Use Kinesiology Tape to Treat Scar Tissue

Use kinesiology tape to help stretch scar tissue.
Scar tissue can be managed with kinesiology tape. Baston/E+/Getty Images

Scar tissue often results from injury or insult to your skin and underlying tissues.  This occurs when you have a surgical procedure or if an injury causes tissue to tear or overstretch.  Scar tissue is simply injured tissue where collagen, the building blocks of muscle, tendons, and ligaments, has not been remodeled properly.

After an injury or surgical procedure, you may work with a physical therapist to regain normal functional mobility.

 Your physical therapist can help you regain your range of motion and strength and can help manage your pain.

Your physical therapist can also assess your scar tissue mobility and offer strategies to manage your scar tissue.  These strategies may include performing scar tissue massage techniques, using heat, or  engaging in stretching and flexibility exercises to gently stretch the scar tissue.

Kinesiology tape can also be used to help remodel scar tissue.  The tape is a relatively new modality of treatment used in physical therapy clinics.  It is a flexible cotton tape that can be applied to your body to help achieve specific goals.  These goals may include to improve muscle contraction, decrease muscle spasm, and to stretch scar tissue.

When Should Kinesiology Tape Be Used?

Initially after your injury or surgery, the incision or scar tissue may not be ready for stretching.  Before performing any scar tissue massage, kinesiology taping, or stretching for scar tissue, you should check with your doctor to be sure it is safe for you to do.

If your scar still has staples or stitches in it, it it probably too early to mobilize the scar.  Early mobilization or stretching of your open scar may cause the incision to open up.  This could delay healing or could expose you to serious infection and complications.

In general, your scar should be completely closed and healed before using kinesiology tape to manage the scar tissue.

 Full healing of soft tissue and surgical incision usually does not occur until 4-6 weeks after your surgery or injury.  It is always best to check in with your doctor so he or she can assess your readiness to use kinesiology tape to treat your scar tissue.

You should also be sure that there are no specific contraindications to using kinesiology tape for your condition.

Getting Started with Kinesiology Tape for Scar Tissue

Before using kinesiology tape for scar tissue, you must determine the amount and direction of restriction in your scar tissue.  Your physical therapist is a good person to contact to help determine the soft tissue restrictions surrounding your scar tissue, so it is best to check in with him or her.

To assess scar tissue restriction, simply pull your skin and scar is different directions to assess how much motion occurs as you pull.  Do this along the entire length of your scar, and be sure to gently tug in various directions along your scar.  This can help you determine where specific restrictions lie in the skin and fascia underneath your scar.

Before using kinesiology tape to treat your scar tissue, you should take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the tape and the different types of strips that you can cut.

 Usually, scar tissue treatment with kinesiology tape involves using "I" strips or "Y" strips.

Kinesiology Tape Application for Scar Tissue

To use kinesiology tape to provide a gentle stretch to your scar tissue, you must cut an "I" strip about 4 to 6 inches long.

  • Anchor the tape along one side of your scar, and gently rub the tape to ensure it adheres.
  • Gently pull the tape along the side of your scar, moving in the direction of the scar restriction.  The tape should have a 25 to 50% stretch to it.
  • Zig-zag the tape by pressing it into place, moving it slightly diagonally, pressing the tape, and moving it diagonally.
  • Repeat the zig-zag pattern along the side of your scar until the full "I" strip is adhered to your skin.

When you are finished applying the tape, it should be gently pulling along side of your surgical scar tissue.  The tape should not cross over your scar.   It should be pulled along side of your scar in a slight zig-zag pattern.

You can keep the kinesiology tape in place next to your scar tissue for 3 to 5 days.  You must make sure that the tape is not irritating your skin.  If you see any redness around the tape, remove it immediately.

How Does the Tape Work?

It is thought that applying kinesiology tape along the lines of restriction of scars helps to provide a low intensity, long duration stretch to the tissues around the scar tissue.  This helps to slowly stretch out the collagen cells that make up the scar.

Since kinesiology tape is such a new mode of treatment in physical therapy, studies examining the effectiveness of using kinesiology tape for the treatment of scar tissue is scarce.  One study published in Polish Annals of Medicine found that a significant number of patients were subjectively satisfied with the appearance of their scar after surgery or injury when using kinesiology tape.

Studies comparing the use of kinesiology tape to using no tape or using a fake taping technique have yet to be published.  Therefore, you should use caution when deciding to use kinesiology tape for your specific scar tissue.

If you have a surgical incision or scar that is restricted in specific directions, you may be able to use kinesiology tape to help gently pull and stretch the scar tissue.  Kinesiology tape can provide a long duration, low intensity stretch to your scar tissue.  This may help to improve overall mobility of your scar and can help you move in all directions with no limitation in motion.

Sources: Blubaugh, M. "Kinesiology taping, manual therapy, and neuromuscular re-activation." Seminar, May, 2014. Albany, NY.

Karwacińska, J. etal.  "Effectiveness of Kinesio taping on hypertrophic scars, keloids, and scar contractures."  Polish Annals of Medicine.  19 (1) 50-57.

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