In the past years, I’ve noticed the strongest trend in my Rolfing continuing ed and the one I’ve benefited most from is adding tissues to my repertoire. So about a month ago when a space opened up at a nearby (or at least within driving distance) workshop with Sharon Wheeler on working with scar tissue, I jumped at the chance. And boy am I glad I did because adding Sharon’s Scar Work to my skillset has already helped a lot of clients in the intervening two weeks and given me some new insights into how the body heals.
About the Workshop
Curiously, I wound up being the only male in a class of 15 women (including the instructors and assistants). I don’t gather this is the norm, but it was a curious experience given that most of my basic trainings in Rolfing were heavy on masculine energy. That said, the workshop was in many ways, exceptionally well suited to my kinesthetic learning style, a half day or so of demonstration, followed by 3 rounds of working on each other and then in a team fashion working on model clients, giving us the ability to rotate at will between clients, observe and attempt working on different scars, and stand back to watch when we felt moved to. If you learn well from a relatively unstructured environment, like getting your hands dirty in class, and want to work with your classmates as peers, I’d highly recommend Sharon’s teaching style.
About the Work
The work, I found kind of fascinating. Without going into too much detail, I describe it as very very light sweepy and scrubby type of work. In my head, I refer to it more as “noodling around” than “work”. I’m sure there are at least a couple layers of sophistication I still have to develop with it, but so far it’s been surprising how immediately it is possible to be effective with this work. Scars soften, mobility is improved, areas begin to feel integrated, and often sensation returns to areas that many clients have referred to as feeling not a part of them or dormant. And all of this with no pain and a very oppositional approach to the “you have to break it up” approach that I typically hear in regards to scar tissue.
Why I Think it Works
Sharon made it clear that while she has found this style to work for 40+ years, she’s not entirely sure why it works although they are starting to do research on it now. Because I tend to be a non-linear thinker and like to draw connections, I let my mind wander on the “why does it work” question throughout the workshop and came up with the following ideas. Note that this is just my working theory, nothing proven and subject to change as I go deeper into this sort of work.
My first impression was that it seemed like unlocking or restarting time in the body. The work seems to be similarly effective with recent scars as well as very old scars and in most cases the scars seem to soften and begin to blend in with the surrounding skin and, in a number of cases, nerve function seemed to return almost immediately. It’s almost as if the tissue reaches 80% or 90% healed and then somehow had gotten stuck, almost like it were cryogenically frozen mid-healing and the scar work thaws it back out and allows it to complete.
The working theory that I’ve developed around it is that the work seems to simulate licking wounds (albeit without the saliva). Most mammals seem to do this and while it’s typically explored as a method of cleaning, it seems possible to me that in the course of evolution, tissues have evolved to respond to licking by healing further and integrating better with the “original” tissues around them. While I don’t have evidence to support that theory, it does seem to make a certain level of intuitive sense to me and to most of the clients I’ve shared this theory with.
What I’ve Done With the Work
In the 3 weeks since the workshop I’ve played with a lot of different ideas and seen some great results with some general trends. Here are a few of the things I’ve been able to create with the tools from the workshop.
- Worked on several C-section/hysterectomy/etc. scars. Saw hips find more neutral tilt and spinal/sacral tension on the opposite side tend to relax more or easier.
- 2 appendectomy scars, both of which softened significantly and were able to twist through the torso more readily along with releases in back and hip tension.
- Worked on my own circumcision scar. Found that the tissue softened a good amount, there were numerous signs of nervous system release in my body (stomach gurgling, shaking, etc.) and since then the tissue has been both softer, more sensitive, and I have experienced a distinct ease and better functioning in my pelvic floor.
- Started recovering a divot in a client’s breast left over from a lumpectomy 8 years prior. The client had also been unable to feel her armpit by the breast since her cancer treatment and left with sensation restored to the area.
- Worked with a 3x operated on ACL replacement for a soccer player who had been having trouble with it since the first surgery. After 2 sessions, reports that the knee is much more mobile and feels stronger than the leg that has not been operated on.
- Starting to reassemble cartilage in my own right ear which was shattered in high school when I got cauliflower ear in wrestling. I’ve felt several pieces of cartilage “pop” back into place kind of like I’m shifting tectonic plates back into an alignment and my hearing in that ear has improved after a week or so of the ear going through a phase of feeling plugged up. Still some work to do there, but it seems to be making progress.
I’ve worked on a variety of other small scars in the meantime as well and in almost all cases I noticed that clients seemed to settle in on a deeper level after the scar work than I had typically seen them settle in past.
All in all, this has been a great style of work to add to my toolbox. It’s allowed me to help clients further resolve, heal, and integrate a variety of scars on both a physical and, in some cases, emotional level. Integrating the scars seems to make them more mobile, even out the color with surrounding skin, and allow for better structural work in and around the areas. I think it’s an excellent addition to helping people heal old wounds, fully resolve surgical interventions, and in some cases, recover nerve function that they were told might never return.
Many thanks to Sharon for sharing this work and being a gracious teacher. 🙂