It’s now commonplace to see athletes at an event sporting colorful tape on their legs, shoulders, ankles, and many other places. Whether you’re at a soccer game, 5k race or volleyball match, many star athletes and common weekend warriors alike know the benefits of using kinesiology tape, otherwise known as kinesio or k-tape. It has been theorized that taping may prevent acute injury acquisition by enhancing proprioception via cutaneous afferent stimulation of the skin. What this means is that the stimulation of the tape on the muscles can help with circulation and muscle activation.
There are several varieties of kinesiology tape on the market. Colors are a personal preference, but the tape should be waterproof, porous, and have a simple adhesive. It is different from traditional athletic tape because it’s made of a combination of cotton, spandex, and adhesive. The spandex allows for a stretch that pulls gently on the skin.
How does Kinesiology Tape work?
While scientific data for showing pain relief and muscle strength varies among studies, the increased mobility and recovery improvements are cited. One study noted that it provides a pain relief analgesic mechanism by decreasing subcutaneous nociceptor pressure in the skin. Another hypothesis involves the application of afferent stimuli to the soft tissue structures, facilitation of a pain inhibiting mechanism, and activation of the gait control mechanism. To put it simply, the stimulation of the skin can raise the nerve impulse awareness to the skin surface whereas the injury may be deeper in the muscle tissue. This may help mask deep pain. K-tape may also help with pain reduction because it helps reduce inflammation.
Kinesiology tape can provide support and pain relief before, during, and/or after an activity. Some studies show improvements extending even after a month of regular use. It even helps the body’s ability to heal itself, and can provide therapeutic relief to a variety of populations and diagnoses and result in significant improvement in pain levels.
K-tape is different from white traditional medical or athletic tape in that it allows movement. Athletic tape is used primarily for bracing the body to allow it to heal from an injury. The injury makes the joint unstable and the white tape holds the joint in place. K-tape allows for lymphatic drainage to reduce swelling of an injury, and many believe that active movement helps the healing process. For injuries, this special tape helps to improve circulation, support muscles, allow the internal injury to heal, and help prevent further muscle injury while still allowing motion.
According to the Fischer Institute, “K-Tape can be used to prevent or treat many common muscle and joint related injuries including: sprains, muscle strains, subluxations, and tendonitis. K-tape provides support and pain relief before, during, and/or after an activity. Range of motion is not limited.”
K-tape can be worn for 3-4 days after application, and you can shower with it on. Generally, it should be worn no longer than 5 days and should be removed. Skin may be sensitive, so many suggest that one should rub the area first and then gently remove it instead of just ripping it off.
There are some rules to keep in mind while using K-tape.
- Don’t put it on sweaty skin.
- Be sure to use sharp scissors to cut or use the precut strips.
- Make sure to use tape with rounded corners or cut them accordingly
- Do not apply oils, lotions or sunscreen before applying the tape.
K-tape can be used for pain reduction, joint support and muscle support.