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What Is Kinesiology Taping?

therapist sitting on table holding kinesiology tape

You may have noticed it on the arms and legs of your favorite professional and collegiate athletes. You may see it on people working out at your local gym or on runners competing in a 5k race. Even though it became a worldwide sensation in the 2008 Summer Olympics, thanks to the United States women's volleyball team, Kinesiology tape has been around since the 1970s. All thanks to the Japanese chiropractor Dr. Kenzo Kase. Kinesiology tape has roughly the same thickness and elasticity as the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin. Its effects are due to the tape's mechanical properties and the skin's communication with the brain via the nervous system. Kinesiology tape is used in many areas of healthcare and athletic performance based upon its mechanism of action on the human body. [1] Kinesiology tape is commonly used but remains a mystery by many. We see athletes use it all the time, but never quite understand what for. These six benefits offer insight and answer common questions such as "how does kinesiology tape work," "what is kinesiology tape good for," and "can you reuse kinesiology tape."

#1. Reduces Pain The primary use of Kinesiology tape in healthcare is to treat musculoskeletal pain conditions such as:

· Back pain

· Ankle sprains

· Tennis elbow

· Carpal tunnel syndrome

· Shin splints

· And more

By applying it on the skin over the affected muscle, joint, or soft tissue, the tape activates specific nerve endings in the skin designed to detect motion and joint position. When signals from these nerve endings reach the spinal cord, they inhibit the ability of signals from injured tissues to reach the brain. This mechanism is termed the Gate Control Theory of pain control because the signals from the tape' close the gate' and don't allow potential pain-causing signals to pass. [1,2]

#2. Helps reinforce correct motor patterns to create better habitual movement Kinesiology taping is used in athletic performance through its effect on proprioception: the ability to detect the body's position and movement. Whether you are trying to improve shoulder blade position while swimming, prevent your knees from collapsing inward while performing a squat, or maintaining an upright posture while running, kinesiology athletic taping helps you better understand your affected body part. This feedback helps to reinforce correct motor patterns until the optimal strategy is learned and becomes habitual. Unlike more rigid forms of tape, for example, traditional athletic tape, Kinesiology tape is not designed to stop movement mechanically. Instead, it guides movement and improves proprioception through its effect on the nervous system. [1,2]

#3. Prevents fatigue Preventing fatigue during athletic performance is another benefit of kinesiology tape. Fatigue is one of the most significant predictors of injury. It is a major reason why athletes get injured toward the end of a race or athletic competition. Suppose a runner says that their hamstrings get fatigued during the second half of a marathon. In that case, you can apply tape on their hamstrings and synergist muscles, such as the glutes and calves, to provide support and prevent fatigue.

#4. Enhances the body's fascial lines One of the newer uses of Kinesiology tape is to tape the 'fascial lines.' We now know that muscles don't work in isolation but rather function in chains connected by fascia to move the body. Numerous fascial lines run from head to toe, spiral around the arms and legs, and cross the torso. These lines form intricate patterns that can be augmented by tape. This use of kinesiology tape is common in athletes, whether improving their throwing motion, swimming stroke, or kicking pattern. Research has shown that taping for pain and athletic performance should be used with other interventions for the best outcomes. Corrective exercise has shown the most beneficial and can be prescribed by a movement-oriented chiropractor, physical therapist, or trainer. [3]

#5. Reduces fluid buildup and improves flow Improving fluid dynamics was the reason why Dr. Kase originally invented kinesiology tape. He found that if you could lift the skin and other layers of soft tissue using tape, then fluid (e.g., swelling) would be allowed to disperse and move through the lymphatic system. Since then, Kinesiology tape has been used to manage lymphedema, a buildup of fluid when the lymphatic system isn't functioning correctly. Taping for fluid dynamics has also been applied to treat bruising using the 'fan' method. By cutting the tape into strips and applying the tape on the skin in a weave pattern, you can disperse a bruise over a couple of days. [1]

#6. Doesn't restrict mobility, allows for full-motion, can be worn for 3 to 5 days, and is affordable Additional benefits of Kinesiology tape include the fact that it doesn't restrict mobility and allows for full motion. It can be worn for three to five days, which prolongs its effects of reducing pain, improving muscle function, and increasing fluid dynamics and circulation. The tape can be worn in the shower and during exercise without compromise. It can be cut into specific lengths depending on the body part or fascial line being treated. Kinesiology tape has provided a unique intervention that can be easily applied, worn for several days, and is cost-effective. Once taped, the patient can perform their previous painful motion or dysfunctional movement pattern to assess the intervention's effect, providing instant feedback. Kinesiology tape has minimal side effects and can be of great benefit for individuals of all ages and functional abilities. [3]

Credit: Dr. Jordan Duncan

Sources: 1) Kase K, Wallis J, Kase T. Clinical Therapeutic Applications of the Kinesio Taping® Method 3rd Edition. Kinesio Taping Association, 2013. 2) Page P, Frank C, Lardner R. Assessment and Treatment of Muscle Imbalance: The Janda Approach. Champaign, IL. Human Kinetics, 2010. 3) Montalvo AM, Cara EL, Myer GD. Effect of kinesiology taping on pain in individuals with musculoskeletal injuries: systematic review and meta-analysis. Phys Sportsmed. 2014 May;42(2):48-57.


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