Have you ever seen that brightly coloured tape on your favourite athlete? Maybe it was at the 2016 Olympic Games? It looks pretty cool eh? Not only does it look really cool, it is functional too!
Kinesiology tape has a few different names; K-tape, Kinesio-tape, KT tape, Kinesiology tape. They all refer to the same type of tape. There are a few more prominent brands out there including; KT tape, K-tape, and Rock Tape. As with all products, these bands may be slightly different. In my practice I use the K-tape brand and so the information in this post with ring true to that brand but not necessarily the others.
So what is Kinesiology tape??? K-tape is an elastic therapeutic tape. It is considered an 'athletic' tape but instead of it being rigid, it is stretchy. It is made from cotton and elastin thread that has been dyed to those cool colours and patterns you have seen.
The acrylic adhesive is applied in a wave pattern that you can actually see on the tape. K-tape is a holistic and drug free therapy that is used in a variety of applications and situations. It is not exclusive to athletes and sport. It can be used in kinesiology, physiotherapy, sports, pediatrics, occupational therapy, neurology, gynecology, lymphology and speech therapy.
What is the tape doing?
Use of this tape is based on the concept that skin receptors can be used to influence proprioception, muscles and ligaments and subsequently bodily functions. Proprioception or kinesthesia is our ability to perceive the positions and movements of our body - to know where our body parts are in space.
Since the tape can be left on for up to a week, we can use the tape to put constant stimulation into a part of our body for several days while maintaining our full mobility!
To get more technical - the tape applied to the skin can affect the mechanoreceptors to pick up on the change in pressure. The nociceptors ('pain receptor') may also quiet down when the tape is on. And so the proprioceptors can change the message to the brain as to where the body part is in space and the muscle spindles can give feedback to the brain on length and position of the muscle.
Doesn't that all sound just amazing?! I know what you're thinking... 'sure, I guess that sounds good...but how is that going to help my issue??'
I hear you! Here are some of the ways that K-tape can be used to help!
Depending on how we put the tape on, we have help the muscles tonify or detonify. Here are a few examples. I have used K-tape on a client who had an injury to their hip that affected their ability to contract their quad muscle when standing, walking and transferring. I applied K-tape to their quad muscle to help tonify or tighten that muscle. They felt stronger and more stable in standing positions even after the tape was removed a week later.
I have also used K-tape on a client who was experiencing on-going symptoms from a concussion a few years prior including 'tight shoulders and headaches'. I applied k-tape to their upper trapezius muscles to detonify or lengthen those muscles. I also applied tape to their lower trapezius muscles to tonify those muscles. They felt it was easier to hold their upper body upright and relaxed shoulders.
Another use for K-tape is to help with circulatory restrictions. Inflammation is common if we experience a tissue injury. This swelling can take up space between the skin and muscle increasing the pressure here. Lymph can be disrupted and even stagnate. K-tape can help to lift the skin in the area to create more interstitial space and so assist with the flow of lymph and decrease the pressure.
In theory, because K-tape works on the mechanoreceptors, it can decrease the amount of pain perceived in the brain.
And lastly, through all the above uses, K-tape can also support joint function; proprioception, regulating muscle tension and pain reduction.
K-tape brand a neat little thing called 'crosstape'. It looks like a little hashtag that is made from the K-tape tape. It is used to stimulate selected acupuncture points. It can be used on trigger points, acupuncture points, tense muscles, sore muscles, sore joint etc. I have used them on trigger points on their own as well as along side the long tape as well.
Is K-tape the answer for everyone?
No. Just like any other type of treatment or modality, it may not benefit everyone. It may not be appropriate for you or you simply may not like it. There are a few contraindications; meaning that if you have any of these, it would not be appropriate for you. Open wounds, scars that are not fully healed, parchment-like skin (poor skin integrity), known acrylic allergy and there are some areas to be avoided in the first trimester of pregnancy.
There are many reasons to use K-tape. Support during pregnancy and post-natal, posture, injury rehab, muscle support during activity, lymphedema and so on.
Carrie Doll Kinesiology provides in-home exercise therapy. Services include senior wellness & falls prevention, neuro rehab and Fascial Stretch Therapy. Service area includes Kitchener, Waterloo, St. Jacobs, Elmira and Conestogo.