Cesarean Scar Massage and Desensitization
A cesarean delivery is a major abdominal surgery. Whether or not your C-section was planned ahead of time, you may have questions about recovery as you adjust to life with your newborn. Many people have concerns about the C-section scar: how to help it heal, fade, and feel less sensitive. One technique that may help with healing and even prevent chronic pain is scar tissue mobilization.
Scar mobilization is a soft tissue technique (like a massage) to help with healing and make sure the scar doesn’t adhere to anything under the skin. While studies on the effectiveness of C-section scar massage are mixed, there’s usually no harm in trying it as long as you wait until the wound is completely healed. This usually happens four to six weeks after surgery.
Scar mobilization may also help desensitize the scar. As nerves regrow around the surgical site, they are very sensitive to the outside world. Desensitization helps to decrease nerve sensitivity and may make the scar less painful.
How to Perform Scar Mobilization
Before beginning, wash your hands with soap and water and make sure there is no redness, drainage, or separation of the incision line.
Start by just lightly touching on and around the scar. Do this for the first two to four weeks.
Around four to eight weeks, begin moving the tissue around the scar with slight pressure. Pinch the surrounding skin and surgical scar and roll it in different directions. Try going up and down, left to right, and diagonally.
At eight or so weeks you can begin to move directly on top of the scar itself (as long as the incision is completely closed).
Around 12 or so weeks you can start working the whole scar with full pressure (that does not cause pain).
How to Perform Scar Desensitization
Desensitization helps the newly forming scar tissue to be appropriately sensitive to the world around you. It should feel similar to the skin around it to things like pressure from your underwear and pants, your baby sitting in your lap, or you standing in an upright position. To do this, gather some different objects and fabrics with various textures, such as:
Very soft fabrics: fuzzy cotton balls, silk
Mildly soft fabrics: towels
Moderately soft fabrics: soft velcro, paper towels
Rougher fabrics: corduroy, sandpaper
Starting with the softest material, gently rub your scar for three to five minutes a day. Once that material no longer irritates you, transition to fabric with a more abrasive texture. Many people find doing this for a few weeks helps reduce the sensitivity of their scar.
Scar mobilization is a soft tissue technique, much like massage, that helps desensitize a scar and may be helpful after a C-section.
When beginning scar mobilization, you can lightly touch around the scar and build up to more direct pressure on the scar.
You can rub different textured objects on your C-section scar to reduce sensitivity.
C-Section Scar Mobilization. (2021, January 28). Expecting and Empowered. https://www.expectingandempowered.com/blog/2021/1/8/c-section-scar-mobilization
Kiefer, A., & Howald, K. (2017). Expecting and Empowered Postpartum Guide. 2017; Expecting and Empowered.
Wasserman, J. B., Abraham, K., Massery, M., Chu, J., Farrow, A., & Marcoux, B. C. (2018). Soft Tissue Mobilization Techniques Are Effective in Treating Chronic Pain Following Cesarean Section: A Multicenter Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of Women's Health Physical Therapy, 42(3), 111-119. doi: 10.1097/JWH.0000000000000103