If you’ve been to any races or watched any sporting event, you’ve most likely seen kinesio tape. Watch the Olympics over the next couple of weeks. You’ll see plenty of athletes wearing it. It’s becoming more and more popular, especially for athletes. It’s also becoming more widely used in physical therapy and chiropractic clinics.
Many hear there’s a benefit to wearing kinesio tape, however, most don’t know why. And many aren’t even sure how to wear it. Hopefully this will help you understand a little more about the tape and whether it may be appropriate for you.
Now, let’s get into the ins and outs of it and see if it may be a good fit for you.
What is Kinesio Tape?
There are many different brands of kinesio tape now, but it was originally developed in the 1970s by Dr Kenzo Kase, a chiropractor from Japan. He developed it to help prolong the benefits of his treatments. Although he developed it in the 70s, kinesio tape did not start to become widely used until the 90s.
The original tape was designed to gently lift the layers of the skin, which provides many benefits for the tissues underneath, including
- Relieving pressure on the pain receptors
- Stimulating stem cells
- Improving fluid flow
- Inhibiting muscle activity
- Increasing muscle activity
If you look at the adhesive on the back of the kinesio tape, you’ll notice a wave-like appearance to it. The back of the tape is only partially covered with adhesive. This allows it to lift the skin in a wave-like pattern.
What Can Kinesio Tape Be Used For
The list is probably shorter if I said what it can’t be used for. I like to use it on athletes, but I use it just as much, if not more, on non-athletes. I use it on most of my patients. And most experience some benefit from it, while the minority says it doesn’t do anything for them.
It can be used for a variety of reasons, including
- Improve bruising
- Decrease pain
- Reduce swelling
- Improve muscle function
- Increase healing rate
Can Kinesio Tape Enhance Performance?
The short answer is no. However, it can help return muscle and tissue function to its healthy state. But, it won’t enhance your performance like performance-enhancing drugs can do. It can certainly improve a muscle’s ability to fire though. This is not enhancing performance. It is simply stimulating the nervous system to work more effectively within its current capacity. I commonly tape to muscles that don’t fire well, especially when the patient has difficulty trying to contract the muscle. The feedback from tape helps the brain “find” the muscle to fire.
Does it Matter How You Apply It?
Yes and no. Research has shown that if you just slap it on there with no knowledge of how it works or how to apply it, the tape will provide a benefit. It still lifts the skin, which can help with the items listed above. However, to maximize its effectiveness, it does matter how you apply it. It’s important to understand a number of things, including
- How to anchor the tape
- Where to place the tape
- How much tension to use
- Where the muscles attach
- How the muscle works
- How to cut the tape
Taping for stability is very different than taping for mobility so this needs to be considered as well.
Does It Matter Which Brand to Use
Maybe. I personally use the Kinesio brand because I was trained in its applications. This is the original brand and I like it, but it’s not necessarily the best. I get good results with this and understand how to use it. Therefore, I tend to recommend this brand.
It’s important to understand that each brand has different characteristics, including how the adhesive works and how well it stretches. To maximize its effectiveness, you should be familiar with the characteristics of that brand of tape because it can be very different between each brand.
How Long Should You Wear It?
This can depend, but maximum effect is 3-5 days. How long it will last depends on how well you take care of it, how oily your skin is and how much hair you have.
The tapes are water resistant so they can withstand showers and swimming. However, take care when drying it off. This will help to prolong the tape.
In the event that the tape starts to itch, whether that’s 12 hours or 4 days, you should go ahead and remove it. It’s usually due to the tension of the tape aggravating the skin. However, it can be due to a reaction to the adhesive and/or the materials in the tape, especially if there’s latex in the tape.
It’s not usually reasonable to head to your local PT or chiro to be taped every time you go out for a run. However, visiting them one or two times can be beneficial because they can show you how to tape yourself. Some areas are harder than others, so you may want to bring your significant other.
And, if you decide to go online for taping techniques, make sure you’re watching someone who’s trained in the tape you’re using. Like I mentioned above, each tape has different characteristics.
I hear from a lot of people who tape themselves that they like to use an adhesive spray to help it stick better and longer. Don’t do this. First of all, the tape shouldn’t be on your skin for weeks. Second of all, the spray ruins the tape’s adhesive pattern. That wave pattern lifts the skin. Adding a spray that secures the entire back of the tape ruins that.
Most do fine with the tape. However, like with most everything, there are some reasons to not wear the tape or at least to be careful before applying it.
- Consider sensitivity to adhesive and/or latex
- Not all brands contain latex, but some people are still very sensitive to the adhesive. However, the kinesio brand that I use now has a tape designed for more sensitive skin
- Avoid placing over skin infections, wounds or malignancy sites
- Take precautions with conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, lymphoedema, organ transplants and pregnancy
Hopefully this post helped you better understand kinesio tape. Ready to give the tape a try? Pick up a roll and head to your local PT or chiro and learn how it can work fo you.
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