For Providers, Prism Blog, Transmasculine Health

Acupuncture for Scar Treatment

Why Should We Treat Scars?
Scars may not only be cosmetically undesirable, but may also have an impact on the health of the individual. This is especially true for very large scars; scars with abnormal coloration, lumpiness, numbness, tingling, itchiness, heat or cold sensations, achiness or pain, tenderness to touch, and muscle restriction.
Such scars and associated adhesions can indicate or lead to nerve and blood vessel damage, decreased range of motion and muscle strength, increased likelihood of future injury, and chronic pain (especially pins and needles, tingling, and numbness). Scars are especially notable on the torso, where underlying adhesions can impair bowel function, chronic pelvic pain or infertility, depending on the site of the scar.
In Chinese medicine, significant scars are considered to block the flow of the meridians, (similar to the nerve and blood vessel damage pointed to by Western medicine) causing not only pain and decreased circulation, but also potentially impaired internal organ function depending on the meridian affected.

Scar Treatment with Acupuncture and Herbs
Scars more than one month old can be treated with acupuncture and herbal medicine.
A 2014 study used local acupuncture (“surrounding the dragon“: using needles directly around and through the scar) with distal points (4 gates and ST36). After eight treatments in 5 weeks the scar pain had reduced from a 7/10 to a 1-2/10. Such treatments can not only reduce scar pain, but also help to break up scar tissue and adhesions, increase local circulation, and aid healing. This leads to flatter, smaller, less noticeable scars and a reduction of keloiding.
Moxibustion (a gentle warming treatment achieved by burning dried mugwort), may also be used. Small amounts of moxa may be burned directly on the skin -with a sesame oil cream as a medium to prevent burns- around the scar, or a stick of rolled moxa may be burned above the site to warm the area. Both methods are pleasant and effective.
Topical herbs can also be very beneficial for scar healing. It is generally best to apply your liniment of choice over the affected area before bed and cover with a tshirt (or other clean soft article of clothing depending on the site of the scar), so that it has plenty of time to soak in without washing or sweating which would interfere with product absorption during the day.

Which Topical Should You Choose?
  • Zheng Gu Shui is beneficial for deep scars that may have adhesions to underlying tissues (for example surgical scars). They can improve local circulation, healing of the scar and the area that was injured, and reduce associated pain. It is better for healing and restoring health to the area than for cosmetic scar reduction.
  • Wan Hua Oil prevents scarring, increases blood circulation, reduces swelling, and helps regenerate damaged tissues. Once the wound closes, massage the oil directly over the scar daily to prevent scarring and promote healing. This option is best to prevent cosmetic scars from surgery. It is also effective for scars from burns.
  • Aloe aids scar healing and reduces infection and swelling. If used during the healing process it can reduce the formation of scars. Be sure to use 100% aloe (fresh is best), not aloe with alcohol or other additives that can dry and irritate the area.
  • Ching Wan Hung oil promotes healing and new tissue growth, reduces scarring, and prevents infection. It is especially effective for scars from burns.
  • If you don’t have access to any of these options, you can also use castor oil. However, I don’t recommend this for new scars that are still healing (or any open wounds), as it can be slightly toxic.

Note: Many people recommend the usage of Vitamin E on scars, but newer research shows that Vitamin E does not help reduce the appearance of scars, and in the case of surgical scars can actually make scars more visible due to the development of irritation or contact dermatitis.


Providers: read more about acupuncture scar treatments from Skya Abbate, DOM.

Additionally, my colleague, Dena Gold LAc, suggests a Japanese style version of surrounding the dragon that involved needling slightly outside the scar, towards and under under the scar superficially enough that the needle falls rather than roots. Dena also suggests checking the fire points of the channel the scar intersects and if they are tender, needle the metal and water points of that channel before treating the scar directly.


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All advice on this site and blog is for educational uses only. Always consult your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements, or schedule an acupuncture appointment with Katrina to get your own personalized herbal formula and acupuncture treatment. Questions? Check out the FAQ or resources pages or contact.

For more herbal estrogens, ideas, and resources see my previous posts: Feminizing Herbs and “The Basics.”

 

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