Q: I broke my ankle 5 years ago and have since had two lots of repeat surgery to correct it. The bone is now structurally strong, but i have a build up of scar tissue inside the ankle joint which is now causing pain when I exercise. Please could you let me know if acupuncture would be beneficial on reducing scar tissue that has built up over the past 5 years? My other option is more surgery to remove the scar tissue, but my surgeon and I are reluctant to do this if i can manage the pain in a less intrusive manner. I am a 28 year old female.
A: We would be reluctant to make any claims for the use of acupuncture treatment for the reduction or removal of scar tissue. There is very little reputable evidence to suggest that it would work, and some of the anecdotal evidence you may find on the internet is a little questionable.
However, scar tissue does have implications for someone's health within Chinese medicine. As you may have read from our website, the theories of Chinese acupuncture are based on the understanding of the body mind and emotions as a complex flow of energy called 'qi'. The distribution, balance and flow of this energy in what are called meridians or channels are what sustain us and keep us in good health. Scar tissue impacts on this flow in Chinese medicine theory as much as it impacts the physical health of an area in conventional medicine, and is especiually relevant in Chinese medicine because it is seen to impair flow. When this happens, the result is pain; a great many of the surface aches and pains which people experience often link to blockages or local stagnation, and the use of needles can often help to disperse this.
However, as with any system of medicine there are no guarantees, and while all of us have had experiences where treating alongside or across scar tissue has helped to reduce pains, we have also had as many occasions where the scarring, especially keloid tissue, has proved intractable to treatment and been a simple yet immovable source of continuing pain.
Our best advice to you is to seek a short face to face assessment with a BAcC member local to you. He or she will be able to see where the scarring lies and assess whether and to what extent this may be impacting on the flow of energy locally. If you did decide to have treatment we would recommend that you try as much as possible to set measurable outcomes for any change. Pains like this can often ebb and flow in the normal course of events, and whether it feels better or not can depend on when you are asked. It is helpful to establish if there are specific movements which generate or increase the discomfirt, because these can be tested to see whether the treatment is working.