Vail Health Insights column: Persistent pain and weakness may be tied to surgical scars
March 8, 2016
When weakness persists after surgery, many are left frustrated and out of ideas. We know the surgery was successful, and therapy compliance was 100 percent. Why, then, months or years after surgery, does the weakness and/or pain persist?
Chances are, you can blame the scar.
Following an injury or surgery that creates a scar, the communication between the brain and that region is altered. Even after the scar is fully healed, it continues to send faulty information to the brain. The skin (which is an organ) sends a signal to the brain "there's a hole." The brain registers this as "danger" and responds accordingly. The brain creates pain or dysfunction in surrounding muscles and joints to "protect the hole."
Until the scar is properly released, the faulty communication persists. I've seen 12-year-old cesarean section scars shut down the core, knee replacement scars shut down the quadriceps muscle and tiny scope holes shut down the shoulder. To be clear, nobody is to blame. This is a matter of the brain being overly effective at detecting danger.
WAKING UP THE RIGHT MUSCLES
The good news is this can be fixed. If you are "healed," but continue to struggle, consider scar work as an option. The goal is to decrease the signal to the scar. A method I employ is Neurokinetic Therapy. I check muscle strength in relation to scars. Testing confirms which muscles the scar has weakened. The scar tissue is released, followed by activation of the appropriate muscle(s).
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Our bodies are good at compensating. When it comes to muscle weakness, anything that communicates with the brain is fair game. Sometimes it's another muscle. In many cases, it's the scar. As the scar is properly released, the communication with the brain improves. Scar release is not a silver bullet, but it's worth considering. Decrease the hole and decrease the perceived danger.
Julie Peterson, MPT, is the owner of Concierge Physical Therapy Colorado. She is a certified Neurokinetic Therapy specialist with a strong background in manual therapy. She can be reached at 970-306-3006 and firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit http://www.conciergeptcolorado.com.