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Dry Needling: Treating Scar Tissue to Mobilize & Regulate Autonomic Sympathetic Hyperactivity

Dry Needling: Treating Scar Tissue to Mobilize & Regulate Autonomic Sympathetic Hyperactivity

Needling scar tissue produces some of the most positive, dramatic effects I see. Scar tissue has a strong connection to the ANS and can lead to severe disruption of homeostasis.

When I used to be a fly fishing guide in Patagonia, Chile, if someone would have told me that emotions could get bound up in scars, I would have laughed. How wrong I was. I consistently see intense emotional release from patients when needling scar tissue. This is a healthy response that brings your nervous systems toward homeostasis. How exactly this happens is unknown, like so many awesome things associated with thoughtful needling. What I can tell you, from almost a decade of needling scars, is that there is no better treatment to mobilize, desensitize, and awesomize (new word...) scars than electrical needling. 

Aside from emotion, scars can have an incredibly strong effect on joint mobility, muscle strength and length, both proximal and distal to the scar. Scars can refer pain to organs and can stimulate unusual pain referral patterns. I have needled chest scars that have eliminated UE swelling, knee pain, light sensitivity, and a bunch of other impairments you would not normally associate with the chest.

How needling impacts scar tissue

On a mechanical level, needling scars will flatten them out, whether they are raised or depressed, and it will turn them back to as close to a normal skin color as possible. Keloid scars typically do not flatten out; however, they do become more mobile.

Healthy, strong tendon fibers run in parallel, like dry spaghetti in a box. Tendons are over 99% collagen. Same as scars, although the type of collagen is slightly different in each. I won't bore you with the details of that, although it is super interesting. When tissue is damaged sufficiently, scar tissue forms as a kind of glue to stick things back together. Following a surgery, I think, is the easiest thing to picture. However, scar tissue typically forms with collagen fibers oriented like cooked spaghetti, all tangled up in a bowl. This is not a strong or mobile orientation for collagen fibers. They are much stronger, more mobile, less painful, better looking and more functional if they are reoriented back to parallel. This is possible with multiple methods, however, no method works like needling. The results are stunning.

Scar tissue's impact on the body

Scar tissue has incredible connections to various systems in our bodies, including our brains. Think about the likely mechanism that takes place when placing a single needle into pathologic tissue, causing an intense emotional response. The limbic system is thought to be our emotional control center, and there is excellent research showing the positive effects of needling on various properties of the brain, including blood perfusion and spontaneous electrical activity. These studies show needling, performed by a skilled practitioner, has homeostatic effects in our brain, as well as in the rest of our body.

I recommend needling any scars you see on your patients or yourself. You will see some amazingly positive results.

Here is my general thought process on needling scars: If I can do it safely, I always want to treat the scar until I can get a needle directly through it, down to the periosteum. 

If the scar is over the abdomen, lung field, or something else you don’t want to hit, needle shallowly into the scar tissue. Add 1-5 Hz microcurrent through the scar tissue as many ways as possible, and then change it up each treatment. Both methods have wonderful effects on the human body, and you will be amazed at how strangely unusual and positive some of them are.

If anyone has any questions about anything, let me know and I will get back to you. I have another article on scar needling coming out today, 4-13-22. Thanks.


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