Assessing the Effectiveness of Massage Therapy for Bilateral Cleft Lip Reconstruction Scars

Emilie McKay, RMT


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 the following impairments: adhesions, decreased oral range of motion, decreased strength of orbicularis oris muscle, and asymmetry of oral region leading to poor self-esteem. The purpose of this case study is to determine the effectiveness of massage therapy in its ability to improve these impairments.

Methods: A five-week treatment plan consisting of fascial release, kneading, and intraoral techniques. 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: 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.

Conclusions: The evidence suggests that massage therapy helped with the impairments associated with scars formed by bilateral cleft lip reconstruction.


cleft lip; scars; adhesions; massage therapy

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International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork
ISSN 1916-257X