If you're not using kinesiology tape, you're probably either lucky enough to work out without pain, or you're a skeptic. That bright, colorful tape that runners, cyclists, gymnasts, climbers and athletes in virtually every sport on their knees, ankles, shoulders - you name it - looks like a fad that's here to stay.
Why? It's a truly therapeutic tape. Sold under several different brand names, most athletes are introduced to the tape by their athletic trainers or chiropractors. While the tape has gained popularity to such an extent that it's starting to look like a fashion statement, there's science behind the tape.
How Kinesiology Tape Works
Kinesiology tape works by pulling on upper layers of skin, which creates space between the dermis and the muscle, relieving pressure and allowing for improved blood flow and drainage, simultaneously helping to alleviate pain and promote healing.
Under the skin, fascia divides, separates, and supports muscles and organs. Lymph ducts and channels that pass though fascia are important to blood flow, fluid drainage and the transmission of pain signals. All of which, of course, aid in healing injuries.
Use Tape to Keep Training Through Rehab
Kinesiology tape can be used on virtually every part of the body - with a little instruction, and possibly assistance (depending on the affected joint or muscles).
Some of the most common injuries tape is used to treat (and prevent):
- Knees (patellar tracking, "runner's knee," to limit hyperextension)
- Elbows (particularly for tennis players and golfers)
- Ankles and Feet
Kinesiology Tape and Alignment, Repetitive Stress Injuries
While most people think of kinesiology tape as a treatment for sports injuries, plenty of non-athletes can benefit from using it.
A proven aid to muscle function and joint stability, kinesiology tape is also helpful in improving alignment problems, including posture correction and TMJ relief.
In addition to relieving injuries from overtraining, many people have found tape offers significant and lasting relief from other repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Taping for Do-it-Yourselfers
One drawback with taping is the fact that an injury may be in an area you just can't tape well by yourself. Another drawback - while it's highly unlikely using tape will exacerbate an injury, it's most effective when applied by a trained professional.
Because there are many different tapes and tension strengths affecting the tape application, ideally your first experience with kinesio tape will be guided by someone with a background in anatomy, physiology, or kinesiology. (Those formally trained in the various uses of the tape received the designation of approved Certified Kinesio Tape Instructor, or CKTI.)
That said, it is possible to continue to see improvement using the tape on your own. Many athletes who use it to support a weakened area or recurring problem use the tape in addition to a separate brace or wrap. Because any kinesiology tape application allows for a wide range of motion, it's easy to use both tape and a brace together.
One additional note on taping yourself: while a professional application may stay in place (even through showers) for several days, rarely do self-taped applications last as long.
Training With Tape
Sports tape is often used in conjunction with mechanical manipulations such as massage and chiropractic treatment, particularly after a sports injury. But increasingly, it's being used to help athletes in training, as it helps improve stamina and increase the length of workouts.
If you, your coach, or trainer think sports tape can help you before or after an event, or in rehabbing an injury? Have questions about how to use kinesiology tape to improve your posture, gate, shot or swing? Just looking to relief some of the pressure on your knees or ankles?