You’ve seen people wearing the sometimes-colorful stretchy tape that runs in all different directions. Is it a fashion statement or are there benefits to kinesiology tape? Let’s dig in.
Although it may appear to be just another fad in the athletic world, kinesiology tape (or kinesio tape or KT tape) is a therapeutic tool used for a wide variety of health-related purposes. Jillyan Long, a licensed physical therapist assistant at Physical Therapy Specialists of Tulsa, explains: “Kinesio taping is the process of using a specially designed elastic tape on the body for several different purposes such as pain relief, decompression, and neuromuscular re-education working at the sensory level.”
And KT tape is not just limited to athletes or one area of application, and can be applied for many uses. “There is a huge list of possible uses for therapeutic tape,” says Long. From added stability and support to the reduction of swelling in a joint following an injury, and it doesn’t stop there.
Many tape users can increase their mobility, improve lymphatic flow, enhance recovery, support proper form and posture, and prevent or treat many common muscle and joint-related injuries. It adds support and pain relief before, during, and after activities and is even used as lowerback support for pregnant women.
The Space-Creating Benefits of KT Tape
What makes kinesiology tape unique is that it is designed to have the same elasticity as our skin. Abbey Denaro, DC, owner and chiropractor at Denaro Chiropractic in North Reading, MA explains it like this: “When the tape is applied, you will see the tape wrinkle; it essentially becomes another layer of skin, and the skin will crease with the tape.”
This is where the magic happens. “This creates space between the skin and the muscles, fascia, and soft tissues underneath,” she adds.
This extra space is beneficial for three reasons:
- “It allows for increased blood and lymphatic circulation, and for healing to occur, there must be proper blood flow to the tissue,” Denaro says. “The increased circulation underneath the tape promotes healing.” This is why the added space that the tape creates is so vital; the lymphatic system is responsible for moving fluid and swelling, so the tape helps move inflammation out of the affected area.
- The second benefit of the added space is for better gliding of the tissues on each other. “When muscles, fascia, and other soft tissues have improved ‘sliding and gliding,’ mobility and range of motion are affected positively,” Denaro says. This can be an overall great improvement in daily activities from the gym to your job.
- Lastly, “The third benefit of space creation is by decompressing pain receptors so that the individual can function with less pain,” Denaro says. Essentially, creating a better quality of living, especially if you’ve been dealing with pain.
Who Should Tape You?
Although you can buy KT tape online and in many stores, Long strongly encourages you to see a professional when wanting to be taped. “Typically, these taping methods are utilized in conjunction with an individualized training or rehabilitative program,” Long explains.
So, before you place your order, understand there’s more that goes into the taping processes than simply slapping it on. “This why the certification courses on taping methods are offered as continuing education classes for health and fitness professionals.” So, it can be done properly and effectively.
Although chiropractors, physical therapists, and certified personal trainers are most likely to apply the tape, Denaro explains that as long as you know how to apply it and where to apply it, you may be able to do it yourself. “Patients can be instructed by their doctor or trainer on how to do it,” Denaro says. If you get the itch to tape yourself, make sure you have the proper training and guidance when moving forward.
KT Tape Can Be Improperly Applied
This is something you want done right, and Long explains that when done by yourself, KT tape can be applied improperly. “If you are not extremely familiar with your anatomy, you can inadvertently encourage incorrect biomechanical patterns by placing the tape strips in areas that you are not aiming to facilitate.” This is another reason to seek a professional for application or guidance.
Long adds: “Extreme tension on tape or using too large of pieces can lead to skin irritation and blistering, leading to a bigger problem than you had in the first place.”
When to Say NO to KT Tape
The therapeutic tape can be used in a wide variety of individuals, but there are times when it should be avoided. “If you have very sensitive or fragile skin, I would suggest trying another alternative,” says Long. Reaching out to a professional who can help guide you in another direction of therapy will make sure your issues are cared for.
Also, if you lean on the hairy side, you may need to avoid taping or grab some shaving cream. “Those with a lot of hair on their arms and legs may notice that the tape does not adhere as it should, and therefore you will not be able to reap the benefits from the tape because it cannot reach your skin,” Long says. And we know now that secure contact between the tape and skin is vital for reaping all the benefits of taping.
These other contraindications need to be kept in mind before reaching for the tape as well, explains Denaro. “Avoid taping over an open wound, near an infection, if you have deep-vein thrombosis, adhesive allergies or sensitive skin, during active cancer treatments, and congestive heart failure.” she adds. Consulting with a professional before taping will help avoid any unnecessary applications.
Maybe it’s time to board the “tape train” due to its many benefits, and we don’t blame you. It’s not a fix-all solution, but with the many benefits, Long believes taping would be a great addition to your fitness lifestyle. “Next time you experience an injury or need an edge for a sporting endeavor, add therapeutic taping to your list of possible interventions.” The added support when training or during recovery will only boost your performance and results!