Getting scar management right is the key to achieving scar resolution. Scar taping is one of many scar treatments available to help decrease scar height, size, and redness.
It has become a popular treatment because it can be effective with minimal scar factors. When applied correctly, there has been evidence that kinesiology tape may decrease scar width as well as scar length.
This method can be used on both recent scars and older scars where the collagen remodeling process has begun but has not been completed.
If you’re new to kinesiology tape, you can check out our article talking about the basics as well as answers to its most frequently asked questions.
What is a scar?
A scar is a formation of fibrous tissue to replace skin as a result of trauma, surgical, or physiological process.
In this article, we will be discussing slip and fall scars or scars that are visual and superficial in the body.
What we tried to do is take the research in manipulating scars and apply it to tape. Here are some things that kinesiology taping can do for scars:
- So much of the research on manipulating or micro-massage and scarring will say that it improves the fluid balance underneath the skin with respect to the scar
- It will improve the circulation around the area of the scar
- It will also reduce melanin which is the product that is responsible for the dark coloration of the scar
So, we know that we do get some circulatory improvements and some visual improvements within the scar.
One of the challenging things with the research is to say whether taping definitively reduces pain. And whether or not these scars apply to an injury that someone may have there.
How does scar taping work?
When applying kinesiology tape, you are tricking your mind into thinking that the skin underneath the tape is smooth. So, therefore, it no longer needs protection from your body's immune system.
Using tape for scars will help reduce the formation of excess scar tissue on top of the scar. The scar gets softer and can flatten out. This leads to less scar tissue formation, which, in turn, results in a decreased scar height, length, and width.
What are the different types of scars?
Here are the four major types of scarring on the body following a slip and fall or other types of injury:
Hypertrophic scars are thickened and wide. They form from excess amounts of collagen. They are also typically flush with the skin, so they’re not raised - unlike keloid scars.
These types of scars often form from tension on the skin during the healing process. Some of the taping techniques used to manipulate this type of scar are linear and parallel taping techniques.
Atrophic scars are pitted or sunken. They are common in adolescent acne and puncture wounds. They can also appear as puckered surgical sutures that are a result of a very tight stitch following a surgery.
Atrophic scars are typically due to a lack of collagen production and other fibrins during the remodeling period. The taping technique used for these scars is the star taping technique.
Keloid scars are raised abruptly from the skin. They usually contain excess amounts of collagen.
These scars are more prevalent in African American and Asian cultures and are more likely to appear on people who have another keloid scar elsewhere. A linear taping technique is used for this type of scar.
Scar contractures are caused by the increased action of myofibroblasts in both the proliferative and remodeling phases of healing. They commonly happen during post-surgery and burns.
These scars look glued to the skin. They usually have multiple directional restrictions and almost look like a spider web.
The taping protocols commonly used for these scars are linear, star, zigzag to try and create as many different forces through the scar as possible to help lift it from the skin and improve its gliding on the tissue underneath it.
Mixed scars are a combination of any of the previous scars mentioned. When dealing with mixed scars, you would want to use the previous guidelines in taping for scars. The taping for these types of scars requires a thorough assessment before application.
Kinesiology taping principles to remember
- Define and assess the scar
- Establish directions of restriction.
- Tape into the restrictions or the direction that the scar will not go with 75-100% tension on the tape
- Switch the tape daily
- Educate the patient on home taping
Typically, scar taping is done with one-inch pieces of tape. So, if you’re using a 2-inch piece of tape you would cut the tape down the middle and then round the ends
It’s also important to take note of how frequently you change the tape since you want it to be under a lot of tension to try and gradually over time manipulate that tissue into the direction that it is not moving.
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Scar Taping Protocols
As discussed in the previous section, here are the different taping protocols that you can apply depending on what type of scar you have.
Before you start the application, make sure to properly assess the scar. It’s important because it helps you establish a clear direction of the restriction. After a proper assessment, you can then proceed with the application.
1. Linear scar or Parallel scar taping
The linear or parallel tape application is for a non-complex scar. It’s for a scar that’s clearly restricted in one or two directions. Again, you’re applying one-inch strips to the scar. Depending on the direction of restriction, you may apply the tape in the same direction. Or, you may apply the tape in alternating directions.
1.1. Cut the tape lengthwise to form 1-inch pieces of tape. Measure your tape to make sure it spans the length of the scar.
1.2. Apply your first piece of tape with 75-100% tension.
1.3. Apply your second piece of tape, forming a zigzag pattern through the middle of the scar with 75-100% tension.
1.4. Apply the third piece of tape in an alternating direction to the second while applying 75-100% tension.
1.5. Rub in the tape to activate the adhesive.
2. Zigzag scar taping
The zigzag technique is for scars that are restricted in multiple directions. This protocol is very effective for contracture-style scars where you are unsure of a clear direction of the restriction and you want to impart multiple forces through the scar.
What you’ll need to do is cut as many 1-inch strips as you need and alternate the directions that you’re pulling the tape in again with 75-100% tension.
2.1. Cut the tape lengthwise to form 1-inch strips of tape and round the tape ends.
2.2. Measure the tape to span the length of the scar.
2.3. Apply the tape in a star pattern to cover the scar with the tape moving in alternating directions.
2.4. Each piece of tape should have 75-100% tension. This is designed to create a lifting effect on the scar.
2.5. Rub in the tape to activate the adhesive.
3. Star scar taping
The goal of the star taping technique is to try and lift the tissue underneath the skin. As mentioned, these are typically used for contracture or atrophic-type scars, scars that are stuck aggressively to the skin, or even sunken underneath the skin with an attempt to lift the tissue underneath it through the tape.
3.1. Cut the tape lengthwise to form 1-inch strips of tape and round the tape ends.
3.2. Measure the tape to span the length of the scar.
3.3. Apply the tape in a star pattern to cover the scar, with the tape moving in alternating directions. Each piece of tape should have 75-100% tension. This is designed to create a lifting effect on the scar.
3.4. Rub in the tape to activate the adhesive.
4. Scar tab
An alternating tape job for the manual therapists can be suing a tab to try and lift the skin underneath the scar during a treatment process.
4.1. Measure the security strip to span the length of the scar, cut up one inch longer than your measurement.
4.2. Fold the tape in half after ripping off the paper backing to create a tab in the center of the tape.
4.3. Place the tab along the length or width of the scar. Rub in the tape to activate the adhesive.
4.4. Take a second security strip and have it measure the length of the scar. Fold the tape in half and cut a small slit along the length of the tape to measure the length of the scar. Guide the tab through this piece of tape and rub the tape to activate the adhesive.
4.5. While applying pressure to the tape, you can use the tab to help manipulate the skin underneath. This can be taught to the patient to use at home or in a clinical setting. This, again, is designed to relieve symptoms of a sunken scar.
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