When exercising at the gym or attending a sporting event, you may have seen colored straps arranged over a participant’s body and wondered what it is? It is likely they are wearing Kinesio Tape, a popular therapeutic intervention that has versatile applications ranging from healing sporting injuries and improving posture to reducing lymphedema and supporting pregnant bellies. It wasn’t until recent years that it became more widely used, particularly in the sporting community, but for many it has become the right tool that is helping them to recover from injury faster while enhancing their performance.
Developed by Japanese chiropractor Dr. Kenzo Kase, in 1979, Kinesio Tape or “K-Tape” is an adhesive body tape that minimizes pain and promotes healing from musculoskeletal injury while supporting and correctly mobilizing joints and soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia) during activity. K-Tape is different than typical athletic tape, which is a strapping tape used to immobilize joints and soft tissues and is intended to restrict movement as the body heals from musculoskeletal injury.
A nice feature of K-Tape is that it can be cut to length, shaped, stretched to a pre-determined tension, and applied in a specific pattern depending on the person’s needs or region(s) of complaint. This allows for K-Tape to be used on any practical area of the body. Although it is commonly used in shoulders, knees, and along the length of arms and legs, it is often used to help support and provide pain-free movement of back, neck, and abdominal muscles. The adhesive and cotton material used in K-Tape make it feel like wearing a stretchy band-aid, but stronger. Most brands of K-Tape are also designed to be waterproof and will typically last for up to 5 days when applied correctly and left undisturbed. It is also hypoallergenic and latex-free.
Kinesio Tape facilitates the body’s natural healing methods by mechanical intervention only. There is no medicine or anti-inflammatory agent built into the tape, making it incredibly safe to use. Instead, when applied directly to the skin over the site of injury, its elastic design lifts the skin away from its damaged underlying tissue. This created lift helps promote blood and lymph circulation at the site of injury for faster tissue repair and drains excess fluid to reduce inflammation and swelling within the area between skin and muscles known as the interstitial space. The reduced swelling, simultaneously, creates less pressure on pain receptors within our body, resulting in less pain. This entire process speeds up overall recovery time; appealing to athletes of all levels who inherently suffer from recurrent sport injuries and want to return to doing activity as soon as possible.
Although K-Tape is most commonly used to assist healing overuse injuries (such as sprains, strains, tendonitis, etc), it is also an excellent tool used in muscle re-education to correct one’s posture or faulty movement patterns, with or without injury. When applied in a correct orientation to specific muscles, K-tape also stimulates sensory mechanoreceptors on the skin. When stimulated, these mechanoreceptors tell the brain how the body (or body part) is positioned. The brain then uses this body awareness feedback to help correctly turn on and turn off certain muscles groups during movement with timely precision. This can be essential when every degree of flawless motion matters, like during a baseball pitch or golf swing.
With the warmer weather finally here, you may be more motivated to be active and stay active. Don’t let pain keep you from enjoying what you like to do most and ask your chiropractor or therapist if K-Tape would be of benefit to you.