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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. 

Aside from emotion, scars can have an incredibly strong effect on joint mobility, proximal and distal to the scar. Scars can refer pain to organs and can have 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 scars impact 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.

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 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, and 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 stim 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 some of them are.

Looking for more? Check out our full course listing and bring this great service to your practice

References

  • Khan, K.J. and Das, G., 2019. Dry needling a novel treatment option for post-scar neuralgia: A case report. Pain, 5(1), pp.29-31.
  • Fernández-de-Las-Peñas, C., Layton, M. and Dommerholt, J., 2015. Dry needling for the management of thoracic spine pain. Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 23(3), pp.147-153.
  • Liu, B. and Dong, Y., 2018. A New Interpretation of Nei Jing's Multiple Needling Technique: Scar Tissue Acupuncture Release Technique (START) and It's Application on Myofascial Scar Tissue. International Journal of Clinical Acupuncture, 27(2).
  • Fang, S., 2014. The successful treatment of pain associated with scar tissue using acupuncture. Journal of acupuncture and meridian studies, 7(5), pp.262-264.
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  • Tuckey, C., Kohut, S. and Edgar, D.W., 2019. Efficacy of acupuncture in treating scars following tissue trauma. Scars, burns & healing, 5, p.2059513119831911.
  • Liu, B. and Dong, Y., 2018. A New Interpretation of Nei Jing's Multiple Needling Technique: Scar Tissue Acupuncture Release Technique (START) and It's Application on Myofascial Scar Tissue. International Journal of Clinical Acupuncture, 27(2).
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