By Ryan Jones, DPT, CSCS
You've probably seen a professional athlete or a friend covered in crazy colored tape and thought to yourself what the heck is that stuff? Does it actually work? Well, the answer is kinesiology (or kinesio) tape. And yes, it does work. Kinesio tape was originally invented by a Japanese chiropractor back in the 1970s but it didn't become popular until about 10 years ago when Olympic athletes started wearing it during major competitions. Today, it is mainstream, readily available at most sporting goods stores. It is used to provide support and stability to joints and muscles without affecting circulation and range of motion. It is also sometimes used to treat pain or edema.
About Kinesio Tape
Kinesio tape is not the same as the old white athletic tape you used in high school. Rather, it is a highly researched and effective rehabilitation technique that must be used properly in order to maximize your healing and its effects. The long and geeky definition of kinesio tape is: a definitive rehabilitative taping technique designed to facilitate the body's natural healing process while providing support and stability to muscles and joints without restricting the body's range of motion, as well as providing extended soft tissue manipulation to prolong the benefits of therapy received in a clinical setting. By targeting different receptors within the somatosensory system, this taping system can alleviate pain and facilitate lymphatic drainage by microscopically lifting the skin.
Made from cotton fibers with polymer elastic strands woven throughout, the tape itself has an elastic property along with specific adhesives that run in a certain pattern. When applied to the body in a certain direction and area the tape may help activate or inhibit muscle function. As opposed to the old athletic tape that is not stretchy and is made to restrict joint movement, the flexible nature of kinesio tape allows for normal mobility while supporting the user throughout the day's activities. The elastic properties along with the specific adhesives also play a role in lifting the skin, which allows for improved blood flow -- essential for healing.
In order to maximize the benefits of the tape, a thorough examination and evaluation is crucial to determine your exact diagnosis and establish the most appropriate taping technique to apply. Used properly, this style of taping has the ability to re-educate the neuromuscular system, reduce pain and inflammation, enhance performance, prevent injury and promote the body's return to homeostasis. With a variety of fun colors and application patterns, you are sure to catch the eye of somebody when you wear this tape!