What is Kinesiology Tape?
Kinesiology is the study of the mechanics of body movements. Kinesiology tape is an innovative, widely used treatment tape that provides desired support to the body, without limiting the mechanics or movements as traditional athletic tape does.
Dr. Kenzo Kase, the inventor of the original Kinesio Tape and method, developed the original product back in the 1970s while practicing as a chiropractor. In effect, Dr. Kase was searching for a way to prolong the effects of his treatments on his patients after they left the office. When he realized that standard athletic tape was too stiff, rigid, and irritating for patients to wear in between appointments, he did what any great thinker would do.
He invented what he needed.
By working with product engineers, Dr. Kase developed Kinesio Tape- a lightweight, hypoallergenic tape that imitates the resilience and flexibility of human skin and promotes healing in tissues. Nowadays there are over 50 brands of this tape available under a variety of brand names.
Undoubtedly, there is no shortage of kinesiology tape sightings in athletics, with strips of colorful tape crisscrossing ankles, shoulders, knees, and elsewhere in intricate patterns and placements. While the exact science of the benefit warrants more research, many people have kinesiology tape applied to their body to decrease pain, improve mobility, and offer support.
So, why do we see this colorful tape all over the place and what is it doing? Specifically, here is what we know about kinesiology tape and why it is so frequently used.
How Does Kinesiology Tape Work?
Kinesiology tape is a specially designed blend of nylon and cotton that creates immense stretchability with needed durability. With medical-grade, hypoallergenic adhesive, the tape generally remains intact on the skin for three to five days, in between treatments. In addition, the tape is also water-resistant and designed to adhere even through showers or sweaty workouts.
Once applied, the skin lifts slightly beneath the tape and may create some physiologic change in the area tissues. Some benefits of kinesiology tape include the following:
- Creates joint space.
Some studies show that when applied strategically around the knee or shoulder, joint space subsequently increases. With improved joint space, joint irritation may lessen, leading to decreased pain or better mobility.
- May impact pain signals.
Chiropractors, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and others use kinesiology tape to treat pain and dysfunction, including trigger points. In general, the reasoning is that the tape may change how the sensory nervous system sends signals. Patients feel the tape, and this new input may alter signals about body pain and compression.
Some research supports the finding that kinesiology tape coupled with manual therapy reduces trigger point pain and improves flexibility. Indeed, patients tend to tolerate the taping quite well.
- May improve blood and fluid circulation.
Although there is more research needed, some studies imply improved blood and lymphatic flow with kinesiology tape use. In effect, increased blood and lymph may improve the healing process. Additionally, some practitioners use kinesiology tape to treat swelling. When applied strategically, many patients certainly report an improvement in injury symptoms.
What is Kinesiology Tape Used For?
Kinesio taping has a wide range of uses and applications that include the following: treating injuries, support, muscle re-education, performance, and scar management. Let us talk more in-depth about each.
Kinesiology tape is often part of a treatment plan to rehabilitate an injury. Rarely used as a standalone treatment, many practitioners will use tape to address pain, positioning, or swelling. In general, patients keep the tape on between sessions unless otherwise instructed.
Supporting Weak Zones in the Body
Generally, the active body is quite prone to injury, and when this occurs muscles or joints may benefit from extra support. When applied in these cases, patients often feel like they can move better. Moving better often leads to getting better, so taping becomes a useful intervention.
Many athletes rely on Kinesio taping to enhance their performance and optimize their endurance. Even if the exact science may be emerging, many high-level athletes utilize kinesiology taping as part of their training or rehabilitation. Every day patients with common dysfunction also find benefit in Kinesio taping when used appropriately.
Practitioners may use kinesiology tape to help re-educate muscles that are weak or dysfunctional. Abnormal movement patterns may decrease with regular and skilled taping procedures. Additionally, when patients feel the tape as they are moving, they may receive cues to change their posture, adopt a different stance or just become more aware of optimal movement strategies. The subtle feedback from the tape can promote healthy, muscular movement over time.
In the sports world, kinesiology tape may impact a variety of biomechanical findings or symptoms. Many runners use the tape to treat symptoms of plantar fasciitis, or just as a “wake up” to a muscle that is under stress during long endurance events. Some athletes attribute their peak performance to kinesiology tape, and use it regularly, even without strong research to back findings. Their proof is in their performance.
Occasionally, patients use kinesiology tape to manage the appearance of scars; however, it is important to note that an open wound is a contraindication for the tape. For this reason, discuss any tape application with your doctor prior to using it.
Does Kinesio Taping Really Work?
According to many people, the answer is a resounding yes. No doubt, the intervention and application of kinesiology tape warrants further research to define and explore outcomes. In some cases, people believe the effect to be “placebo” in nature. All in all, controlled research studies should be able to confirm or dispute outcomes, but the consensus is that kinesiology tape makes a difference for patients. That is part of the reason people use it so frequently.
When Not to Use Kinesiology Tape
Ultimately there are several conditions not compatible with kinesiology taping. These include the following: open wounds, active cancer, deep venous thrombosis (DVT), lymph node removal, diabetes, allergy, and fragile skin.
In general, patients should consult with a professional to ensure optimal results and avoidance of incompatible conditions.
How to Apply Kinesiology Tape
Rather than trying to figure out the proper technique, it makes sense to see a specialist at least for initial kinesiology taping. Certainly, chiropractors are highly trained in anatomy and physiology, as well as injury rehabilitation, and can demonstrate how to properly apply the tape for your specific condition.
Additionally, patients may need exercises or other interventions to recover fully, so consulting with a trained professional makes sense. Some taping methods are complex, with stabilization and decompression strips needed. Indeed, your provider can assist you in learning how to apply and remove the tape properly.
Examples of Specific Applications
While there are many treatable joints and conditions here are two common kinesiology tape applications, for the knee and the shoulder.
Kinesiology Tape for Knee
Patients with pain, inflammation and instability in the knee region may use kinesiology tape as an adjunct treatment in their overall rehabilitation. When strategically applied, kinesiology tape can help manage a range of conditions including osteoarthritis, meniscal injuries, IT Band syndrome and other sources of knee dysfunction.
Kinesiology Tape for Shoulder
Many patients benefit from Kinesio taping to the shoulder region. The shoulder is a highly mobile joint, and sometimes needs cues for added stability to feel and function its best. Tape can help cue area proprioceptors to increase joint stability, leading to better performance. Additionally, many patients experience tightness and trigger points in the neck/shoulder region. Kinesiology tape can provide benefit when utilized with other appropriate interventions.
How to Remove Kinesiology Tape?
Over time, kinesiology tape tends to loosen and may come off quite easily. If not, there are tips for easy removal. Some patients use olive oil of baby oil to soften the adhesive. In general, remove slowly while pressing skin down to separate it from the tape. Also, it may help to pull tape backwards, towards itself, rather than straight up perpendicular to the skin.
Will Kinesiology Tape Harm my Skin?
Most patients tolerate kinesiology tape well. In those with a known history of sensitivity, first apply a test strip to assess for irritation prior to a full taping application. In fact, most major brands of kinesiology tape are hypoallergenic, latex-free, and rarely irritating.
How Do I Buy More Affordable Kinesiology Tape?
Kinesiology tape can cost $25-$40 per roll, so many patients wonder how they can make the purchase more affordable. For this reason, some athletic groups or teams buy product in bulk which decreases overall unit cost. Also, use the tape as needed, but sparingly. In other words, meet the purpose, but do not over tape, or use more length than needed.
Wrapping it Up.
Kinesio taping is a common intervention in chiropractic care, injury treatment and sports rehabilitation. With possible benefits including support, increased circulation, pain relief and muscle training, kinesiology tape remains a widely applied product.
Before using it, talk to your provider to make sure you receive training in proper use and application. Also, a comprehensive rehabilitation and training program may greatly impact your overall health and fitness. Overall, kinesiology tape is not a standalone treatment, so find a provider you trust, and you will be on your way to optimal health. If you’d like to speak to a provider about your specific concerns, give our Chiropractic Department a call or you can start by filling out the form below.