How Scars and Adhesions are Affecting Your Health

Photo by  Jingyi Wang

Photo by Jingyi Wang

Your sore shoulder, constipation, sexual pain, infertility--all of these things can be a result of scar tissue in your body.  Why hasn’t anyone told you about this possibility before?   Mainstream medicine rarely looks at scar tissue because they don’t yet use effective ways for diagnosing and treating scar tissue.  

Working with scar tissue, particularly in the abdomen and pelvis, is part of my training as a sexological bodyworker.  My teacher, Ellen Heed, describes scar tissue as one of the four obstacles to radiant health as important as imbalances in posture, emotions and nutrition.  The good news is that scar tissue can be easy to find if you know what you’re looking for and there are simple treatments.

Where Does Scar Tissue Come From?

We are all familiar with scars that form when our skin has been cut.  Sometimes dark purple, sometimes white, scars knit our tissues back together.  Scar tissue can also form under the surface where we cannot see it.  In addition to cuts and surgeries we can develop scar tissue from infection, injuries, illness, childbirth and inflammation in the body.  Even emotions held in our tissues can lead to scar tissue.

What is Scar Tissue?

When an area is injured, cells called fibroblasts come in to protect and knit the area back together.  Fibroblasts are rich in collagen which makes for a denser connective tissue.  These fibroblasts are also highly disorganized--they do not form in nice, neat patterns that match the rest of our tissues.  This combination of density and disorganization is responsible for the crunchy, bumpy and inflexible feelings we often associate with scars. 

What are Adhesions?

All of the muscles and organs in your body are covered by a layer of fascia.  Fascia is like a thin sweater that covers, penetrates and separates muscles and organs.  Scar tissue likes to travel along fascia, its disorganization can cause it to continually form and travel from your right hip all the way up to your left shoulder along the knit highway of fascia.  

If you have a c-section scar and suddenly one day have sexual pain, this may be due to scar tissue traveling from you abdomen down into your pelvis and forming adhesions.  Adhesions occur when scar tissue glues the fascia of tissues or organs together.  So in the case of sexual pain, you might have two pelvic muscles glued together causing discomfort.   In the case of infertility, adhesions can glue the walls of the fallopian tubes together so there is not ample space for an egg to pass through.  For constipation your intestines might be glued to your abdominal wall.  

What Do Scar Tissue and Adhesions Feel Like?

Some scar tissue and adhesions are easy to feel and others it may take some skill to identify.  If you have scar tissue in your own body it can manifest as tightness and soreness in joints, like a stiff shoulder or a tight hip.  You will likely feel a limited range of motion when adhesions are present.  Scar tissue particularly around incisions can feel numb, like pins and needles or you may experience a pulling or stretching sensation.  

When palpating for scar tissue look for areas under your fingers that feel like wires, crunchy or hard little pebbles.  When these areas are really pressed into it can feel everything from numb or dull to sharp knife like pain.

What You Can Do

Here are a few ways you can intervene to prevent scar tissue from doing its thing and traveling around your body.  

  1. Gentle Stretching - This works particularly well when you’re body is nice and warm perhaps after a walk or cardio exercise.  Stretch into those areas of sticky spots just to the edge of discomfort.
  2. Castor Oil Packs - Castor oil comes from the castor seed and has been used as a healing remedy for centuries.  In short, castor oil reduces inflammation and it helps to melt scar tissue and draw toxins out of the body.  You can find supplies for castor oil packs, oil and flannel, here or at your local holistic pharmacy.  Be sure to use high quality organic castor oil to prevent putting more chemicals into your body.  Find castor oil pack instructions here.
  3. Bodywork - Some bodywork practitioners are trained to help dissolve scar tissue andthe assistance of someone else’s touch can be quite effective.  In sexological bodywork, we use castor oil for our scar massage.  Sexological bodyworkers also have the training to do internal pelvic work.   Other modalities that work with scar tissue are myofascial release and visceral manipulation.  Some physical therapists and occupational therapists also are skilled at working with scar tissue and may include internal work in their practice.

    Learn more about postpartum healing and scar massage at The Artemis School's Nurture Module -- October 2017 in Ojai, CA.