Kinesio Tape | Prevention and Treatment of Muscle Injuries
Any keen sports fan is bound to have seen some pretty weird and wonderful taping adorning top sportsmen and women over the past few years.
Tape that spiders around shoulders as used by elite volleyball players, weird and wonderful taping arrangements adorning David Beckham’s legs, Serena Williams has been spotted wearing adhesive tape around her knee and many an athlete competing in the Olympics is strapped up to the eyeballs in multi-colored athletic tape. Even cycling God Lance Armstrong sings its praises, but what is this tape and what does it do?
The tape in question is not standard athletic tape used to strap up problematic areas and provide compression, and its design is quite different from the many athletic tapes on the market which act as adhesive compression bandages. The multicolored strips are Kinesio tape, otherwise known as Kinesio Tex Tape or Kinesiology Tape and it is causing a bit of a stir in athletic circles.
Kinesio Tape has two main functions: To help with the natural healing of muscles and ligaments and also to prevent injuries from occurring, particularly in sports where the muscles are placed under high strain.
History of Kinesio Tape
Kinesio tape was first conceived by a Japanese chiropractor by the name of Kenzo Kase back in the 1973, who was unimpressed with standard taping methods for treatment of muscle, ligament and tendon injuries. Standard athletic tape provides compression for the muscles and support for the joints, but often impedes the healing process. Part of the function of strapping up an injured muscle or joint is to limit movement, which can help with healing.
The problem with strapping is that whilst the muscles and joints are supported, the fascia is not, lymphatic drainage is impeded by the pressure, and nerves can be compressed. Kenzo Kase developed Kinesio tape to promote the healing process, ease the strain on the affected areas, and speed up the healing process without restricting the lymph, blood circulation or restricting fascia tissue.
Whilst Kinesio Tape was developed in the 1970’s, its popularity did not grow until the 1990s when it came to the United States and was adopted by physical therapists and sports trainers for the treatment of sports injuries. When time is money, and injuries keep top athletes out of the game, any treatment which can rapidly speed up healing can make all the difference. Sport is big business after all, and when top sports stars are out of the game, money is being lost by the bucket load. It is not surprising therefore that due to its rapid action and the help it offers to get athletes and sports stars back to their best that it became such a huge success.
How Does Kinesio Tape Work
Kinesio tape acts in a different way to standard strapping and sports tapes, and whilst muscles are supported properly the tape also lifts the skin away from the muscles essentially giving them a little more “breathing space”. To put it more technically, Kinesio tape lifts up the top layers of the skin, and with the epidermis and dermis pulled away from the muscles it creates extra space to allow for the correct flow of lymph to improve drainage. Pressure is relieved on the nerves, which reduces the pain signals to the brain and the increased space allows muscles to contract more fully and thus helps fluids to be pumped through the muscles. Or so the theory goes.
Kinesio tape allows the muscles to work more efficiently helping with lymphatic drainage, and it also improves blood circulation to get nutrients to damaged areas for faster healing and waste products away faster. Kinesio tape helps to reduce lymphoedema (swelling due to lymph build up), which is an important aspect of the healing process as build up of lymph can make an injury prone to infection.
Because of this function of Kinesio tape, it is also used to treat lymphatic disorders and not just sports injuries. In contrast to standard tapes, which are used to strap up an injury during exercise, Kinesio tape is worn day and night, and once applied can and should remain on the skin for up to 5 days for round the clock treatment.
There are six main aspects of Kinesio taping, which are given the following terms:
- Mechanical correction – Improved biomechanics and muscle function
- Facial correction – Improved movement of fascia tissue
- Space correction – Easing of pressure
- Ligament & Tendon Correction – Stress reduction
- Functional Correction – Restriction or promotion of muscle movement and improved sensory feedback
- Lymphatic or Circulatory correction – Correct movement of bodily fluids
Key Benefits of Kinesio Tape
- Pain relief
- Muscle support
- Strengthening muscles, ligaments and tendons
- Treatment of muscle sprains and strains
- Prevention of muscle strains and sprains
- Improved lymphatic movement
- More efficient muscle activity
- Improvements to posture
- Injury rehabilitation
- Injury prevention
- Faster recovery from injury
Applying Kinesio Tape
After developing the principles of Kinesio tape, Kenzo Kase set up the Kineiso Taping Association to ensure that the correct techniques are taught, and to make sure that Kinesio taping is performed correctly.
Unfortunately, just slapping on Kinesio tape onto your body may look cool, but it almost certainly will not be effective. There is an art to its application which needs to be learned, and it is vital that the tape is applied correctly. When applied in one direction it will facilitate the movement of muscles and muscle groups, and applied in the opposite direction will inhibit their actions. These different directions are helpful in treating injuries, as well as preventing them.
If you want to learn how to apply Kinesio Tape correctly, the best bet is first to visit an accredited Kinesio tape instructor, or to at least have it applied professionally in the first instance so you can see how it is done. Look out for the accreditation logo to the right with any therapist who offers the service.
A number of Kinesio taping manuals have now been released to help with home application, so when there is not an official instructor in your area you can still benefit from the therapy. Two of the best of these are listed to the right. YouTube and internet guides on the correct application of Kinesio Tape can also be helpful.
The Original Kinesio Tape
Kinesio Taping is Not Just for Top Athletes
Whilst top athletes use Kinesio taping to help recover from injury and to prevent injuries from occurring during training, it is not just the world’s elite sports stars that use this therapeutic treatment. Kinesio tape is now being used by many amateur sports enthusiasts and can help to speed up healing from a wide range of muscular and joint conditions, lymphatic disorders, swelling, and postural problems and can make sure the muscles work efficiently. It has started to be used by doctors, physiotherapists, physical therapists, nurses, chiropractors as well as the general public.
Where to Purchase the Best Kinesio Tape
The most important factor when purchasing Kinesio tape is to choose a tried and trusted brand. Cheap imitation Kinesio tape has flooded the market in recent years, and wouldn’t you know, much of it doesn’t work effectively. Generic brands, unlabelled tape, and brands which do not have any accreditation or scientific studies to back up their claims are best avoided.
The original tape is the best, with other highly reputable brands listed below. Stick with these and your Kinesio tape will have the maximum effect:
- Kinesio® Tex Gold™
- Kinesio® Tex Platinum™
- KT Tape
- SpiderTech Tape
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