You may have seen professional athletes or even fellow gym members with tape on their arms and legs and wondered why it was there. This tape is called Kinesio tape, and it can be used to treat a variety of sports related injuries, among other things. Kinesiology is the study of muscular and skeletal movements, so a tape geared toward muscle tension is aptly named.
What is Kinesiology Tape?
Kinesio tape is a thin, stretchy, waterproof cotton tape that is used to treat various injuries. It is about as thick and stretchy as human skin, so it is a great non-bulky, non-restrictive alternative to a big brace. It also has a grid-like pattern which makes it breathable.
The tape was invented by a Japanese chiropractor in the 1970. Dr. Kenso Kase, wanted to give his patients a way to continue to see improvement between appointments. He claims that taping "can be applied in hundreds of ways and has the ability to re-educate the neuromuscular system, reduce pain and inflammation, enhance performance, prevent injury and promote good circulation and healing"
How Does the Tape Work?
A trained therapist will take a look at your injury, and make a taping plan. The tape can be applied with different tensions to apply the appropriate amount of support to stabilize the affected area. Since the tape is made of stretchy cotton, it is very strong. This provides support but still allows for movement. The certified therapist will put the tape on the affected area, and then rub it to activate the adhesive. The tape gently lifts the skin and allows increased blood flow between the skin and the affected muscle area below.
Dr. Kase identifies four major goals of the tape:
- Muscle support: improves ability to move weakened muscles and reduces pain
- Improves blood circulation: improves blood circulation by gently lifting the skin to allow increased blood flow.
- Stimulates healing: promotes healing naturally
- Improves joint problems: increased range of motion
In a rehabilitation setting, taping after a manual manipulation session can help stabilize the area. This can allow for the muscles and ligaments nearby to heal while taking pressure off the areas that were manipulated during your rehabilitation session.
Taping may also help with alignment. Because the tape can be applied with different amounts of tension, it can pull on your muscles and gently guide them back into alignment. Having correct alignment can help decrease joint paint and soreness.
Kinesio taping might reduce pain in certain areas. If applied to the affected area, the tape may pull fluids from swelling away or reduce tension that is causing the pain.
The tape might be preventative as well. If an athlete knows that they have a tendency to need a little more shoulder stability or knee support, taping before competition can be a wise decision.
Who Can Use Kinesio Tape?
Because the tape is non-medicinal and non-invasive it can be used for children and adults. The tape is made from latex-free elastic fibers and cotton so it should be hypoallergenic.
While you can find instructional videos for applying the tape, it is best to have a trained physical therapist do it for you. This ensures that you are getting the right amount of tension or stability for your injury.