We’ve both had at least one Cesarean section birth. The general guideline given to either of us regarding healing was to keep it clean in order to prevent infection. The importance of scar mobility we later found out about at our first physio appointment and our postnatal training.
A C-section birth is not a superficial one. It entails the delivery of a baby via horizontal incision through skin, fat and fascia, and a vertical incision through the mother’s abdomen, uterus and amniotic sac. For a video that may help with visualizing the extent of the surgery, click here.
Post surgery scar tissue begins to form to bring each layer back together. Scar tissue often forms itself in an irregular pattern, ie instead of being oriented in the same direction of the tissue it is replacing, it can orient itself in many different directions.
Many of us will notice some decreased sensation around the caesarean scar and some light pulling while it is healing. However, the scar tissue can also produce more lasting and negative impacts such as:
Reduced skin mobility
Pain or increased sensitivity in the scar tissue or surrounding area
Numbness in the around the scar
Lumpy or hard spots over or around the scar
A feeling of tugging or pulling around the scar causing a negative impact on posture and alignment
Pelvic pain, lower back pain, pain in the groin due to compromised/weakened abdominal muscles.
Increased urinary frequency or urgency
In fact, if left alone the scar tissue can be very restrictive and immobile, affecting the surrounding muscles, in this case the abdominals, pelvic floor and hip muscles, which can impact their ability to function well.
Scar massage, also known as scar tissue mobilization, aids the healing process by improving mobility and function of these stabilizing muscles. It has further been argued that it improves the look of the scar, reducing the scar visibility. These affects can even be noticed several years postpartum.
The method outlined below is a simple way to start, we focus on building your confidence in touching your scar while familiarizing yourself. There is something empowering about taking matters into your own hands, so to speak!
WHEN SHOULD YOU START C-SECTION MASSAGE?
It is generally recommended to start after the scar has fully closed. Therefore, it is important that before engaging in any scar massage to discuss with your doctor. Your medical provider will generally be able to provide you with an ‘all clear’ at your 6 week check-up.
C-SECTION MASSAGE GUIDELINES
Use a nonfragrant oil such as coconut or olive oil, to help tissues to move easily.
Start with gentle pressure and progressively increase the pressure used as your comfort level increases. DO NOT use excessive force on the area.
You might experience sensations of pulling, stretching, redness, irritation, burning or some mild discomfort however you should not experience any pain with these techniques. Please consult your medical health provider if you do.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU MASSAGE?
Ideally you would massage your scar on a daily basis, right after your shower, however if this is not possible for you 4-5 times a week would be beneficial.
C-SECTION MASSAGE ROUTINE
The 5 min video below is video by Amy Gilbert, Managing Director & Head of Physiotherapy at Perfect Balance, outlines how to correctly and effectively perform a c-section massage.
The content in this article is not intended to be used as a substitute of any kind for professional advice. It is your duty to obtain professional advice from a qualified healthcare professional to meet your postnatal fitness needs. You should not act or rely on any of the content without seeking advice of a qualified professional.
1. Cesarean birth (C-section) frequently asked questions: labor, delivery, and postpartum care.
2. Shin, TM and Bordeaux, JS. The role of massage in scar management: a literature review. Dermatol Surg, 2012. 38: 414–423.
3. Amy Gilbert, Managing Director & Head of Physiotherapy at Perfect Balance.