Are your scars causing dysfunctional movement?

One of my favourite things to treat in the clinic are scars and not because I have a plethora of my own, but because they are so amazingly powerful when it comes to motor control and dysfunctional movement. 

The skin and fascia hold an incredible about of nerve endings that are constantly receiving information from the environment (touch, temperature, pain, vibration, location in space etc) and then relaying it to the brain. The brain then takes the received information and responds in one of two ways - the first is gland secretion, the second is muscular output - AKA movement (a physio's bread and butter). If the information being received by the brain from the scarred area is altered, the output (read muscle activation) is also going to be altered. 

Scars usually come about as the result of trauma (accidental or intentional - i.e. surgical) and have a typical physiological process they go through as they heal. To repair the tissue, the body lays down collagen fibers, which are then remodelled over the next several months and years. This collagen can not only mechanically affect the area by limiting range of motion or compressing structures, it can also have a huge impact on the information the nerve receptors are receiving. Sometimes the information received is dialled down and the area becomes numb or loses sensation, while often the information received is cranked wayyy up and the the area becomes hypersensitive and highly irritable. This dialling up and down of the receptors provides the brain with altered information and as a result, output is altered and often dysfunctional. Keep in mind that scars aren't usually just what is visible on the surface (especially if they are surgical), the scar tissue can extend far beyond the superficial markings and create alterations in sensory receptor information all along those projections.  

Assessing the scars requires a health professional who is proficient in understanding the impact that scars have on the tissue and is able to test the scars relative to the muscles in the area. NeuroKinetic Therapy (NKT) is a fantastic assessment tool for scars and I would highly recommend seeking out someone trained in NKT in your area (pick me, pick me!) for assessment and treatment. Treatment would typically involve gentle myofascial release of the scarred area (specific to the tests) followed by specific, light activation of the affected muscles. Light release work is really important to scars because you aren't actually breaking down the tissue - you are changing your brain's awareness of it and how it responds from a motor control aspect. To actually break down scar tissue takes ALOT of heavy work and can be incredibly painful to the altered receptors in the area. Keeping it light affects change at the neurological level, which will have far greater long-term holding power.

To read more about this nitty gritty of scar healing and its effect on the body, this article is the BOMB.COM!

Danielle Boyd