C-Section Scar Massage for Holistic Healing
By Kimberly Landreville
There are many ways to birth and bring life into this world, and each one has its own unique considerations for recovery. One of the common questions we get at Vital is how to properly care for a c-section scar. A Caesarean section, usually called a C-section, is an incision made to the lower abdominal region (just above your pubic bone) and into the uterus. Caesarean sections are indicated in the event that a vaginal birth is not possible or where it is seen as a lower risk option to the baby or mother, and is often lifesaving. However, C-sections should be considered a major abdominal surgery and mothers who have had a C-section require more time to recover both physically and emotionally. Often, your health care provider will give you lifting, carrying, and movement restrictions to ensure that your body can properly heal! This rest time is important and should be respected in order to optimise your physical recovery.
Sometimes having a C-section is unplanned and beyond the physical impact to the body, we need to consider the emotional healing process that is a necessary part of recovery as well. One element women often speak about after a C-section is how disconnected they feel from their bodies, and their reluctance to look at, or to even touch, their C-section scar. At Vital Physiotherapy, it is our goal to empower you to connect with your body, find strength in it and love it. An excellent tool to reconnect women to their bodies and C-section scars is through therapeutic touch or massage therapy.
One element women often speak about after a C-section is how disconnected they feel from their bodies, and their reluctance to look at, or to even touch, their C-section scar.
Research supports that massage therapy aids in making scars less noticeable and improve muscle function and tissue mobility by breaking down restricted movements of the scar (called adhesions) 1,2,3,4. Why is this important? A C-section scar that doesn’t move very well can end up ‘pulling’ on surrounding tissues – your abdominals, pelvic floor, hip muscles – which can actually impact their ability to function well!
If you have had a Caesarean section, try this to test out the mobility of your scar: Place both hands on your stomach, just below your belly button, and pull upward. Do you feel a stretch in your scar?
This stretching feeling may extend all the way in to your pelvic floor area. Can you feel that? This is a bit of an exaggeration, but a small example of how tightness in one area of your body can impact another area. As it relates to your pelvic floor, tightness from a Caesarian section may result in pelvic floor muscle issues, such as painful intercourse, incontinence, or urinary frequency.
Tips for Scar Massage and Healing
The general rule of thumb is to wait 6-8 weeks after your surgery before beginning any form of scar massage therapy treatment. This usually comes with a visit to your OB or midwife to let you know that the incision has healed properly. After this time, it is important to start touching your scar – even if through your clothing, at first – in order to help your body and mind re-connect to this area, as it can get quite sensitive if left alone completely. If touching sounds too difficult for you, you can start with just looking and observing the scar, or even thinking about looking at or touching the scar.
At this time, it may be more comfortable to wear loose fitting clothing that doesn’t rub on the area, and start with some gentle massage with vitamin E, olive oil or coconut oil. If you find this painful, reduce your pressure until it feels comfortable and progressively increase the pressure, as you feel ready. This could take minutes, days or weeks. There is no right timeline.
Beyond these self-care tips, a massage therapist can help by focusing on the scar tissue that has formed, using gentle friction techniques to break down the deep thick layers of dermis (the layer below the top layer of skin). This will promote blood and lymph flow to the area to improve the healing process. Additionally, a massage therapist may also work on releasing muscle tension in the surrounding areas that can get impacted through the pregnancy and delivery process such as your hip flexors, quadriceps, abdominals, intercostal muscles (muscles between the ribs), and low back.
…A massage therapist can help by focusing on the scar tissue that has formed, using gentle friction techniques to break down the deep thick layers of dermis (the layer below the top layer of skin).
The combination of these self-care tips and massage therapist-assisted techniques will help restore optimal length to your tissues and help to ensure that you are on your way to an optimal recovery.
It is important to remember that there is no one ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to recover. What is important is that you are taking the time to care for yourself and your body, postpartum. Often, a gentle massage is just what you need. Sometimes it’s sleep. Other times, you may need someone to talk to. We are always here to help you, guide you, educate you, and empower you. If you ever have any questions about your c-section, or any other health matter, don’t be afraid to ask!
References Majchrzycki M, Seremak-Mrozikiewicz A, Kulczyk A, Lipiec J. Kinesiotherapy in women after gynecological surgeries. PRZEGLAD MENOPAUZALNY. 2012; 11(6): 510-513. Bianchi FA, Roccia F, Fiorini P, Berrone S. Use of Patient and Observer Scar Assessment Scale for evaluation of facial scars treatedwith self-drying silicone gel. J Craniofac Surg. 2010; 21: 719-23. Bodian M. Use of massage following lid surgery. Eye Ear Nose Throat Mon. 1969; 48: 542–7. Li-Tsang CW, Lau JC, Choi J, Chan CC, et al. A prospective randomized clinical trial to investigate the effect of silicone gel sheeting (Cica-Care) on post-traumatic hypertrophic scar among theChinese population. Burns. 2006; 32: 678-83
Kimberly Landreville, RMT is an exceptionally experienced and passionate Massage Therapist, who has been working in the field for over 10 years. She has vast experience treating all musculoskeletal issues and is certified in Hatha yoga and reflexology. As part of the Vital Physiotherapy team, Kimberly uses a holistic treatment approach to ensure that each of her clients receives a personalised plan, addressing their unique needs. Connect with Kimberly Landreville, RMT here.