Why Scar Tissue May Be the Cause of Your Suffering

Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

Untreated wounds from past traumas, surgeries or injuries may be causing you more problems than you realize. To understand why, we have to look at the nature and cause of scar tissue.

When you cut or burn yourself,  the body forms a scar on the skin’s surface as the area begins to heal. In the same way, scar tissue forms internally when there’s an injury to the muscles, ligaments or tendons. 

The body forms scar tissue after surgery, radiation, or trauma in order to repair the area that has been injured. 

When left untreated, scar tissue can grow and inhibit the Qi (energy) and blood from flowing adequately through certain areas of the body, eventually causing pain and obstruction in the internal organs.

What's most interesting is that these effects can go unrecognized and may show up several years after a surgery or injury. 

Sometimes, this scar tissue can form an adhesion that binds two parts of tissue or organs together. Abdominal adhesions are a common complication of surgery, particularly abdominal or pelvic surgery. They have the potential to cause small bowel obstructions in adults, and are believed to contribute to the development of chronic pelvic pain.

Adhesions typically begin to form within the first few days after surgery, but they may not produce symptoms for months or even years. 

Pelvic adhesions can occur in any organ within the pelvis, such as the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, or bladder, and usually occur after surgery, such as after C-section or hysterectomy. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which results from an infection, frequently leads to adhesions in and around the fallopian tubes. Since a woman's eggs pass through her fallopian tubes into her uterus for reproduction, fallopian adhesions can lead to infertility and increased incidence of ectopic pregnancy.

During menstruation each month, a woman sheds endometrial tissue. Endometrial tissue can implant in areas where it does not belong, such as on the surface of the uterus,  ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowel and the membrane lining of the pelvic cavity. Endometriosis is the abnormal growth of endometrial tissue outside of the uterus which is similar to that which lines the interior of the uterus. The severity of endometriosis is determined by the location, extent and depth of the endometrial implants, their size and presence in the ovaries, as well as the presence and severity of scar tissue.

Scar tissue can also form within the membranes that surround the heart, thus restricting heart function. Infections, such as rheumatic fever, may lead to adhesion formation on heart valves and can impede heart efficiency.

According to Classical Chinese Medicine, it is vital to treat scar tissue anywhere it has developed in the body. In fact, long-term health issues go unnoticed and the effects of treatments are impeded simply as a result of the presence of scar tissue in the body.

This is why it’s crucial to ask patients if they’ve had any surgeries or traumatic injuries and treat the area where scar tissue is forming prior to continuing with deeper treatments.

Even scar tissue from old piercings can be a problem, depending on where they're located on the body.

I once had a patient with a long history of recurrent digestive issues. Each time I would treat him, he would improve for about a week and then his abdominal cramping and diarrhea would return. One day as I was examining his abdomen I noticed a small scar around the area of his pelvis. He had never mentioned having any surgeries so I was quite surprised to see this. When I asked him about it, he let me know that he had been stabbed in that area during a fight when he was 18 years old (he was now in his 50s). Naturally, the area had started forming scar tissue after the injury and the removal of his stitches. 

I started to vigorously work on the area with acupuncture, moxibustion and topical treatments with essential oils. Within the next month, his digestion started to regulate and the lower abdominal pain disappeared. 

There are several other times where I’ve seen patients with chronic pain in an area of the body that clearly radiates as a result of the stagnation caused by scar tissue in another area. 

One of the most unusual cases Salvador has treated was a young, emaciated high school girl who came to our clinic wearing a feeding tube. She had not been able to eat anything for many months and had lost a considerable amount of weight and strength.

Once a vital athlete, this young woman came to the clinic looking like skin and bones, and a feeding tube was required for her to receive any form of nutrition since she would vomit anything she tried to eat and digest naturally. Her doctors were at a loss for the cause of this problem and upon finding no clinical reason for her disorder, she was referred for psychiatric evaluation. After ruling out anorexia and other psychiatric disorders, she came to our clinic hoping to find an answer to why she suddenly developed the inability to eat at the young age of 17 years.

During her first visit, Salvador learned she had received surgery for an intestinal obstruction as a very young child. Upon examining her abdomen, Salvador found two very deep, large scars along the upper part of her abdomen. He suspected these scars to be the cause of her problem, and her history confirmed this. She had become an athlete in high school and was doing  a lot of abdominal crunches to strengthen her core muscles. Over time, the scar tissue in her abdomen began binding up her small intestine. At some point the binding became so severe that it blocked her ability to ingest food entirely.

Within a few months of releasing the scar tissue with acupuncture, Salvador was able to get this young woman off the feeding tube. Within about a year, she was able to recover her strength so she could finish high school and resume the normal life she once enjoyed as a teenage girl who loved to sing and play sports.

The important takeaway is this -- your body is intimately interconnected, so any time you have discomfort in one part of the body it will affect other parts.

This is why it’s so important to maintain the free flow of Qi (energy) throughout the body. Releasing scar tissue ensures this free flow so that you can heal from any other issues that may be impeding your health and wellness.

Scar tissue is an important barrier to healing. Other barriers to healing will be explored in our Challenges to Healing series.


Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Setareh offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com