“Time heals all wounds” – except for when they leave a scar. An injury can leave behind a unwelcome scar, and a lasting mark left on the body that can affect a person both physically and emotionally – even years after the fact.
Some scars may be considered an aesthetic issue, while others may limit mobility, or even cause pain. Regardless of whether scars are a “beauty” concern or more of a health issue, they can certainly affect how we look and feel.
Thankfully there are natural ways of minimize scarring and often even helping reverse the appearance of older scars.
Why do Scars form?
Scars result from the normal biological process of wound repair in the skin. This also occurs in other organs and tissues of the body. Scarring often occurs after a deep trauma such as severe burns or cuts, including surgical incisions. Scars serve as a protective measure while the body is healing. The fibrous scar layer that forms from new collagen fibres is never as functional as the original tissue.
Although scarring is a common result of the body’s natural healing process, it is not meant to be permanent. In some people who are more prone to scarring it can become a major issue to deal with.
Even relatively small scars may cause further problems, including limited range of motion, pain and restricted circulation in the body – often in areas that are not even in immediate area of the scar. Scar tissue pain can be cause for discomfort in any part of the body.
How long does it take for a scar to heal?
Fine scars (such as after a surgery or minor injury) can take up to 2 years to heal. They may remain a different colour than the surrounding skin, but usually will become flatter and paler as time passes. Each person is different and many factors come into play such as:
- your body’s tendency to scar
- how long ago the injury or surgery incision occurred
- how the injury or surgery incision was orginally treated
- the integrity of the skin and your overall health (ie. do you heal quickly in general?)
Internal Scars are like adhesions inside the Body
Sometimes scars may be inside as well as on the skin surface. If internal scarring occurs (for instance after a surgical procedure) this can form a type of fibrous tissue know as an adhesion. These form more like bands of scar tissue, often acting as anchors underneath an exterior wound. These scars may actually appear very small on the surface, but can act like a network of fibrous tissue inside the body. They often restrict circulation of fluids in area and occur most frequently in the abdomen and pelvis.
This is common with some scars after surgery, namely C-section scars or other types of abdominal surgery. The scar itself may eventually appear flat and faded, but there may still be numbness in the area or even pain or discomfort that is being referred to surrounding areas.
It can be frustrating to find relief, especially if scars are causing pain long after they have become less visible. There are a number of natural solutions for scars, to gently yet effectively help you heal.
Acupuncture Treatments for Scar Reduction
Acupuncture helps restore and regulate the healthy free flow of blood and energy in the body. Scar tissue is seen as a ‘stasis’ of blood and qi (energy), a state which by its very nature will cause disruptions such as pain and further imbalance in the body’s regulatory systems.
Acupuncture treatments for scars can help increase blood circulation to the immediate area and break up the old fibrous tissues. Increased blood and oxygen levels can help the body eventually absorb and dissolve this tissue naturally. Sterile, hair-thin acupuncture needles are placed surrounding the scar tissue during a treatment.
Along with Acupuncture, Traditional Eastern Medicine has a number of partner modalities that work well on breaking down old scar tissue and encouraging fresh collagen to generate. I will often use these together in my clinic.
Gua Sha (skin scraping or rubbing) with a flat instrument is often part of a scar treatment and can be used alongside acupuncture needles. This can help gently break up certain types of scar tissue and encourage circulation in the area. It is usually used in conjunction with other methods, as will not be as effective on its own.
Cupping is a traditional method used for moving blood, lymph and stagnant energy just under the skin’s surface. It often works faster than gua sha on certain types of scars. It also helps by breaking down collagen scar fibres and encouraging new circulation and healing to take place.
Essential Oils for Healing Skin
A number of essential oils have been identified as having superior skin repair qualities, including some that are effective in scar tissue treatment. When using most essential oils on the skin it is necessary to always first dilute correct amounts in a carrier oil, or use a ready-made formulation.
Helichrysum (Helichrysum angustifolium) is one of the top essential oils traditionally used for skin repair and healing. It is also known as Immortelle or Everlasting – and is often combined with other skin loving oils such as Carrot Seed (Daucus carota seed) and Lavender (Lavandula officinalis).
H-Scars Formula by Healing Natural Oils is a homeopathic blend that is meant to be applied directly to healed scar tissue. It contains all three of these essential oils as well as Calendula officinalis oil.
Learn more about the benefits of this natural oil blend here.
Castor Oil to Heal Scars
Castor oil is derived from the bean of the Ricinus communis, and has been used therapeutically for centuries in folk medicine traditions ranging from ancient India, China, Persia, Africa, Greece, Rome to the Americas. Among other uses it has traditionally been prized for skin care including treatment of scar tissue. Organic castor oils that are expeller pressed (therefore hexane free) are a good choice.
But how does castor oil heal scar tissue? The fatty acids in castor oil are deeply moisturizing to the skin, helping to soften adhesions, and allowing new skin cells to regenerate. Castor oil is also thought to benefit the flow of lymph in the body. In traditional medicines, it has been used topically to gently cleanse congested areas of the body – through the body’s own waste removal systems.
This non-invasive method for both skin surface scars and internal adhesions is fairly easy to use, inexpensive and has few side effects. However, it does need to be used consistently, as only a one time treatment will not make much of a difference to healing scar tissue.
Castor oil can be applied directly onto a skin surface scar, then covered with a warm wrap or compress – and often left overnight. Alternately, a series of treatments with castor oil packs can be very beneficial for gently encouraging the resolution of internal scarring and adhesions.
Treating Scars with Arvigo® Therapy
The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy® are a gentle, non-invasive abdominal massage that encourages blood, lymph and energy circulation to the reproductive and digestive systems. It can help increase circulation to resolve congestion such as internal scar tissue and adhesions in the abdominal and pelvic areas.
Beneficial for issues that may be related to congestion or “stagnation” of blood and energy in this area. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, menstrual pain and irregularity are often related to congestion in the pelvic region. Old scar tissue from injuries, surgeries or infections may be gently resolved with a series of abdominal massage treatments. Self care techniques such as castor oil packs are also part of the treatment plan.
Cautions with Scar Treatments
Remember that regardless of their unappealing nature – scars are still a natural healing phenomenon. Therefore, due to an increased risk of infection – always wait at least one month or more after the injury before starting any natural therapy treatment. Certain types of scars – such as keloid scars – require particularly gentle care, so as not to cause further scarring.
Persons who are diabetic, elderly, cancer patients or those with neurological disorders should first seek the advice of their health care professional before attempting any other natural therapies for their scars.
Yes, abdominal massage such as Arvigo® Therapy can be useful in dealing with the formation of new c-section scars. It is very important to wait until the scar has healed (3 months post surgery), before performing any self massage or getting a professional treatment from a therapist trained in scar healing techniques.
For older scars, it is possible to minimize the size, appearance and restriction of an old C-section scar with this approach. Boosting circulation with targeted abdominal massage and acupuncture can help increase the body's natural healing process.
In general - for both old and new scarring - it is a series of treatments performed over a series of weeks or months in order to have a lasting effect.
Both Acupuncture and Arvigo® Therapy abdominal massage are effective with a number of issues in post natal care.
It is possible to minimize the appearance of old acne scarring with a dedicated program of treatment. Options are customized for each individual and may include facial acupuncture, magnet therapy such as Qi Beauty as well as self care techniques to use at home. Topical treatments are suggested for at-home use, in between visits.
Non-invasive natural methods require a commitment in order to see the best results. This is not the same as getting laser therapy or scar revision surgery, as it may take longer.
But, they have fewer side effects and always work on a 'whole body' approach. This means that we are not only treating the scar tissue - other body systems also benefit, including digestive and reproductive health. Many clients also report less pain and stress due to better circulation in the body.
In clinic, I usually suggest a multi-faceted approach: in-office treatments plus at home self care such as castor oil and essential oils for skin healing.
William A. McGarey, MD, The Oil That Heals: A Physician's Success with Castor Oil Treatments, 1993
Christiane Northrup, MD, Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1994
Harvey Grady , Immunomodulation Through Castor Oil Packs Journal of Naturopathic Medicine ,Vol 7, No 1 1999
Shirley Price, Len Price, Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, 2012
J. Bensouliah, P. Buck, Aromadermatology: Aromatherapy in the Treatment and Care of Common Skin Conditions, 2006
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