Today's article is going to focus on Kinesio Tape and the benefits of using this therapeutic sports injury tape. As Kinesio Tape becomes more and more popular among health care professionals (including myself at my office) and premier athletes, I find myself being asked more and more questions about this "colorful tape" everyday. Today I hope to write an all-inclusive article about this tape and the benefits it provides to athletes around the world.
Kinesio Tape was invented by Japanese Chiropractor Dr. Kenzo Kase in 1979. Dr. Kase developed this tape as an alternative to the classic white athletic tape that is most commonly used to restrict range of motion for injured joints. This new Kinesio Tape was designed to allow unrestricted range of motion while still adding support, pain control, dispersion of inflammation, and lymphatic drainage to users. I will explain how each benefit is achieved below. Kinesio Tape is currently used by health professionals for injuries to almost all joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons (Back, Neck, Elbow, Wrist, Quads, Hamstrings, Plantar Fasciitis, Calf, Achilles, Knee, Ankle, you name it!!).
Now to discuss how it actually works. Starting with support that does not sacrifice range of motion. Unrestricted range of motion is possible through the stretch and elasticity in the Kinesio Tape itself. This elasticity allows the tape to be applied at numerous tensions depending on the level of support desired. These different tensions allow the tape to simulate your body's muscles, tendons, and ligaments which all allow a certain amount of "play" or "zone of elasticity". This tape helps give the desired support for known areas of weakness and/or muscles, ligaments, and tendons recovering from injuries.
Pain control is achieved through basic principles of neurology. Humans have numerous mechanoreceptors and nociceptors throughout our bodies which act as sensory receptors. To keep this as simple as possible (apologies to my neuro specialists out there who understand that it can take months to educate someone on this subject matter), mechanoreceptors sense pressure, tension, touch, and vibration. Nociceptors sense pain. The great thing about these mechanoreceptors and nociceptors is that our body has a built-in override system in place. If our body is in pain (due to stimulated nociceptors) and suddenly that area of pain senses pressure, tension, touch, and/or vibration (mechanoreceptors are stimulated) the pain will stop because mechanoreceptors are faster at transmitting data to the brain than nociceptors are. This is why having tape over the area of pain and discomfort can provide relief because the brain only senses the touch of the tape and tension applied to the skin. This is the theory behind rubbing a child's head after he/she bumps it on a hard surface. Rubbing the spot will numb the child's nociceptors by activating the mechanoreceptors.
Finally comes the dispersion of inflammation and increased lymphatic drainage. This occurs through the tape's ability to lift the skin and allow the body to more easily and freely move edema and inflammation away from the area of injury. A beautiful example is in the pictures below. One picture is of a classically taped knee and the other is of a person that had just had the tape removed. It is obvious that where the tape was previously applied has dispersed the bruising and edema in the area. This decreased inflammation will cut back greatly on recovery time. This is also why we at Healthy US recommend taking a high quality Omega 3 supplement or MSM supplement as well in order to help combat inflammation levels and recover faster from such injuries. Although this dispersion of inflammation and increased lymphatic drainage is the most highly debated aspect by critics, I personally believe it is very very hard to argue with the clinical results shown time and time again.
Many top athletes in my three favortie sports (golf, tennis, and soccer) have been spotted using this tape as either preventative measures (supporting area of weakness) or aiding in injury recovery. Pictured below are just a few top professionals recently in the media using Kinesio Tape including Men's World Tennis #1 Novak Djokovic, new Italian Euro Cup sensation Mario Balotelli, and the forever dominant Serena Williams.
Kinesio Tape will usually last about 3-4 days with regular showering. It will need to be reapplied after that until patient feels area has reached 100% recovery. Most sports injury doctors, chiropractors, physical therapist, and sports trainers are trained in applying Kinesio Tape. There are other brands of similar tapes out there. The only other two that I personally use are Rock Tape due to increase sticking time and Spider Tech due to pre-cut designs.