Massage Therapy Canada

Features Practice Technique
Massage therapy improves cleft lip reconstruction scars: study

A new research has shown massage therapy helps with impairments associated with scars formed by bilateral cleft lip reconstruction.

Results of this research by Ottawa-based RMT Emilie McKay was published in the June 2014 edition of the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.

August 12, 2014  By Massage Therapy Canada staff

According to the study background and objective, bilateral cleft lips
occur when the bones that form the upper lip fail to fuse at birth.
Surgical reconstruction creates scars, which may lead to impairments
such as adhesions, decreased oral range of motion, decreased strength of
orbicularis oris muscle, and asymmetry of oral region leading to poor

“The purpose of this case study is to determine the
effectiveness of massage therapy in its ability to improve these
impairments,” the author said.

One client was observed during
this case study – a 19-year-old male born with a bilateral cleft lip and
palate. As a baby, he underwent three surgeries to repair the opening
between his nasal cavity and oral cavity. These surgeries left him with
significant scars.

“At the first meeting, the client described a
sense of restriction under the scars when talking, eating, and forming
facial expressions. He also described muscle weakness and early fatigue
of the musculature in mouth and nose region while smiling and talking,
as well as a decrease in the natural symmetry of the upper lip,” the
author said in the report.


The client noted a decrease in
self-confidence due to his scar. This was the first intervention the
client tried in order to improve the scar related impairments. It also
represented his first massage experience.

A five-week treatment
plan, consisting of fascial release, kneading and intraoral techniques,
was implemented. Subjective information was assessed on two scales:
restriction of scar and clients attitudes and acceptance of scar.
Objective information was cataloged through photographs, a palpatory
chart and a self-created “Pen Test”.

Results included increase
range of motion and strength, decrease restrictions (palpable and
subjective), and increase of symmetry. Client’s perceived confidence of
scar and its appearance increased, McKay said in her report.

five treatments, this case study suggests that massage therapy is
beneficial towards the improvement of impairments associated with
bilateral cleft lip and palate reconstruction scars. By using various
forms of soft-tissue techniques, fascial release, intraoral techniques,
and home care, each of the client’s impairments associated with this
bilateral cleft lip were addressed. The oral range of motion of smiling
improved, the strength in muscles associated puckering improved,
adhesions formed by the scars decreased, and the client experienced a
new acceptance and improved feelings towards his scars. Overall, the
client was quoted saying he was “extremely happy” with the results of
the case study,” the report concluded.

The full report can be viewed online in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork website.

Print this page


Stories continue below