On any given day in the gym, you may see countless athletes, regardless of their fitness levels, covered with crazy colored strips of tape on various parts of their bodies. You may be wondering, What is this tape and why should I care?
Kinesio tape, or KT tape, is a product developed in 1979 by Japanese chiropractor Kenzo Kase. Dr. Kase recognized that manual therapy (i.e. massage therapy, chiropractic care, and physical therapy) was extremely effective for treatment of different ailments, but often the effects were temporary. He wanted something his clients could use between appointment sessions to increase efficacy of manual therapy for lasting results. As opposed to the traditional methods of taping which focused on restricting motion and compression, Dr. Kase developed kinesiology taping, a method that promotes circulation in an effort to ease muscles but keep blood flowing, allowing injuries to heal more quickly. The kinesio taping method was introduced to the United States in 1995, and has been growing in popularity ever since.
Kinesio Tape Tech
Let’s start by looking at the basic function of KT tape. This is not your ordinary athletic tape. Traditionally, athletes or others with muscle injuries would tape a muscle or joint to restrict motion and prevent further injury. For example, for a strained calf muscle, old-school methods would dictate wrapping tape around the entire lower leg — calf, shin, tibia, fibula, etc. — almost like a mummy. While that would prevent further strain by immobilizing the injured muscle, it would also impede circulation and slow down the body’s natural healing process.
Kinesiology taping takes the opposite approach, using the tape to open up the muscle and allow full movement. KT tape is applied on top of an injured or strained area to stabilize it, but care is always taken to ensure that a muscle or tendon is never encircled with a ring of tape. “As you move, the tape, skin and connective tissue (or fascia) over the muscle or tendon also move, pulling slightly away from the muscle and creating space for lymphatic fluid to flow around and cleanse the inflamed tissue. ” Please read this sentence twice because this is the crux of KT tape.
Dr. Kase lists the following as the four major functions of kinesiology taping (these functions drive the technology behind the tape):
Supporting the muscle — Proper taping improves the muscle’s ability to contract even when it’s weakened; reduces pain and fatigue; protects the muscle from cramping, over-extension and over-contraction.
Removing congestion to the flow of body fluids — Kinesio tape improves blood and lymphatic circulation and reduces inflammation and excess chemical buildup in the tissue.
Activating the endogenous analgesic system — This requirement means that the tape must facilitate the body’s own healing mechanisms, a central focus in chiropractic medicine.
Correcting joint problems — The goal is improving range of motion and adjusting misalignments that result from tightened muscles.
KT Tape Benefits: (in my opinion)
Kinesio tape can be a huge asset for athletes. KT tape is extremely strong and can be applied with different tensile strengths which allows the muscles and ligaments to have “help” when injury occurs. The tape essentially stabilizes an area, for example the shoulder, to prevent any further damage.
Kinesio tape can also significantly help with alignment. If you have a tendency to slouch or have an area of the body that is not properly aligned, kinesio tape can bring the body back into alignment and help the athlete sense how this feels in the body. Having correct alignment can decrease pain and help the joints recover from activities.
Kinesio tape can also help decrease pain in certain areas of the body. After manual manipulation, KT tape can be placed on the affected area (using a different method or style of taping depending on the area) to decrease pain and discomfort. If there is swelling, there is a specific taping method that helps drain fluids into the lymphatic ducts to decrease swelling and help the body heal.
The great thing about KT tape is that it still allows for range of motion, just not so much that you are likely to injure yourself further.
KT Tape vs. Rock Tape
What is the difference between KT tape and Rock Tape?
Rock Tape is a type of KT tape that has been enhanced to provide extra stretch without compromising compression. Rock Tape is made for CrossFitters by CrossFitters. I’ve used them both, and I do have a preference, but I suggest you see for yourself.
If you want to try kinesiology taping, or you need anything taped, let me know. When taped properly, KT tape can make a significant contribution to injury prevention, recovery, and pain.