Kinesiology tape is not a new invention. In fact, it has been in use since the 1970’s as a more flexible, multi-functional alternative to traditional medical tape.
But as with so many inventions that date back to an earlier pre-internet era, most people didn’t even know kinesiology tape existed until the world wide web made it easy to explain and share.
Starting around 2008, the sudden appearance of colorful tape placed here, there and everywhere began to generate lots of questions. What is it? Where can you get it? Why use it? How do you use it? What benefits can it provide?
If you are wondering how kinesiology tape can support you in your health, fitness and wellness goals, this is the article you need to read.
What Is Kinesiology Tape?
Kinesiology tape is made to adhere to human skin. Even more specifically, once adhered, kinesiology tape is created to replicate the skin’s protective function for the tissues, nerve cells, blood cells and fibers just beneath.
As Runner’s World explains, kinesiology tape is thinner and more flexible than traditional medical tape.
Unlike medical tape, which is designed to impose movement limitation to promote healing, kinesiology tape has the goal of providing enhanced sensory awareness of and communication with a muscle or group of muscles for more efficient yet still protective movement.
When used properly, some believe kinesiology tape may actually even improve movement and athletic performance.
Where Can You Get Kinesiology Tape?
A Japanese chiropractor named Dr. Kenzo Kase invented the first kinesiology tape back in the 1970’s.
Dr. Kenzo’s tape was made from nylon, spandex, cotton and a special type of adhesive backing. The special backing was designed to retain its adhesive properties for multiple days – even through workouts and showers.
The earliest versions of kinesiology tape were only available through health providers such as sports movement therapists and chiropractors.
But today, a number of different brands exist and are readily available online and in stores. RockTape is one such example of the newest iteration of cutting-edge kinesiology tape products that are available for consumer purchase and use.
RockTape’s permeable adhesive backing permits use of topical healing and pain relief balm. The adhesive can stretch up to 180 percent and last up to seven days. The latex-free, zinc-free design is allergy-friendly.
The tape, which is a 97/3 percent blend of cotton and latex, naturally resists degradation from sweat and water. Several colors and styles exist.
How Is Kinesiology Tape Used?
Kinesiology tape may not look so special at first glance. It is just strips of tape, after all.
But as you now realize, kinesiology tape is a very special type of tape. To do its job well, it must be used properly. This has given rise to a new discipline called ” Kinesiology taping.”
RockTape has developed different taping or wrapping protocols for different applications and sports.
Dig down deep enough into these various protocols, however, and what you will find is this:
When properly applied, kinesiology tape will lift the skin gently up and away from the underlying tissues and fibers.
To that point, how the tape is applied can either promote further compression (such as to knit damaged or weakened muscle fibers back together) or trigger decompression (such as to relieve stressed or tightened muscle fibers).
Why can’t you just use any old tape to achieve the same results?
As Healthline explains, the materials used to make the tape are what give kinesiology tape its unique properties.
Regular tape isn’t going to interact with the skin in the same manner. It will be restrictive rather than expansive, just like traditional medical tape is known to be.
By lifting the skin away from the blood vessels, tissues and nerve cells just beneath, kinesiology tape can potentially alter what signals get sent to the brain regarding muscle function, pain, flexibility and strength, thus improving physical and athletic function.
Why Use Kinesiology Tape?
We mentioned in the introduction earlier here that something significant happened back in 2008. Here, if you are thinking, “yeah, the 2008 Olympics happened,” you wouldn’t be wrong.
But this event specifically concerns a sandy beach, a volleyball net, a few sports photographers and some highly visible kinesiology tape.
Specifically, U.S. Olympian Kerri Walsh showed up for her match wearing several long black tape strips across one shoulder. She wasn’t the only Olympian sporting the tape, either.
In subsequent hours and days, questions from the viewing public were asked and answered. Suddenly it became clear that kinesiology tape was already in widespread use in the highest echelons of athletics.
Not surprisingly, it wasn’t long before kinesiology tape started showing up on the shoulders, arms, backs, legs, ankles and wrists of fitness enthusiasts from many different walks of life. Initial adoption of kinesiology tape was swift and widespread and has been sustained in the ensuing years as new tapes have been developed, marketed and put to the test.
And sure it makes sense to try to bandage or tape an area that has been compromised or injured in some way. But why use kinesiology tape otherwise?
Why does it seem that so many people sporting kinesiology tape are using it not to help injuries heal but to improve athletic performance?
Does kinesiology tape have benefits beyond the obvious that might be helpful to you? Let’s find out!
What Are the Benefits of Kinesiology Tape?
Kinesiology tape has many potential benefits. But the majority of people who use this tape do so for one of two reasons: prevention or intervention (or both).
From a preventative perspective, many believe kinesiology tape can increase range of motion, flexibility, endurance and resilience.
From an intervention perspective, kinesiology tape is often recommended to ease muscle aches and pains and promote faster healing and recovery, whether the muscles in question are simply resting after intense activity or healing from an actual injury.
One survey of available research to date found that kinesiology tape shows promise to achieve two goals:
1. Improve muscular strength.
2. Increase range of motion (mobility).
Even though kinesiology tape has been in relatively widespread use since 2008, active research into usage and results is still ongoing and unfolding. To that point, each benefit of kinesiology tape listed here can be corroborated with a corresponding research study.
1. Kinesiology tape can promote improved shoulder movement and reduced pain.
The Journal of Sports and Orthopaedic Medicine reported that kinesiology tape produced an immediate reduction in pain and improvement in free movement when applied to the shoulder area.
All research subjects were being treated for pain or injury to the shoulder rotator cuff.
2. Kinesiology tape can improve range of motion and reduce pain for myofascial trigger point.
Another study in the Journal of Hand Therapy looked at how KT taping combined with manual pressure release therapy can improve symptoms of myofascial trigger point in young patients (aged 21 to 30).
Specifically, research subjects reported greater strength and endurance, less muscle stiffness and muscle contraction pain.
3. Therapeutic taping can ease lower back pain.
A research study published by the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies highlighted a significant difference in patients with lower back pain who were treated with a combination of ultrasound-guided movement therapy and kinesiology taping.
Researchers noted distinct differences in how the tissues of the lower back performed once the tape was applied.
4. Kinesiology taping provided a reduction in osteoarthritic knee pain and improved mobility.
The Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology reported the results of a research study looking at how kinesiology taping can improve mobility for knee osteoarthritis patients.
The patients who achieved the most gains combined kinesiology taping with functional rehabilitative movement training. Patients reported improved knee function and reduced pain following treatment.
A further research study published in Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease highlighted how taping as a treatment for knee osteoarthritis could reduce the need for pain medications.
5. Kinesiology tape can improve blood flow to the treated surface area.
A study published in the Journal of Performance Health Research highlighted how application of kinesiology tape could increase blood flow to the taped area (skin’s surface).
This improvement to microvascular blood flow was observed regardless of the application method used for the kinesiology tape.
6. Kinesiology taping can improve posture and help retrain muscles.
The Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation reported that kinesiology taping can help to improve posture in the head and neck region.
The study further showed that taping may also support muscle retraining due to unhealthy habits or injury.
Will kinesiology tape help you to heal after injury, achieve your athletic and fitness goals and guard against muscle pain or injury?
There is much more research to be done on kinesiology taping’s potential to support Olympians and everyday athletes alike in all the ways that matter.
But for now, the only way to know for sure if kinesiology taping is right for you is to give it a try and see!
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