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C-section scar massage: how and why

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Octavia Hamilton
Physiotherapist

Massage is a great way of reducing tightness and numbness as well as improving the appearance of your C-section scar. You can start massaging your scar once it’s healed after your C-section. But in fact, scars continue to change for up to two years after the wound has healed and even old scars can benefit, making it never too late to start.

I’m going to be honest with you. Scars lead to a permanent change in collagen, which means your skin won’t ever be exactly the same as it was before. It will probably be thicker and more rigid, and might also have sensory changes too. Bear in mind that scars aren’t just on the surface, and there could be a lot more going on than first meets the eye.

But with that said, working around your scar with massage really can improve things, allowing for the best movement of tissue, joints, and lymph around the area.

To safely work on your scar, you first need to consider what your scar is like now. A happy scar is thin, pale, and flat. If your scar is more raised and red, you’ll need to go more gently. If you have a keloid scar, which is when the scar is red, raised and spreading away from the borders of the scar line, then you’ll need professional help to manage that.

Most crucially, are there any signs of infection? If your scar is red, hot, pussy, smelly or oozy or if you’re feeling unwell or have a temperature, do not attempt scar work and instead contact your GP.

If everything is looking nicely healed, you might be ready to start scar massage! Guidance tends to be that you can try around week six, once your surgeon or GP are happy with the healing. First thing’s first, check in on yourself. How are you feeling about touching your scar? If you’re not comfortable, just wait for a bit longer. Scar massage is all about listening to your body.

Start with soft touch around the scar. It’s best to lie down and to take some deep abdominal breaths, which will encourage good blood flow to the area. Sweep your fingers towards your scar to promote hydration to the area. You might find the sensation is very different and even that you can’t feel much until you’re quite far away from the scar. This should improve with time. The main thing is to start getting familiar with this new part of you.

Once you feel comfortable, you can start more focused treatment. Always start with light touch and then begin to lightly sweep in towards the scar from all directions with the pads of your fingers. Then, sweep gently across the scar with the tips of the finger, working along the line of the scar. This is light work - you don’t need to press hard at all.

As the area gets more used to touch, you can start lightly pressing down onto the scar too, as if you’re pressing on a letter on a keyboard. Work along the scar and around it, all the way towards your hip bones, pubic bone and tummy button. When you come across a harder nodule, stay pressing over the area for a 10-20 seconds, and you might find it softens.

Finally, get both hands and pad into the scar and surrounding areas, like a cat is pawing at you. Use all your fingers to identify any harder areas and then spend some time working into these. Work up to the ribs and all over the abdomen. This is slightly deeper work, so only attempt it once you’ve warmed up the area.

Ideally, massage your scar little and often for maximum recovery. But listen to your body. If you have any sign that your scar is getting irritated, then stop. If you’re concerned at all, seek professional advice.