“You could not remove a single grain of sand from its place without thereby … changing something throughout all parts of the immeasurable whole.”
— Fichte, The Vocation of Man (1800)
I've worked with scars for some years now, and if I've worked with you on a scar, or even spoken with you about scars, no doubt you have heard me talking about the potential impact of them, and how I liken them to an iceberg.
Like an iceberg, a scar can run deep. We become so blinded by what we can see at the surface, we often forget what is underneath. And just like an iceberg, this is often where the biggest, most significant part of a scar is...
Beneath the surface of the skin, the scar tissue will often build. It will adhere to adjacent structures in what we refer to as ‘adhesions’. This adhered tissue will then stick to other tissue, causing restrictions, dysfunction of movement, and even organ dysfunction. Multiple scars can feed into each other and, what was once the well functioning matrix of our body, becomes a matrix of dysfunctional tissue, causing pain, restriction, reduced function...
If we take an operation scar as a simple example, you can imagine that, in order to get down to the depths of the structures that are the focus of the surgery, multiple 'layers' need to be cut through. These structure are then usually pulled back and held in place with clamps while the procedure occurs, often for hours, before everything is put back (roughly!) into place, and the incision is sewn up.
Below is a little video of a model showing the different layers (and cuts!) that need to be made to get a baby out during a c-section. For my squeamish followers, note, it's just a few pieces of rectangular felt material- no gore at all!
You will see that there needs to be significant shift in the tissues to complete the procedure, not to mention the trauma inflicted on different types of tissue, going quite deep!
And this model assumes that the body has all the different structures layered nicely, one above the other in this way. The reality is there are no (or few!) clearly defined layers. Remember, our body is intimately linked from head to toe, back to front, left to right, inside to outside, bone to muscle to tendons, from one cell to the next...the web of fascia running continuously around and through each structure of our body, never starting, never stopping...until it's cut.
This continuous web of fascia allows our body to communicate with itself, to move in harmony with its surrounds, to react. To function as a whole. Disrupt that harmony and you disrupt the delicate balance that was created when we were forming as an embryo.
But it's not just the big operations, or the traumatic accidents leaving us with noticeable scars we can't hide from that can affect us in this way. It's the little ones too- laparoscopic scars, or keyhole surgery, where they've moved the instruments around significantly inside to investigate; such small, tidy marks on the body, yet often so much has gone on underneath. The mole that was removed as a teenager. That time you stood on a piece of glass when we were walking barefoot along the beach. The time you walked into the doorframe after having 'too good' a night out and gashed your eyebrow. All these things disrupt the continuity of the fascial matrix, interfering with the natural flow of our bodies.
I recently attended a 4 day course to qualify as a ScarWork therapist, enhancing the way I work with scar tissue. ScarWork treatment is incredibly gentle, yet mindblowingly effective. Plus is encourages permanent changes to the tissue (whereas most scar treatments work on, sometimes quite harshly, breaking down the scar tissue temporarily to provide relief.
This course reminded me just how intimately linked our whole body is. How a small scar can have a massive impact. We started the first two days working on each other. I signed up to the course knowing this and had to give information about any scars I have. My initial reaction was 'NONE'. I've never had an operation. I've never had a big accident. But thinking harder...oh yes...there was that fall when I was about 5 years old, and I hit my bottom lip on the corner of a glass table. Two stitches were required. It has never caused me any problem. And having had it for 35 years, I don't think about it any more! But that was all I had to offer my fellow students. When we put our minds to it, nearly all of us have a scar somewhere...even if it never required medical attention.
So...the thing that totally blew my mind. I had this scar worked on over the first 2 days. During the second day I experienced some significant fascial connections during the treatment- to my jaw, my ear, my neck. During treatment I experienced a phenomenon known as 'unwinding' and ever since then, my neck, which has been a problem for me for over 10 years, and particularly bothersome the last few weeks or months, was left feeling completely pain free and a lot less restricted! No one even touched my neck!! All through some super gentle work on my lip, and connecting with my jaw...
If you're intrigued by this work and have a scar you would like me to work on, please do get in touch to find out more - it could be the missing link to your pain or restricted movement!
Anna Curtis is a Clinical Massage Therapist, and qualified ScarWork practitioner working in the Epsom and Leatherhead area.