Acupuncture can be used to address damaged tissues by activating the physiological responses that can decrease sensations of pain and soreness. As a registered massage therapist and acupuncturist, I have recommended the use of acupuncture for scar tissue treatment in cases where it can effectively help the healing process.
In this article, we examine the nature of scar tissue, how the body heals, as well as when and how acupuncture can be effective in scar tissue treatment.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the application of a stimulus (energy) in the form of an acupuncture needle, to a meaningful location on a person’s body (e.g., neuromuscular junction, myofascial trigger point). From a contemporary medical acupuncture approach, acupuncture works by stimulating the nervous system to elicit a specific response from the body. When an acupuncture needle is placed in the correct locations, physiological mechanisms are activated and our body responds accordingly.
What is scar tissue?
Scar tissue is the result of the body’s ability to heal a wound, or cut of any type. It does so by depositing fibroblasts (cells that make collagen fibers) in young or recent scars, and later in old scars, they turn into dense collagenous fibers.
How does the scar affect the body?
Scar tissue may cause adhesions between layers of skin, muscle, or fascia (connective tissue) resulting in disorganised circulation and innervation around the scar and neighbouring areas. In other words, scar tissue can cause dysfunction by influencing its surrounding tissues. Studies show that scars, which are chronically painful, have a higher density of nerve fibers that conduce pain, called nociceptive fibers.
As the body goes through its natural rhythm or movement a thicker scar may be more likely to activate sensory receptors, called mechanosensitive-receptors. This activation is due to pressure and stretch, which may or may not lead to pain depending on the degree of the stimuli and the scar itself.
Mechanical stimulation of these sensory receptors prompts the body to release neuropeptides. Neuropeptides are a type of molecule that nerve cells produce to signal each other about their environment, which further stimulates chemically sensitive nociceptors. These chemically sensitive nociceptors lead to a chemical cascade causing inflammation of the scar tissue, which in turn disrupts and prolongs the healing process.
That is to say, addressing the scar tissue early and with an efficacious modality is a very good idea. We can help to bypass this inflammatory cascade and improve scar tissue healing.
Is the pain in scar tissue treatable with acupuncture?
Yes. Acupuncture for scar tissue treatment specifically helps to stimulates mechanoreceptors and nociceptors in the skin and underlying tissues in a way that enhances the activity of inhibitory neural mediators (meaning chemicals that will counteract the neuropeptides that cause inflammation).
By curbing inflammation caused by the nerve signals that were in overdrive by the scar tissue, acupuncture helps facilitate the healing process.
If you have questions about acupuncture for scar tissue, please feel free to contact me for a consultation.
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