What is Kinesiology Tape?
Kinesiology Tape, K-Tape or Kinesio Text is a latex-free, hypoallergenic wearable elastic tape, which is believed to help relax or activate a particular muscle or joint.
How does Kinesiology Tape work?
The tape is applied with a tension that pulls on the upper layer of the skin (skin traction), which increases the space between the dermis and the muscle.
The physiological benefits of this are as follows:
1) Lymphatic system
The tape is applied with a tension that pulls on the upper layer of the skin (skin traction) which increases the space between the dermis and the muscle. This in turn alleviates pressure on the lymph channel, aiding its drainage from the affected area. This means the inflammatory exudate (fluid) that’s known to cause pain is cleared, which reduces swelling and pain.
Increase in the interstitial space allows more room for muscles to contract and prevents them from complete deconditioning. It also helps overworked muscles recover faster than complete immobilisation. Muscle movement further helps in lymphatic drainage.
Since the fascia has a close proximity to skin and muscles, skin traction helps the muscles to be pulled in the desired direction, allowing biomechanical corrections and promoting near normal range of motion.
When injury/pain ocurrs, the body sets up an inflammatory response that stimulates the pain receptors, which in turn get sensitive to light touch, pressure or temperature. Application of K-Tape alters this sensitivity, thereby reducing reactive responses and allowing better healing process.
The clinical benefits of Kinesiology Tape
What are the pros of taping?
• Provides support and stability with controlled movements, thus improving performance.
• Facilitates healing in a controlled manner.
• Extends benefit of soft tissue manipulation and manual therapy.
• Usually suited for all age groups and conditions.
• Can be used as a part of treatment during rehabilitation, and also as preventive measure to avoid injuries especially in athletes and sports players.
What are the cons of taping?
• Cannot be used in severe allergic reactions, open wounds, presence of DVT (blood clots), infection, diabetes or peripheral neuropathy and active cancer.
• Placebo effect. Due to somatosensory input it helps in ‘feel good’ or ‘supported’ factors, thus influencing psychological status in improving confidence to perform.
• Effect last for only 24-48hrs, hence needs frequent application.
• Self taping, although can be done, may not necessarily give desired effect as application by a physiotherapist or health professional. It’s essential to consider appropriate level of tension in the tape, points of anchor and length of tape to gain best benefits or else the application will simply not be useful.
In short, Kinesiology Tape is not a magical cure, but has proved effective when applied properly, and in conjunction with joint and soft tissue mobilisation and strength and conditioning. A thorough assessment and evaluation by a skilled professional can help in early return to sports/training or even daily tasks like walking and sitting.
Shelly Chakraborty is a chartered physiotherapist with Capital Physio
Ready to stock up on tape? See our round-up of the best kinesiology tapes to ease muscle pain and inflammation.