We see the bright coloured tape proudly worn by athletes and ordinary people more and more frequently. What is it, how it works and what can it do for me, are all valid questions that a person may ask…
What it is
Kinesiology tape, or K tape, is an elastic adhesive tape that can be stretched longitudinally up to 180% its original length. Its thickness and elasticity resemble human skin. Its biggest advantage over conventional athletic tape is that it can aid the recovery of injuries or muscular imbalances without limiting free range of movement. This means that the person wearing it can continue with their habitual activities as normal while the tape works on restoring the healthy state of the soft tissues.
The kinesiology taping method (KTM) was introduced in the international arena in the 1970s by the Japanese chiropractor, Dr. Kenzo Kase. It was developed over 30 years of research and practical experience with the aim of offering help for clients between treatments. The word kinesiology comes from the Greek word kinesis, which means ‘movement’.
The tape itself is hypoallergenic, latex-free and can be worn for days at a time. It is suitable for all populations from the active athlete, through the weekend warrior to pregnant women needing lower back support. Key features:
How it works
Kinesiology taping helps with the natural response to inflammation according to clinical studies. It targets receptors within the somatosensory system. When applied correctly it can alleviate pain and enhance lymphatic drainage through its microscopic skin lifting action. The resulting convolutions in the skin increase the interstitial space. This decreases inflammation enabling more effective blood and lymph circulation in the treated area by reducing pressure.
Kase originally claims four distinct benefits while more recent research is adding a fifth one:
Furthermore, it can facilitate (activate, increase the tone) or inhibit (de-activate, decrease the tone, help lengthen a muscle.
Facilitation helps to activate a hypotonic muscle, that is to increase its tone and promote gentle shortening by overlapping of the muscle fibres. It is accomplished by applying the tape with 50-75% stretch with stronger tension from the muscle origin to its insertion.
Inhibition helps to deactivate a hypertonic muscle, that is to decrease its tone and promote its lengthening by releasing overlapped fibres. This can be achieved by applying the tape with 15-25% stretch with milder tension from the muscle insertion to its origin.
KTM can be seen as a ‘tool’ in the therapist palette of interventions aimed at helping their clients. It can be used in any sports or non-sports setting and can be applied in any environment. It is usually employed in conjunction with other soft tissue treatment modalities. A distinct characteristic of the tape is that it acts continually even when the therapist is not physically present.
How it is applied
Before application, it is recommended to check the client has no allergies to adhesives. To ensure the tape sticks, it must be applied clean, dry skin that is not overly hairy. Ideally, the corners must be rounded to reduce the chance of the tape getting unstuck by contact with clothing. The 2-3 cm ends of each side of tape are always left unstretched.
During application in most cases, it is recommended to put the muscle or soft tissue treated in a naturally stretched position.
What it can help you with
Alleviation of pain, normalising muscle tone and facilitation of lymphatic drainage were already mentioned. Additionally, it can help correct posture abnormalities through its effect on opposing muscle pairs and proprioceptive feedback mechanisms.
It can stabilise a structure without restricting ROM due to its elasticity and thickness matching human skin. It can thus reduce the risk of injury and offer a psychological benefit.
Specific conditions and areas of the body that may benefit from the application of K tape:
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Indications and contraindications
As previously stated, KTM is safe and beneficial in most cases. It can be applied in acute cases: injury, swelling, inflammation, pain, reduced ROM. It can also be used in chronic cases: correct posture, balance muscle tone, support a vulnerable joint.
It is, however contraindicated in cases of active cellulitis, skin infections, open wounds, deep vain thrombosis (DVT), cancer sites.
How long can I keep it on?
Up to 5 days is ideal. Longer is possible but effectiveness diminishes.
Can I shower with it?
Yes, you can shower and swim. Just towel dry it afterward. DO NOT USE A HAIR DRYER as this can cause the adhesive to melt into your skin and make removal painful and damaging to your skin.
How long do I wait before I start activity?
30 minutes is usually sufficient to allow the adhesive time to settle.
Is it normal to feel burning, itching, pain or crawling sensations?
No, it is not. If you experience any of these remove the tape. You may be oversensitive.
How much tape can I have on my body at once?
Usually, up to three sites of application are considered maximum to avoid overloading the nervous system. In cases of serious trauma on multiple sites where the client is immobilised, more sites of application may be indicated.
Will it stick if I’m very hairy?
No, it will not. If you want it to stick and stay on your skin, the hair needs to be short and trimmed.
Martin Stefanov Petkov