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What is Kinesio Tape?

Dr. Kenzo Kase developed Kinesio Tape, also called Kinesio Tex Tape, in the early 1970s. The Japanese chiropractor Kenzo Kase wanted to develop a tape that supported but did not restrict movement as traditional athletic tape does. Originally designed for therapeutic purposes, this tape is increasingly popular among athletes. The use of taping for the treatment and prevention of sports injuries dates back many years.

In addition to sporting injuries, KT can be used for many other conditions. Kinesio tape is proposed to have a variety of benefits, including decreased muscle fatigue, increased muscle flexibility, decreased delayed-onset muscle aches, pain reduction, and enhanced healing, such as reduced oedema and improved blood circulation.

The tape is gentle enough to be used on a baby's tender skin as well as on aged individuals, sturdy enough to support working muscles, joints or ligaments, and strong enough for athletes of all levels. Applied by practitioners, the tape provides optimal stimulation based on movement, heat, and pressure, allowing the body's natural healing system process to function.

Properties of Kinesio tape

Kinesiology tape has a lot of elasticity. As Kinesio tape is applied to backing paper, it is pre-stretched by 15-25%. Stretchable to 120-140% of its original length, it recoils towards its original length following application. In a sense, Kinesio tape mimics the physical characteristics of our skin by replicating its thickness and weight, and its inherent elasticity. As it mimics the skin's elasticity, it allows you to move freely.

Kinesio tape is made up of polymer elastic surrounded by 100% cotton fibers, which allow moisture to evaporate. Heat is used to activate the glue and it is applied in waves to replicate fingerprint patterns. Exercise, showering, and swimming can all be done in Kinesio tape because it is waterproof and breathable. Since it dries quickly, it is rarely irritating to the skin and can last for three to five days if correctly applied.

How Does Kinesio Tape Work?

As a body maintenance tool, Kinesio Tape has countless application options and can provide a variety of benefits that include improving circulation, healing injuries, and re-educating the neuromuscular system. You can feel that the tape recoils slightly when it is applied, gently lifting your skin. As a result, a microscopic gap is created between your skin and the tissues beneath it.

Studies showed that Kinesiology tape increased knee joint space when applied over the knees. A similar study showed the space in the shoulder joint also increased with kinesiology tape. Even though there is a minor increase in space, it reduces the chances of irritation in joints.

The tape, according to some physical therapists, is intended to alter information your nervous system is sending to your brain about pain and compression. This is especially true when it comes to triggering points. To lift the skin over these tense and knotted muscles, physical therapists use kinesiology tape. The brain receives a new signal from pain receptors when an area is decompressed, resulting in reduced tension in the trigger point.

Benefits of Using Kinesio Tape

Reduces Pain

Kinesio tape is primarily used for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain conditions like back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, ankle sprains, shin splints, tennis elbow, and more. It works by stimulating specific nerve endings in the skin designed to detect motion and joint position when applied to the skin over the affected muscle, joint, or soft tissue. As nerve-ending signals reach the spinal cord, they prevent injured tissues signals from reaching the brain.

Treats Injuries

Kinesiology taping may be used by physical therapists as part of a comprehensive plan of care when treating injured people. Kinesiology taping has been found to be most effective when used alongside other approaches, such as manual therapy.

Supports Weak Zones

Additional support is provided by kinesiology tape to muscles or joints where it is needed. As opposed to white medical and athletic tapes that restrict movement, kinesiology tape allows normal motion. Research shows it can even boost your endurance and mobility. Some studies have demonstrated that kinesiology tape can improve performance in athletes when applied to fatigued muscles.

Re-Trains Muscles

The kinesiology tape can help retrain muscles that have lost function or grown accustomed to less healthy work patterns. The use of kinesiology taping can help correct your posture and even improve your gait if you've suffered a stroke. Physiotherapists believe the reason for this may be that the strange sensation of taping on the skin may make you more aware of how you stand or move.

Improves Flow by Reducing Build-Up of Fluid

Kinesio tape improves fluid dynamics when it lifts the skin and soft tissue layers, allowing fluid to disperse and move through the lymphatic system, in case of swelling. This is why kinesiology tape is used to treat lymphedema – an accumulation of fluid that occurs when the lymphatic system is not functioning properly. It has also been used to treat bruises with the "fan" method. You can disperse a bruise over a couple of days if you cut the tape into strips and apply it to your skin in a weave pattern.

Enhances performance

Athletes who compete in special events may use kinesiology taping to protect against injury and to help them reach peak performance. Runners taking part in a marathon usually use these tapes. To keep the muscle active, sometimes the tape is placed along the gluteal region.

Applying Kinesio Tape

While applying Kinesio tape on yourself is probably harmless, there is a risk of putting the tape on too tightly; straining an already inflamed area. This is why before you apply kinesiology tape yourself, you should always seek the advice of a physical therapist who is experienced in its application. Physiotherapists will help you determine which pattern of tape to apply to help fix your specific problem. You can apply the tape in a Y shape, U shape, I shape, or in a fan shape, depending on your needs.

If necessary, you may also require decompression and stabilization strips. To apply and remove the tape properly at home, you can practice it with your physical therapist.

The following steps will help in the easy application of the Kinesio tape:

Start by cleaning and drying the area as the tape will not stick if any lotions or oils are remaining on the skin.

Remove excess hair. If you have fine hair, this shouldn't be an issue, but dense hair might prevent the tape from sticking to your skin.

The usual method for tearing backing paper is to start in the center.

When you are cutting the edges of each strip, make sure the corners are rounded. The rounded corners prevent the tape from getting caught against clothing, further enhancing its longevity.

Apply the first tab after you have removed the backing paper to anchor the strip and let its end recoil slightly after. The tabs at either end are only there to keep the tape in place; therefore, not much stretch is supposed to occur there. When you stretch the ends of the tape, the tape will pull your skin, causing irritation or causing the tape to separate more quickly.

When holding the tape, keep your fingers firmly on the packaging paper. Contact with the adhesive part will lessen its stickiness.

To receive optimal results, your therapist will advise you on how much stretching is appropriate in the treatment area. To achieve a stretch of 75 percent, stretch the tape to its maximum and then release it a quarter of its length later.

When stretching the tape, you should stretch it evenly using your entire thumb.

When you are done applying the tape, rub it vigorously for a few seconds. The adhesive is activated by the heat. Typically, it takes around 20 minutes for full adhesion.

Kinesiology tape is not suitable in certain situations. The following are some of them:

  • Open wounds – Applying tape to an open wound may cause infection or damage to the skin.
  • Thrombosis or clotting of the deep veins – Blood clots can become dislodged through increased fluid flow, which could be fatal.
  • The presence of active cancer – The growth of cancer can be accelerated by an increase in blood supply.
  • Removal of lymph nodes – Increased fluid could cause swelling where a node is missing.
  • Diabetes – It is possible that you would not detect a reaction to your tape if you have reduced sensations in some areas.
  • Allergies – Using adhesives on sensitive skin could result in a strong reaction.
  • Fragile skin – Avoid applying tape to skin that is prone to tearing.

The Bottom Line

The kinesiology tape is a simple, flexible, and cost-effective treatment which can be applied quickly and worn for several days. Research on kinesiology taping is lacking, but it is known to provide support, increase circulation, reduce pain, and improve the function of your muscles and joints. After being taped, patients can perform previous painful motions or movement patterns to see the effect of the tape immediately.

The use of kinesiology tape is very effective for all ages and abilities, with minimal side effects. It is best used in conjunction with other treatment methods, so talk to a physical therapist before you use it.

At AmeriCare Physical Therapy, we can help you manage that pain with our extensive services. Book an appointment with us today.

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