The first thing you might notice is how weird it can look. Looks like some bored kids who might have (just for fun) used some bright-colored duct tape on one of their siblings while sleeping.
It’s called Kinesiology Taping (KT) and it’s actually been around for over 40 years.
World Class athletes are touting the benefits of kinesiology taping for its ability to accelerate healing, increase circulation and relieve muscle pain and swelling – all of which help improve endurance and overall athletic performance.
Who Invented It
A Japanese chiropractor, Dr. Kenzo Kase, originally developed both the taping method and the first elastic therapeutic tape (Kinesio Tape) back in the 1970s because he was dissatisfied with the properties of the tapes available.
Previously the tapes available allowed for a totally different paradigm. They were non-elastic and were designed to provide rigid support and prevent movement (and only worn after short periods of movement) Then, of course, they were removed to allow for circulation and movement.
He also founded Kinesio, the company behind the product, in the 1980s, and formed the Kinesio Taping Association (KTA) in 1984. By 1994 he had published 20 books on the Kinesio Taping Method.
He was looking for a natural way to relieve pain. He knew the pain sensors were located between the epidermis and the dermis (the first and second layers of your skin) so he thought if he could lift these somehow, more blood would flow to the strained or inured area.
Originally, Dr. Kenzo used the tape with those (rather portly) Sumo wrestlers. They always seemed to be injured and once they started using it, the amount of relief was nothing short of amazing.
Before hitting the modern day world of competitive sports performance, the tape was primarily used by orthopedists, acupuncturists, massage therapists and chiropractors.
How It Works
The tape can work in several ways.
1. Take Pressure Off Painful Areas – this reduces the tension through weak, strained or inflamed muscles and tendons.
2. Relax Muscles – this assists the stretch receptors in the skin which provide
feedback to influence the control of the muscle tension under the skin.
3. Promote Blood Flow and Lymphatic Drainage – when applied to the skin with stretch the tape naturally wants to recoil a bit. As a result it lifts the skin and fascia to allow blood and lymph flow which helps speed up the healing process.
4. Provide Structural Support – provide structural support for weak or injured muscles and/or joints.
Is It Really Effective?
Renee Garrison, a physical therapist with MUSC Sports Medicine, shared her thoughts of kinesiology taping. Although there is some debate about the effectiveness of kinesio taping and how and when it should be used, Garrison says the concept behind the taping makes sense.
“Kinesio tape has a little stretch, and the therapist applying the tape can apply more or less as needed,” she explains. It is designed to ensure proper mechanics with sports movements by providing feedback to correct a joint’s position. Because of its elasticity, it helps to reposition a shoulder, for instance, and thus correct faulty mechanics that come with fatigue.
Garrison normally sees this method used by athletes after injuries, and it can help them play through pain.
“By encouraging proper muscle contraction and facilitating the proprioception (a joint position sense) of a knee or shoulder, it might not hurt as much. Plus it does help stimulate the lymphatic system to help decrease swelling and rid the area of lactic acid more quickly.
Kinesio tape is made of cotton over elastic fibers. It’s breathable, flexible, and mimics the skin’s elasticity.
It’s unrestrictive properties allow many athletes to continue to train during injuries. It’s designed to withstand the harsh conditions of sweat, dirt, and water and can be worn up to 3-5 days. You can even wear in the shower or while sleeping (although you might frighten your sleeping partner in the middle of the night!)
You can wear it in the shower and while sleeping so it’s providing therapeutic treatment around the clock.
Interestingly, the first colors were designed were more a beige (or skin-like) color but a schoolgirl in Japan complained to Dr. Kenzo that it looked horrible and made her feel sickly. Soon after, shocking pink and blue were introduced. Of course, now, almost every crazy, cool color and patterns are now available.
What About Those Strange Patterns?
Why those strange, spiderman-superhero-like taping patterns are you seeing on athletes?
Some of them do, indeed, look rather strange but they are specifically designed to encourage and support proper postural and movement patterns.
Previously you had to cut these patterns yourself with scissors – round the corners, add pieces, etc. but no more. Most of the big manufacturers now offer pre-cut, ready-to-apply applications for specific body parts. So just peel, apply and you’re off and running (or swinging)
How To Apply It
So can you apply it yourself or do you have to have a PT (Physical Therapist) or some sort of other specialized practitioner apply it?
I guess it sort of depends (great answer, right!) I mean if you livelihood depends of your athletic performance it might be a good (really good) idea to have a pro apply the tape – at least initially.
That being said most of the big tape producers (I’ll list them below) have videos on how to apply it by yourself. Further, the a lot of the tapes are pre-packed by body area – shin, knee, shoulder, etc. – so it’s just a matter of finding the right package, following directions on the package and/or checking out a video or 2 just to be sure.
Not Just For Athletes
Keep in mind too, that Kinesiology Taping is not just for athletes. In my research I found a number of individuals swear by KT. Just regular folks like moms, gardeners, retirees, etc. who have found the tape to provide the relief and support they were looking for.
The funny thing is that some had no idea how it actually worked. They just applied and it did. But that’s the cool thing, right? who cares as long as it works! The exercise physiologists have already figured the science out.
So don’t feel like if you’re not Rory McIllroy or or LeBron or Venus Williams that this product isn’t for you. The only way you’ll know is to give it a whirl.
Top Kinesiology Tape Brands
And while not an official sponsor, golf pro, Michelle Wie just recently began endorsing SpiderTech:
“This (SpiderTech) definitely helped me get through the week!”
Sponsorhips by kinesiology tape brands are also on the rise. Rocktape and PerformTex are sponsors of CrossFit, and PerformTex also is the first tape to sponsor a Nascar’s team, the Turner Motor Sports Team. Strengthtape is the official sponsor of the IRONMAN® events.
Introduction to Kinesiology Taping:
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