercises most days at home and through regular exercises at the gym. For the first few years I had to take painkillers most days to ease the pain in both areas where the scars are. However, regular use of painkillers caused problems with stomach pains and so I gradually came off them. Instead I began having aromatherapy massage, which has greatly helped, and I have had regular massage treatments for many years now.
Whilst the aromatherapy massages have been very beneficial I have until recently had trouble getting comfortable at night due to the pain in the scar area’s of my left leg and hip. Through recommendation I started having treatments from Mary Dalgleish who specialises in scar work tissue massage. My first treatment was in October last year and so far I have had five separate treatments from Mary. Since having Mary’s treatments the pain level in my injured leg and hip has significantly reduced. I have less pain when sleeping at night and so I am now sleeping much better.” (Steve H. January 2019)
Scar on left leg (before and after)
Scar on left iliac crest area (before and after)