HEALING AND SCAR TISSUE IN HORSES
Summary and key points
– What is a scar?
– Why do they form?
– What problems can they cause?
– Holistic approaches
A scar is “a mark left on your skin after an injury heals. When you injure your skin — by accident or from a surgery — your body works to repair the wound. The body creates collagen (a tough fiber in your body that gives the skin strength and flexibility) to reconnect the tissues broken apart by the injury. While the body does this work, it creates a scab over the wound. The scab protects the wound from germs as the body heals. When the injured skin is repaired, the scab dries up and falls off. In its place, there may or may not be a scar”, (definition from the American Academy of Dermatology, see reference 1).
Wound healing is a natural restorative response to tissue injury and the interaction of a complex cascade of cellular events that generates resurfacing, reconstitution and restoration of the tensile strength of injured skin. It is a systematic process which is explained in terms of four overlapping phases: clotting phase, inflammation, proliferation, and remodelling, (see Medscape, ref 2).
Clotting phase. Following wounding, platelets — cells that circulate in the blood and clot to keep us from bleeding — aggregate at the wound site and release a variety of substances which attract inflammatory cells to the wound site.
Inflammatory phase: inflammatory cells migrate to the site of injury so increasing the permeability of the wounded tissue bringing factors necessary for healing into the space around the wound, also breaking up cells by a process called lysis. Certain cells (called (neutrophils) cleanse the wound site of bacteria in the first two days . Other cells (called macrophages) engulf cell debris and bacteria and make enzymes which break down collagen in the injured tissue.
Proliferative phase: new tissue accumulates in a matrix of collagen and other long chain molecules prior to the formation of skin cells (epithelium) over the exposed surface forming a layer which provides a seal between the underlying wound and the environment. Synthesis and deposition of collagen is essential to wound healing in general and requires oxygen, vitamin C and ferrous iron amongst other nutrients. Blood vessels need to be grown and these are crucial in bringing healing agents to the site of the wound. The growth of new tissue is followed by contraction, a process that facilitates wound closure.
Remodelling phase: this phase combines both collagen synthesis and destruction, as the collagen fibres are remodelled and densified as water is reabsorbed from the wound. This begins about 21 days after wounding, and peak tensile strength is achieved after 60 days. Skin that has been wounded can only achieve approximately 80% of its pre-wound tensile strength according to work carried out by Levinson and co-workers (Cited in Ireton et al. 2013, reference 3).
Scars are sometimes characterized by an accumulation of excess collagen and are known as Keloids or hypertrophic scars. These are distinguished from each other by appearance, keloids growing beyond the borders of the original wound. Hypertrophic scars remain within the limit of the original wound most often regressing spontaneously. Hypertrophic scars are generally seen soon after injury whereas Keloids can form as late as 12 months after wounding, (please refer to Medscape, ref 2).
Scar formation and meridians — bringing it all together.
As practitioners of healing arts related to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) well know, the body contains in addition to nerves, veins, arteries and lymph vessels, a network of “energy channels” which run in specific paths and are linked to specific organs. The fullest understanding of this comes from the study of Acupuncture, a therapy which involves either the stimulation of specific points on these meridians by either cold needles (acupuncture) or heated ones (moxa). Kinesiology, of which I am a practitioner, also works with the meridian system and the triad relation between muscles, organs and meridians.
Twelve major meridians run throughout the body of both human and horses, and are associated with specific organs on their route. There are two major meridians known as the Central and Governing Vessels, and then twelve associated meridians with the Stomach, Spleen, Heart, Small Intestine, Bladder, Psoas, Circulation Sex, Triple Warmer, Gall-Bladder, Liver, Lung, Large Intestine.
Western medicine has only recently begun to investigate what these meridians might actually correspond to on a structural level. According to Dr Keith Scott-Mumby in his book “Virtual Medicine”, (see reference 4), meridians are neither nerve conducting channels nor do they correspond to any anatomic structure. So what might they be? How can meridian or “Qi” energy be conducted? Scott-Mumby thinks that the answer is almost certainly via the collagen fibres of the connective tissues.
Connective tissue fills in the space between the main organs and layers. A continuum of liquid crystalline water-bound collagen fibres exists running throughout the entire body. Scott-Mumby cites studies that have shown that these fibres possess dielectric and conductive properties which make them sensitive to pressure, pH (a measure of acidity or alkalinity), local ionic composition and surrounding electromagnetic fields. These collagen fibres in fact form the ideal conductor medium, like a network mesh of fine electrical fibrils, in which many of the electromagnetic phenomena associated with meridians can take place. Even just disturbing and stressing these fibres gives off an electrical potential.
It should now become apparent that if scar tissue perturbs the collagen matrix anywhere in the body, this infinitely subtle network of collagen-type channels is likely to be perturbed. This could be enough to redirect the flow of Qi energy in the body and in the long term possess noticeable physiological effects as described above.
An example in humans: scars and blocked meridians
Following an incision of any sort in the body, beyond the residual trauma (see my previous article about injury recall, see reference 5), there will also be an accumulation of scar tissue. This not only holds a “negative memory” of the event, but also acts as a barrier which can obstruct the natural flow of the body’s “Qi”. There is now evidence to suggest that this can lead to specific medical issues in the region, (reference 6). It is also important to remember that scarring can also come from internal injuries and healing from surgical intervention too. The scar or blockage can create two kinds of issues. First, if we think of the meridians as energy paths, a scar can simply be seen as a blockage along the route linked to the build up of energy which is not able to flow correctly. Second, that increase in energy can then perturb the functioning of other meridians and organs unless it is discharged. In TCM, these are known as over-energies (see my articles to come about the Five Element theory).
Dr. Habib Sadeghi reports his observation of many female patients who have received breast surgery, (augmentation, reduction, or mastectomy) who later experience erratic heartbeat or arrhythmia. None of these subjects were known to have a history of heart problems. Some of them ended up taking medication to stabilize their heartbeat. From the point of view of energy flow, one might suggest that energetic turbulence had been generated by scarring near the breast, and causing an interference with the heart’s rhythm, (see reference 6). Whilst Dr. Sadeghi uses a specific approach called Integrative Neural Therapy or INT, (see reference 7), he believes that working with meridians is an effective treatment in such cases of heart arrhythmia.
Kinesiology and scar tissue
Kinesiology offers a different yet elegant approach to working with scars and one that is practical and easily applied in the equine environment. In the case of scar tissue, we first assure that the wound has healed and that the wound site itself is not weakening a muscle in our surrogate. We then test for Injury Recall (see my previous article, reference 6) whilst touching the specific scar area. If we pick up a weakness one possible approach is to work with lasers. What can lasers offer?
Essentially, a healthy tissue vibrates with a wavelength of around 635 nanometres (nm). We believe that a laser of this wavelength, when focussed on an injury, will help to restore the balance and flow of energy. A pocket laser is perfectly safe for use with soft tissue injuries to ligaments, tendons and muscles, and can also promote healing in damaged or scared tissues.
With regular work using a simple tool such as a 635 nm laser, we can thus help to balance the flow of energy which may be blocking the natural balance of the body. For external scaring, the use of a portable laser is simple to use. The only precaution is to avoid any contact with eyes as lasers can cause cataracts and blindness. Naturally these are techniques that should be carried out by a trained practitioner.
In the case of a scar, we run the laser perpendicular to the direction of the scarring, in order to open up the energy flow across it. The laser is in continuous movement and the treatment is rapid, lasting a matter of seconds. We then repeat our muscle testing in order to verify that the treatment has restored flow and that there is no longer any memory of the injury at the site.
If your horse has been scarred either through surgery or from an accident, and has symptoms which do not overtly relate to the area of injury, it would be worth taking a look at a meridian chart to see which meridians could be affected. Your local equine kinesiologist will be happy to work with you and your animal.
Another approach that may be appropriate exists using what are called “Figure of Eights” energies. Happily I will be discussing these fully in my next post! Stay tuned! As a closing remark, I wish to add that there are many complementary approaches to working with scars and scarring. Some involve balms, others torches or light therapy. There are many paths around the mountain!
I hope that this article has been of interest and help to you, I wish you and your horse an excellent start to the new year!
(1) American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/kids/skin/scars
Site visited 1.1.2018
(2) Medscape: Skin wound healing. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/884594-overview
Site visited 1.1.2018
(3) Ireton et al: The role of wound healing in everyday plastic surgery, 2013.
(4) Virtual Medicine. K. Scott-Mumby.
(5) Releasing the memory of past injury in horses : Peter Jeffs
(6) Health Implications of scar tissue blocked meridians. S. Sadeghi: https://goop.com/wellness/health/the-implications-of-scar-tissue-blocked-meridians/
You can also visit his website at : http://behiveofhealing.com/
(7) Integrative Neural Therapy or INT: Also known as German acupuncture, the procedure involves treating the scar and surrounding area with Procaine. The Procaine once absorbed is converted to Para-Amino-Benzoic Acid, an antioxidant classified by some as part of the vitamin B complex. This generates the production of folic acid (the synthetic form of B9) which can apparently release some of the rigidity and stored energy of the scar tissue. The process is completed with the application of specific homoeopathic agents.
Peter Jeffs trained at Reiki France, International Centre for Reiki Training (USA), Bristol School of Advanced Kinesiology (UK), and founded his holistic practice in Wiltshire, UK. He is a Reiki Master Teacher. He was naturally drawn to working with horses and their human companions and is currently developing his own holsitic approach which combines muscle testing, the Five Elements of Traditional Chinese medicine and EFT (Tapping) to help horses and humans to find balance and harmony. He is deepening his equine approach through Continued Professional development training with Gillian Higgins’ Horses inside out Academy.