Skya Gardner-Abbate devotes a whole chapter to the treatment of scars in her book, “The Art of Palpatory Diagnosis in Oriental Medicine”. In Oriental Medicine it is a well known fact that scars may disrupt the normal flow of energy (Qi) and Blood in the meridians, or energy pathways. Not all scars are problematic, but they are viewed as potential organ-meridian disturbances. Practitioners should always inquire about scars during the initial interview. Scars should be examined and evaluated during the physical exam. Scars that are the result of surgery, large scars or scars that are symptomatic – causing pain, burning or numbness should be investigated.
There is a three step process to assessing a scar. First, inspect the scar and note its relationship to the acupuncture meridians. Look at the size, shape, texture and color of the scar. If the scar is hard, raised, and dark in color it is more likely to be tender and problematic. Secondly, note the location of the scar. Scars on the neck, lower abdomen, face, head and spine can have profound implications due to the energetics of these areas. Last, palpate around the scar (never directly on top of the scar) to see if there is tenderness or a perception of weakness or emptiness that would indicate a deficiency in that area.
New scars should be left alone for a minimum of four weeks, longer for patients with a slow healing response such as those who are diabetic or have compromised immune systems.
There are many approaches to treating a scar. Scars can be “cleared” by hand. Most of Skya’s book is devoted to the Japanese acupuncture technique of palpating the abdomen to determine what acupuncture points would be best treated with acupressure to release areas of tension. Much information is given to “clearing the naval”, which is interestingly considered to be the first scar that we come into the world with. The same logic to treating scars elsewhere on the body would apply. It is worth reading her book to gain this knowledge, even if you are not necessarily a practitioner of Japanese acupuncture.
Secondly, you can clear a scar with acupuncture needles. Palpate the border of the scar and find two of the most tender points. Insert the needle at an angle to go under the scar. Use the thinnest needles possible and retain for only five minutes. Energy can be trapped in these areas and releasing this energy can cause unpredictable reactions that can be considered a healing crisis. Patients should be advised that this can happen, though the symptoms are temporary. Here is a link to an article that Skya wrote for Acupuncture Today on the treatment of scars that gives a little more detail on needle placement.
Liniments can be applied daily around the scar to encourage the proper flow of Qi and Blood. Zheng Gu Shui is a popular choice because it penetrates deeply to move Blood Stasis. Ching Wan Hung is an excellent external treatment for scars from burns because the ingredients not only stop pain and cool heat, but also promote tissue growth.
Moxa is also an effective treatment modality. Patients can be instructed to use the Tiger Thermie Warmer at home to apply pressure around the entire border of a scar. The process should take about three minutes daily. The Tiger Thermie Warmer not only delivers the moxa’s heat, but also acts as a mechanical tool to break up obstruction.
In the early stages of scar healing, moisturizers can reduce the size of a scar. Natural Vitamin E oil is one of the most effective oils for this purpose. Burn scars can benefit from aloe vera to reduce the inflammation.
Diet is important during the healing stages of scars. A well-rounded diet with foods rich in Vitamin C and zinc will speed the healing process. Treating new scars can promote faster healing and prevent health issues down the road. Releasing blocked energy from old scars may resolve seemingly unrelated health issues.
About the Author:
Joyce Marley is a licensed acupuncturist who provides acupuncture therapy in New Hartford, NY. She writes Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) health articles about acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.