What comes to mind when you hear the word “scar”? Perhaps Al Pacino's disfigured cheek in Scarface, or a lightning-bolt mark on Harry Potter’s forehead. Most people think of scars as something superficial, something on our skin, although not pretty, often an evidence of our active lifestyle, and sometimes even a magnet for the opposite sex.
And when we hear of scars inside us, we usually think of emotional scars, as in “that terrible experience scarred me for life”. There is, however, a different type of scars we carry inside and cannot see – the scars in our muscles.
When a muscle is strained because of an overuse or an excessive force, some of its fibers get torn. Within minutes of the injury the body gets busy repairing the damaged muscle. The platelets in the blood stick to the torn muscle fibres promoting clotting and stopping the bleeding. Inflammation occurs, clearing dead or damaged cells and bacteria. At the injury site the fibers of protein collagen get deposited, which act as a binding material for the ruptured muscle.
These collagen fibers are the scar tissue. In a hurry to fix the injured muscle the body “glues” soft and flexible muscle fibers with the rubbery hard collagen, which has different physical properties from the adjacent healthy muscle.
You see the problem don’t you? As a result of the scar tissue being weak, dense and less flexible, the muscle containing it becomes:
c. less flexible and less capable to stretch
d. more prone to re-injury
e. an impingement site for nerves
f. poor conduit for lymph vessels
These are not good things, and if you have a chronic pain in your muscle, chances are it is caused by the build-up of the scar tissue. Fortunately massage therapy has tools and methods to relieve the symptoms and to reduce the underlying condition.
Manual lymphatic drainage in the early stages of the muscle repair promotes circulation and reduces the build-up of the scar tissue.
Myofascial release helps break the adhesion of the scar tissue to the surrounding fascia.
Stripping and cross-fiber friction softens and realigns the scar tissue, makes it smaller, smoother and more mobile.
Remedial exercise and home care help stretch the shortened muscle and avoid the re-injury.
Helping injured muscles heal and restoring their function – is one of many things that massage can do for you. Come and check it out for yourself. We hope to see soon.