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June 3, 2012 at 1:01 PMComments: 1 Faves: 1

Kinesio Tape: Can It Help You?

By Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. More Blogs by This Author

Photo Credit: tö@flickr

We love our athletes. Watching Michael Jordan slam dunk, Tiger Woods sink a put, Lance Armstrong cross the finish line or Michael Phelps swim for record time is just spectacular. Popular athletes are household names. When they do something, it is noticed.

Thinking of Phelps’ marijuana use or Tiger’s indiscretions now? That's not the subject I want to discuss this time. I am getting at something a little less scandalous.

A few years back, athletes were noticed with unusually patterned tape over their skin. It is called "kinesio tape." This curious taping method has since spread from spectator sports to common use and is gaining in popularity for a whole host of conditions.  But does it work?  I have heard generally positive reports from my patients who have used it!

What Makes Kinesio Tape Different From Other Tape?

Unlike traditional athletic tape, or duct tape for that matter, kinesio tape is stretchy and elastic.  The tape is made partially of cotton which enhances the durability and flexibility. The adhesive is quite strong - it has to be in order to maintain position despite sweating and movement. The adhesive is patterned in waves which reportedly gives lift to the skin in regards to deeper tissue.  

The Rise of Kinesio Tape

The origin of kinesio tape is controversial.  While popular thought credits Japanese chiropractor Dr. Kase for kinesio tape’s development, others contend that Komp developed the tape prior.  Regardless, the tape was used primarily in Japan under complimentary practitioners such as chiropractors, kinesiologists and acupuncturists until 2008.  At this time, interest surged with the use of kinesio tape by several athletes in the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. Popularity soared from there!

The Purpose of Kinesio Tape - What Does Kinesio Tape Actually Do?

Kinesio tape is purported to help a number of pain-related mechanical issues in the body. The theory behind this is that the tape pulls on the skin in a way that enhances the gap between the dermis (skin layers) and the underlying muscle/tendon/joint. This enhances blood flow and opens lymph channels. Through this, nerve receptors are positively effected yielding less pain.  The tape can also be used to encourage the use of underused muscles and/or hinder painful, overused muscles in their activity. 

Kinesio tape has been reported to help in painful conditions throughout the body.  This also includes headaches and menstrual cramps.  It is also used in postural education, scar therapy and the management of edema (swelling).

Kinesio Tape Effectiveness Studies

Not much exists on studies measuring the success or failure of kinesio tape. Those that were found were mixed and limited at best. My opinion?

If you have pain or a willingness to try this modality for help with a problem, go for it! There are at least no adverse side-effects to taping, especially considering the alternatives such as stomach irritating anti-inflammatories or sedating narcotics and muscle relaxers. It is also certainly cheaper than physical therapy and regular massage therapy. A roll of tape that will last for several tapings runs around $10.

How To Apply Kinesio Tape

While an excellent underlying knowledge of human anatomy is needed to understand the basis of taping, it is likely easy to demonstrate with an initial taping. Many physical therapists, athletic trainers and chiropractors are well-versed in taping techniques. Though personal teaching is likely the best, books are available with diagrams and Youtube videos are plentiful with demonstrations for the do-it-yourselfers.

That tape you are seeing on popular athletes is called kinesio tape.  It is a safe alternative therapy for many painful musculo-skeletal conditions that is growing in popularity.

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1 Comment

  • The" tape can also be used to encourage the use of underused muscles and/or hinder painful, overused muscles in their activity."

    I got to get some of this stuff for my workouts!

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