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Physical and Emotional Scar Management in Oncology

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

It can be challenging to look at and touch our scars, never mind having someone else touch them.

Image of breast surgery scars covered with a rose tattoo

Scars are permanent but changeable, they can get softer, flatter, stretchier and less painful.

Begin with hand contact close, not on your scar.

If your shoulder range of movement is reduced, from scarring following breast surgery, feel for the line of tension, follow it and work on it gently at first.

Scar work may bring some emotions to the surface, including fear, anger, loneliness, confusion, caught up in scars. It is a healthy process to feel and express emotions.

Expect to feel numbness or hyper analgesia, (hypersensitivity).

Click below for a FREE Assessment to work out what YOU need to focus on to get you started:

After treatment you may feel:

  • Itchy in scars short term.

  • Deep fatigue.

  • Emotional response.

  • Pain even with gentle treatment.

  • As restricted scar tension is eased it may reveal underlying muscle tension, removing one pain and replacing with another.

  • Change. Notice without panicking. Change is good, will deal with changes next.

With scars after breast surgery performing myofascial release into pectoral muscles combined with gentle stretches.

Feel for tension first, then use sustained pressure wherever feels tightened and fibrous with straight fingers, sinking in and adding tension in another direction, as needed.

Use slow, subtle work, feeling for feedback and pausing at the first sight of resistance.

Work with the body, don’t force, give it time to soften.

Treat all scars including port scars.

Treat both sides.

Avoid over treating if skin is red.

Include deep breathing exercises.

Yoga and pilates will help regain trunk and shoulder mobility.

Include a home exercise program of stretches:

  • With hands laced behind head Pectoral stretch by hitching ups hip, then side bending to the same side, holding the stretch for a few seconds and retreating 2-3 repetitions each side, adding rotation if feel more tension.

  • Doorway pectoral stretch with arms low, then upper arms parallel to floor, then higher, maintaining the body in a plank. The stretch should feel good, not painful, feeling for the first point of apprehension or tension, relaxing muscles and bringing more awareness into the scar and muscles.

Image of Doorway Pectoral Stretch

  • Abduction stretch on a wall with your arm overhead, armpit on the wall, stretching your outer rib cage and arm. Compress your lower rib with your arm overhead to increase the stretch.

Click below for a FREE Assessment to work out what YOU need to focus on to get you started:

Treat in side lying in addition to on your back, to reach all aspects of your scar.

Gather up the soft tissue tension and work forwards from all directions.

Treat your upper rib cage, while lying on your other side, with downward pressure, adding your top shoulder stretch by reaching your arm overhead.

Use a pumping action between your shoulder and rib cage maintaining a long stretch with your arm overhead.

Progress by rolling your rib cage backwards from the top, while anchoring your pelvis still.

Treat all port scars, in all directions, checking for tension into shoulders.

Treat drain scars at the sides of the body as they can be uncomfortable.

Other helpful techniques:

Thoracic spine mobilsations.

Rib mobilisations.

Lymph pumping techniques.

Teaching a family member how to perform soft tissue techniques at home.

Ending treatment by adding compression throughout your body, shoulders, elbows, hands, down to legs and feet, grounding, and back up to the shoulders.

Unsure where to start? Click the link below to get you started NOW:

Cancer Rehab Starter Program:

"We are more than just our scars, our whole body attached also"

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