For all of you who have had surgery, remember you will heal with a scar. The good news is that a nice neat scar, stitched up by a nice neat specialist (or GP who loves doing minor surgery) will heal faster than the typical tear or suture of a skin laceration that occurred as a result of an accident.
Look at the direction that the incision was made. You can see the direction of the incision from the direction of the scar. Think of a piece of paper inserted vertically into our skin along the line of the scar and descending as deeply as the incision was made. It was probably deeper than your skin, assuming you had surgery for something more than just removal of a skin lesion.
Now, with that visualization, think of the scar descending along the surface of the piece of paper because that is where you will find it if you could look inside. That scar will stick to things along the way like fly paper sticking to things along both sides of it, and along the edges. Consider one more piece of information. For 12 weeks following the surgery you can change the character of that scar. After 12 weeks, it’s stuck like that for the duration.
Pushing, pulling, twisting, stretching and generally causing the scar to move around next to whatever is getting stuck to will minimize how stuck it gets. Now, this is important, you MUST check how hard you push, pull etc. on the scar. Check with your physio, your specialist or GP so you aren’t pulling apart something deeper and out of sight that really should not be pulled apart. However, the stitching from surgery is most likely strong enough to manage fairly strong manipulating of the scar. It won’t feel very good to forcefully manipulate your scar. In fact, if you are having an effect on it, it will probably burn a bit, or feel fiery. Mine did, but it gets better as the scar loosens up.
Why do it, you ask? Because if you don’t you can end up with restrictions and aches and pains in place of the ones you had surgery for. There is absolutely no reason to substitute one set of problems while trying to treat another set. I am broadcasting this information about manipulating your own scar because this is information I have never seen delivered to the patient by the person who did the surgery, or any representative of the surgeon. Never. It’s information that can save a lot a grief in the end.
So, get control of your own scar, but double check that you are not likely going to hurt yourself.
These comments are general in nature. Be sure to check with your physio or doctor if you are not sure whether they apply to your situation.
Dave Rohe is a recently retired physio having practiced in New Zealand since 2004. He originally qualified in the USA, subsequently practicing in Malawi, Egypt and Cambodia prior to emigrating to New Zealand in 2003. He has enjoyed management positions in pediatric and adult outpatient facilities as well as taught physiotherapy for 15 years at the University of Georgia. He is currently living in Parakai with his wife, Sharon Robinson, a local midwife, near his adult children who are working, and one of whom is studying to qualify as a physio through the programme at the University of Otago. His articles previously appeared in local newspapers in Taranaki and on the blog site sponsored by NZSPT.