Scars: More Than Skin Deep

Scars are a very common and very unrecognized cause of movement dysfunction and chronic pain.

Your skin, ligaments,tendons, muscles, and fascia are loaded with nerve endings that sense movement and tell you what’s going on in the world around you. 

Information from those nerves travel to your brain, which then “decides” how you need to respond.  When you feel cold, you shiver to warm yourself up. You feel sudden pain, you try to get away from it (and maybe say some bad words.)  You feel something creepy crawl on you, you jump and scream, etc.

When the skin and its connected fascia and muscles are disrupted due to injury or surgery, it can disrupt this flow of information.  You might develop a “protective” response around the injury, like limping or shifting your weight off of it, causing associated muscles to become tight or weak.  There may be decreased or altered sensation around the area that your brain then learns to work around. Or the scar tissue is stiff, tight, and doesn’t stretch and move the way it should.  All of these change the way you move, and can cause strain and pain in areas far from the original injury.  

These changes can be subtle, but can have significant effects in other parts of the body over time — even decades after the injury.   Because it’s often forgotten (and rarely recognized by many healthcare professionals) it can take some investigation to connect the dots between the old injury and your current symptoms.  But once we do, we can make specific corrections that “reset” that neural input and output to improve the way you move and feel.

References: 

Skin, fascias, and scars: symptoms and systemic connections   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3883554/

Clinical importance of active scars: abnormal scars as a cause of myofascial pain   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15319762

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