This is part two of our two part mini series on how you can care for affirming surgery scarring while getting more active.
This week, we’re going to be looking at how you can relieve tightness and pulling caused by scarring through finding how you can tape your scars with kinesiology tape.
I recommend that you check in with your doctor and allied health specialists before you try anything new and treatments for any scarring, just be sure you’re safe and that these practices are appropriate for you.
What is Kinesiology tape?
Kinesiology tape (aka Kinesio tape) is made from 100% cotton fibre; Uses medical grade acrylic adhesive; Is completely latex-free; Hypoallergenic; Water-resistant; Does not limit range of motion; Is designed for multiple day wear time; Tension on tape has the ability to relax or stimulate muscles.
Kinesio tape alleviates discomfort and facilitates lymphatic drainage by microscopically lifting the skin.
The lifting effect forms convolutions in the skin thus increasing interstitial space and allowing for a decrease in inflammation, reducing pressure while enabling a more effective flow of lymphatic fluid in and out of the target area.
So, to put that a little more simply Kinesiology tape works in three key ways:
Kinesiology tape helps to normalise sensations in the scarred tissue
As I shared last week, when scarring occurs the tissues do not form in the same ways as healthy tissue. The cells often clump together and do not glide smoothly across each other.
So when we apply tape, it helps our brain reconnect with the area and become used to sensations.
Kinesiology tape increases the range of movement of scar tissue
Because the tissue can begin to move within a more functional range, it tells our brains that what we are doing is safe.
So that means our bodies don’t respond with a fight or flight response when experiencing sensations or movement.
But rather, the brain has time to adjust to the movement and experience the sensations within the newly healed tissues and trust that a recurrence of the trauma it experienced will not re-occur.
Kinesiology tape creates space for more movement to return
This is because when our brain realises that the tissue is safe it allows that tissues relax. Relaxed muscles and tissues will naturally create more space in an area.
“There is a growing number of studies that report that not only does kinesiology taping improve the appearance of scars within a reasonably short period of time, but it also allows the scar tissue to gain more flexibility and return to a more functional state. ”
Kinesiology tape is a newer tool most often used by allied health specialists such as physio therapists, exercise physiologists and massage therapists to stretch scar tissue in the remodelling process.
It works by holding the skin in a stretched position to create a space between the dermis, fascia, and muscle.
Because of this, blood flow increases between the layers of tissue beneath the taped area.
And this promotes healing and remodelling of the tissue.
Before using kinesiology tape, you must determine the amount and direction of restriction in your scar tissue.
It would be best to try this out with a physio (if one is accessible to you) if not you can cautiously try this yourself.
There are two ways of taping that we’ll be looking at this episode. One involves taping beside your scars, while the other tapes over the top of your scars.
Before you apply tape, it’s good to test that taping is not going to cause a negative reaction by applying a small amount for a 24hour period prior to fully taping.
There are two methods for taping scars
Method 1. Taping beside your scars.
- Cut a strip about 8 to 12 centimetres long, or longer, depending on the size of your scar.
- Anchor (press the tape to your skin with no tension applied) approx. 1cm along one side of your scar.
- Gently pull the tape along the side of your scar, moving in the direction of the restriction. Don’t apply it too tightly; the tape should have a 25 percent to 50 percent stretch to it.
- Zig-zag the tape by pressing it into place, moving it back diagonally, pressing the tape again, and moving it diagonally.
- Repeat the zig-zag pattern along the entire scar.
- When you are finished applying the tape, it should be gently pulling along one side of your surgical scar tissue.
- You can keep the kinesiology tape in place next to your scar tissue for three to five days. You must make sure that the tape is not irritating your skin.
Method 2. Herring bone taping (criss-cross pattern) over your scars.
- Cut lengthwise along the length of the tape to be sure the elastic quality can be used.
- Follow the natural marks on the back of the tape, about 1cm – 1.5cm wide.
- Cut the length as long as you need to overlap 1 cm past each side of the scar.
- Cut enough pieces to cover the length of the whole scar.
- Place a length of tape over the top of the scar with it gently pulling in the direct that you want to increase the stretch of the scar.
- Then using the shorter strips, begin the herringbone pattern.
- Anchor the end off the tape on the unscarred on one side of the scar.
- Tape in direction for the pull of the tape to come in towards the scar.
- Pull the tape to just 50% of the max stretch the tape has.
- Overlap the pieces and cover the whole base length of tape.
It’s important if you’re trying out taping to rest your skin as needed between reapplications of tape. Scar tissue is quite sensitive and can be damaged quite easily.
Stop taping and contact your doctor if you experience
- Scar feels warmer than the skin around it
- More pain than usual at the site of the scar