Scar Tissue – Why the pain doesn’t stop.
Our bodies are great self-healing machines, so why don’t tears in our muscles and why don’t stuck, painful joints get better on their own? Because the cause of the problem is overlooked or underestimated. A big part of the answer is: Scar tissue. Scar tissue is laid down in the thin layer of tissue that covers all of our organs and muscles. This thin layer of tissue is the fascia. Scar tissue binds up muscle like a web and can affect one area or multiple areas.
Myofascial Adhesion and Fibrosis (Scar Tissue)
A build up of scar tissue makes muscles feel tight or achy, possible weak. This build-up or web-like “muscle plaque” fixes itself in muscles, tendons or ligaments and can cause imbalance and pain. Scar tissue can also:
•Cause muscles to “catch” between each other
•Cause repeated injury.
•Prevent adequate blood flow
•Restricts and binds nerves
•Create Biomechanical Imbalance.
How do our bodies create scar tissue?
Sometimes the answer is not so obvious…
1. Major Trauma (Acute Injury) – Sudden injury with a lot of FORCE, such as blunt trauma, slips/trips/falls, car accidents and typical strains and sprains from a SINGLE incident. The force exceeds the tissues capabilities, causing tearing/ bleeding and adhesion formation… all part of the healing process.
2. Micro-Trauma (Repetitive Injury) – ANY repetitive activity may cause microscopic tearing to your muscles or tendons. For example: computer/mouse work, endurance sports (such as running, bicycling, swimming, triathlons, etc.), tennis, and other short arc-repetitive motion sports. Perhaps the most common and worst form of repetitive stress is that from POOR POSTURE. This is because the muscles in the neck and back are in a chronic state of contraction, seldom getting a chance to rest.
Initially, you won’t feel any pain. Overtime, however, scar tissue and muscle imbalance cumulates. Repetitive Stress Injuries can occur in any occupation or activity that requires repetitive action, involving:
•Repetitive tasks with small, rapid movements.
•Insufficient rest time between movements.
•Working in awkward or fixed postures for extended periods of time.
•Excessive and forceful movements, used repetitively.
3. NO Trauma (Constant Tension WITHIN, or Constant Pressure ON the muscle tissue) – Muscles that are in a constant state of tension or contraction will result in “Tissue Hypoxia”. Not enough blood and oxygen flows within the muscle. A muscle that is tight is a muscle that is having to do work to stay tight, meaning that it is burning energy, and needs oxygen and glucose and other nutrients. But with a decreased blood supply, the muscle begins to starve and chemical damage occurs. This leads to the same process of inflammation, bleeding and scar-tissue adhesion buildup. “Non-Traumatic” type injuries may also refer to injuries that are chemical or nutritional in nature. For example, smoking can reduce blood supply to joints, leading to arthritis.
Constant Tension in muscles, such as what happens when we sit at a computer, will restrict blood flow. The end result is adhesion build-up in that muscle over time.
How and why does the body create adhesion?
What happens when you cut your finger? You bleed, right? Yes, of course you bleed and later a sticky substance, called “fibrin” is laid down to stop the bleeding. Fibrin lays down the foundation for healing the cut. What ends up binding together the cut? It is SCAR tissue, not skin.
What happens when you damage the muscles in your shoulder, such as your ROTATOR CUFF? It actually bleeds and may also become inflamed. Bleeding and inflammation lead to the same sticky glue that you get after cutting your finger.
Injury and Bleeding. Injuring just a few microscopic strands of muscle leads to bleeding. Bleeding signals fibroblasts to come into the area and begin preparing the scar-tissue adhesion.
The entire injured area then becomes ‘sticky’. Sticky “fibrin glue” seeps throughout the layers of damaged muscle like a web. As the healing process completes itself, the glue leads to a tough scar tissue buildup. The big problem with this process is that the body is NOT very specific about what it ‘glues’ together. What happens most of the time, is it glues ALL the tissue in the area back together… whether it’s damaged or not!
The Spread of Sticky Fibrin. The Fibroblast cells and sticky fibrin glue seep throughout the INJURED TISSUE as well as throughout the HEALTHY TISSUE.
So, what causes muscle imbalance and pain?
1. Adhesions (restrictive scar tissue) in the muscle(s), tendon(s), ligament(s), fascia and/or the joint capsule(s)
2. Interference in the nerve signals to the muscle(s) that control the affected area
3. Strength or flexibility imbalances in the “Stabilizing Muscles” of the injured area
4. Severe structural alterations or damage to the bone, cartilage, tendons or ligaments
Why the pain just doesn’t stop: Scar tissue is ignored.
The Vicious Adhesion / Cumulative Injury Cycle: Whether it’s a small strain of your forearm muscles or years of tight hip flexors from sitting at a computer, the result often has to do with inflammation and scar tissue build up over time. If not treated early, the cycle continues, and the problem worsens.