Kinesiology taping is a therapeutic tool that has become increasingly popular in sports and physical therapy. Its proposed benefits, such as joint support, pain relief, enhanced healing and proprioceptive facilitation, have many applications within the sporting arena and daily life.
So how does a piece of tape provide relief and support?
Here’s a guide to what we know about kinesiology tape, how physical therapists use it, and how it can benefit you.
What Is Kinesiology Tape?
In the 1970s, Dr. Kenzo Kase, a Japanese chiropractor, noticed a gap in treatments available in his practice. He helped his patients heal in his clinic but felt that they needed further treatment to maintain recovery. Hence, he developed kinesiology tape to enhance the body’s natural healing process.
Kinesiology tape is usually made of a cotton and polymer elastic blend. It is engineered to mimic the physical qualities, such as thickness, weight and elasticity, of skin and can stretch up to 140% of its original length and recoil back. The tape is backed with a water- and sweat-proof adhesive, so you can wear it even during exercise, swimming, and showering. The cotton fibres allow for quick drying and, when probably applied, can last three to five days.
How Does Kinesiology Tape Provide Relief And Support?
If you’ve ever had an injury, then you’ve probably experienced the initial redness, swelling, and heat caused by increased blood and fluid flow to the area. The accumulation of fluids also compresses nerves in the area and causes pain. This is our body’s predictable inflammatory response and our first step towards healing.
However, prolonged inflammation and pain can lead to muscle atrophy and decreased ability to activate the muscles post-recovery. Chronic swelling leads to tissues being more rigid and more susceptible to re-injury.
This is where kinesiology tape can help.
When appropriately applied, kinesiology tape pulls the skin’s upper layers away from the underlying tissues to create. This gentle lifting creates space to allow blood and lymphatic fluids to circulate properly again. It also relieves the pressure on local pain receptors. This ultimately helps to alleviate swelling, pain and inflammation. Once blood flow is restored, oxygen and nutrients can reach the injured site to accelerate healing.
Some studies have also shown that the foreign sensation of kinesiology tape on the skin alone improves joint positioning and proprioceptive feedback from tissues to the brain. Proprioception is your body’s innate ability to know its position in space. It is how we stay balanced, maintain our posture and move fluidly. Improving proprioceptive sense after an injury is especially important for re-injury prevention and muscle movement pattern re-education.
How To Use Kinesiology Tape
Kinesiology tape is extremely versatile and can be used anywhere on the body, from your neck to your feet. There are many ways to tape. The shape of tape strips also differs depending on the type of injury and the treatment goal.
Some basics of application are:
- Always clean and dry the area first as any lotion or oils can prevent the tape from sticking
- Trim or shave the area if there is dense hair in the area
- Cut rounded corners at the ends of each strip, so it’s less likely to get snagged by clothing
- Keep fingers on the paper backing and avoid touching the adhesive
- Rub the strip for a few seconds after application to activate the glue
It’s important to note that kinesiology tape can only be beneficial when applied correctly. If not, it can restrict the range of motion and be more cumbersome than helpful. Depending on your current situation, there are usually classes or seminars commonly available for sports trainers or those who would like to get official training. Your instructor will demonstrate how to treat various injuries, place the tape, and apply the tape to promote healing. Just like any other skill, mastering taping techniques will take time and plenty of practice. If you’re a patient, you can ask your physiotherapist to show you the proper taping technique that you can practice at home.
In kinesiology taping, there are six application techniques:
- Recoiling- utilizing the tape’s stretchiness to give feedback on the body’s positioning in space
- Holding- aligning and keeping tissues in the desired position
- Lifting- maximize the tape’s ability to lift the skin to allow increased blood flow, fluid circulation, and reduce swelling and pain
- Pressure- the tape increases stimulation to tissues over a ligament or tendon
- Spring- to assist or limit the range of motion around a joint
- Channelling- lower pressure over lymph ducts to help lymphatic drainage
What Kind Of Tape Should I Use?
As mentioned above, there are many different ways to use kinesiology tape. If you find traditional tape rolls too cumbersome, there are plenty of precut kinesiology tapes on the market that are easier to manipulate and apply in tricky areas. Precuts are also ideal for athletes or individuals who are taping their injuries or aren’t as skilled at using tape.
When Not To Use Kinesiology Tape
There are some instances where kinesiology tape is not suitable, including:
- Open wounds- taping over wounds can lead to infection or further damage
- Deep vein thrombosis- increased blood flow can cause blood clots to dislodge and be potentially life-threatening
- Active cancer- can potentially increase blood and nutrient supply to cancerous growths, which could be dangerous
- Fragile skin- avoid taping if your skin is prone to tearing
- Diabetes- if you have any loss of sensation due to diabetes, you may not know if the tape is causing a problem or irritation
If you have any of the above conditions, you should consult your doctor for more information before using kinesiology tape.
Kinesiology tape is a beneficial addition to any trainer or physical therapist’s bag. It’s a simple supplement to manual treatment that can make a big difference to a patient’s recovery speed and maneuverability. Consult your physical therapist today to find out how kinesiology tape can benefit you!
Kristy Ngai is a content writer for BreezeMaxWeb that helps businesses showcase their brand through enticing copy. When she’s not working, you can find her playing net in a local beer league or biking around the city