An important aspect of any surgery is the post operative rehabilitation process. It’s during this process that natural movement is re-learned, and freedom of movement is re-enforced. It is also at this point where scar tissue begins to build up and problems can occur.
Soft tissue therapy plays an important role as a supplement to the standard rehabilitation procedures after surgery. Massage is great in helping bring blood and nutrients to the affected area to repair the soft tissue.
Massage also can break up newly formed scar tissue and keep the muscles supple so less scar tissue develops in the first place.
By increasing circulation while relaxing and lengthening the muscle fibres, massage encourages the body to pump more oxygen and nutrients into the soft tissues and affected areas via the blood. This allows the surgical rehabilitating area(s) to become more flexible and heal at an accelerated rate.
Scar tissue, adhesions. fibrosis. The words are different, but the meaning is the same. This dense, fibrous tissue affects us all and is an underlying factor in many injuries.
Thick scar tissue binds up and ties down muscle tissues that need to move freely.
As it builds up, muscles become shorter and weaker. Tension on tendons causes tendinosis or tendonitis. Nerves can become trapped.
All these problems can cause reduced range of motion, loss of strength, and pain as well as tingling, numbness, and weakness.
The formation of scar tissue occurs in two different ways;
First, if a muscle, tendon, or ligament is torn or crushed, the body creates scar tissue to ‘glue’ the torn pieces together. This is a necessary part of the healing process.
Think of it not like a neat join though. I use the following analogy with clients; imagine a pack of spaghetti as the muscle. Some of the spaghetti is broken, to repair the spaghetti you introduce a lump of blue tac.
It does a great job of gluing it back together but not in a neat way, it also adheres (yes thats what knots are, muscle adhesions!) other fibres too it.
If we catch those repairs quick enough in the post operative phase, we can make those repairs as neat as possible by helping to separate and straighten the fibres with soft tissue therapy.
The second, more common way for scar tissue to form is by soft tissue in the body not receiving enough oxygen (hypoxia).
Hypoxia is more common than one may think. Poor posture, athletic pursuits, repeated use, and sustained pressure (as in sitting) all increase muscle tension and result in hypoxic conditions.
When muscle tension is increased, blood supply to the area is reduced. A healthy blood flow is so important because blood carries oxygen to muscles. A reduced blood flow means less oxygen and that means hypoxia.
Hypoxia leads to free radical accumulation in muscles. Unfortunately free radicals attract cells that produce scar tissue. Massage stimulates blood flow, blood carries oxygen and white blood cells which attack the free radicals.
These cells begin lying down scar tissue and over time, scar tissue begins affecting surrounding muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and nerves. Once scar tissue has become solidified there is no way to remove it other than more surgery. Catching it as early as possible in the post operative phase is crucial.