Post-Partum Pains and C-Section Scars
Updated: Jun 29
In Motion with Morrison Blog
Written by Aubrey Morrison
MS Sports Medicine, CSCS, Licensed Massage Therapist #16763
You know that thing where you have a baby, you wait a few weeks, and your head is ready for activity and exercise, but your body SO is not?! Suddenly your shoulders are super tight, neck hurts, back hurts, hips hurt, perhaps a c-section scar is healing back poorly or limiting your movement? This article will discuss common issues many women suffer from after having a baby, and how we would treat it with massage and bodywork. Also, I must say that this is by no means an exhaustive list that covers specific medical complications that can arise; pregnancy is complicated and this article is not advice that should take the place of what your doctor tells you! This article simply discusses the toll that having and caring for a baby takes on the muscles and joints of your body, and how it can affect you when you have been cleared to get active again. When that time comes or if you’ve been back to exercise already, we can help relieve the pain you are feeling and reduce the chances of you being injured so you can keep going!
Ironically enough, when it is time to get moving again, it has been long enough for your body to be pretty angry about all the hunching over, the baby-holding, the feeding, the sitting, and the looking down. The muscular discomfort can make it tough to return to an exercise routine. Much of the cause of pain is a lot of the same position all day (and night…) that your body is not used to being in for so long and often! When new mothers come in with an aching body, there are several things we will focus on. First, we may ask where you are hurting and what makes it feel worse and what makes it feel better. This will help determine what is causing the continual pain, and all the related areas that need massage work to relieve it long term. For example, the mid and low back may be tight and tender as a result of nursing posture, holding the baby, changing diapers, and just constantly being bent forward and having shoulders rounded. We would work to release those overactive tight muscles, but we would also focus on the chest and arms, lengthening them in order to reverse the position you are in when caring for the baby. If the hips and lower back are an area of pain because of loose ligaments and instability, we will treat every muscle that attaches into the hips to relieve pain and keep the muscle tissue healthy as the ligaments tighten back to normal. Knowing what worsens or improves your pain will help narrow down the cause, and we will work to reverse it! Correcting these things and taking care of your muscles will help you get back to exercise safely and feeling pain-free will make you WANT to exercise again!
Now, let us talk about if you have had a C-section. You likely have the same aches and pains, plus caring for that healing abdominal tissue and incision scar…double whammy. While it does simply take time and care to gain functionality back in that area, you may be suprised to know that massage work on the actual scar is greatly beneficial. The healing process for the incision involves the development of new tissue (scar tissue), which is the same tissue as was there before, only the fibers grow back in various directions during the healing process instead of being aligned like in normal tissue. This disorganization of the collagen fibers that make the scar tissue can create problems if it is left alone untreated. Massage can help properly re-align the fibers of scar tissue and encourage better healing and mobility. Indications that a scar is not healing properly include symptoms such as pain around the scar, a feeling of tugging and pulling around the incision when standing or reaching overhead, decreased mobility, back pain from abdominal weakness, nerve irritation around the incision site, discoloration and raised-up texture of the scar. There can be fascial adhesions and trigger points as well that refer pain and dysfunction elsewhere. Not only is an improperly healed scar painful and restricting, but it can impede blood flow and affects structures surrounding it. The discomfort caused by the incision site and scar tissue can indirectly contribute to other problems, such as low back pain from abdominal weakness; but it sure is hard to strengthen any core muscles with a painful scar right over some of the key muscles you need to use! Postural issues can also arise from “protecting” the incision from pain during an upright position and skin stretching, so it may cause you to unconsciously hunch forward.
Massaging a scar can be a strange feeling at first, but your therapist will lead you through the process! Work on the actual incision will not take place until your OBGYN has confirmed that it is completely closed, usually around 6-8 weeks. Although it is a bit of a waiting game until that can begin, you can certainly receive a massage for other painful areas due to post-partum life! Neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms – whatever it may be, we’ve got you covered. We understand how being in certain positions all day (or all night) affect different muscles, and we can relieve the pain by working in areas you may not have even known were irritated! Everyone is different, so by scheduling a Customized Massage, we will evaluate and treat upon your visit. As far as the incision scar work, Jessie Weinzatl (the owner here at Coastal Massage and Wellness) specializes in that area and she will get you healing properly in no time!