The word “kinesiology” probably brings to mind the other word, “kinetics,” which relates to movement, and your mind is not far off in this discernment.
Kinesiology is the study of body movements.
Now, when you hear “kinesiology tape,” you may get a bit confused because tapes are often used to prevent movement rather than aid it, but when it’s a kinesiology tape, aiding movement is precisely what it does.
If you are a die-hard volleyball fan, an ardent follower of gymnastics, or a lover of any kind of sport, chances are you have seen these strips of tape on the knees, shoulders, and across the backs of the players.
Often bright-colored, these tapes are displayed in various patterns across whatever body part they are taped to. These patterns are not random; they are often very well thought out before being arranged in a calculated manner across the body. These tapes, as attractive and aesthetically pleasing as they seem, are not just in place for design.
Kinesio tapes support muscles and joints that are weak due to certain conditions.
Once properly taped to the defaulting body part, be it the back, elbows, or calves, kinesiology tapes can help weak muscles to function better than they normally would. It also provides this support by reducing pain which in turn aids better movement.
Some conditions that may require using Kinesio tapes for support include tendonitis, sprains, arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Support, in this case, is likely to make you think that movement will be restricted, but it makes movement easier and more comfortable.
Kinesiology tape is also used in treating injuries but often not by itself. It works best when used hand in hand with other forms of therapy.
In treating injuries, its major function is to reduce pain and swelling. As you can see, this is just a part of the whole process involved in caring for injuries.
Kinesio tapes are also sometimes used by athletes as a preventive measure. They can be used to improve performance and also to prevent injuries. Long-distance runners often use it because it improves endurance and boosts movement.
Correcting bad posture is another thing that kinesiology tapes are capable of helping you with.
Staring at a mirror and having a tape attached to a part of your body makes you more aware of how you move and increases your consciousness of how you carry yourself. It is especially used to improve the posture of your head and neck. This is very useful for stroke patients.
Other things that kinesiology tapes do include improving blood circulation, enhancing recovery, and reducing inflammation.
How the Kinesiology Tape functions?
Before Dr. Kenzo Kase made the very first kinesiology tape several years ago, he first tried to use ordinary medical tape to hold his patients’ joints in position.
However, this ordinary tape could not do the job as it was heavy, stiff, uncomfortable, and above all, restricted movement. It also caused numerous skin reactions.
These damaging properties of the tape prompted Dr. Kase to make his tape with materials (cotton and nylon) that were light, flexible, hypoallergenic and did not restrict movement.
This new tape, in thickness, elasticity, and texture, resembles closely that of the skin’s epidermis.
Today, Kinesio tape brands model the use of cotton, nylon, or some other blend of both, because it works.
The Kinesio tapes of today are also water-resistant and can be used in the shower. This feature is part of what makes it possible to keep the tape on for days, usually between three and five days.
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The Intricate Mechanisms
Kinesiology tape was primarily created to reduce musculoskeletal pain, swelling, and inflammation. How does it do this? Kinesio tape reduces pain through decompression.
When the tape is applied, it lifts the skin slightly, increasing the space between your skin and underlying tissues, and thereby reducing pressure. Instead of sending pain signals to the brain, the receptors on the skin’s surface send other signals.
Pain receptors are part of the sensory receptors that contribute to proprioception and are found on muscles, fascia, and other tissues. When the Kinesio tape creates that tiny distance, it entirely changes the signal sent to the brain.
The lift that Kinesio tapes cause also comes into play to reduce swelling and inflammation. What manifests as swelling on the outside is a build-up of fluid, like lymph and blood, in a particular location.
When Kinesio tape is properly applied at this spot, it lifts the skin and increases the subcutaneous space slightly; this allows the fluids to disseminate and move properly through the lymphatic system.
As you can now see, this previously seemingly insignificant lift has many functions, probably more than can be accounted for. It also reduces joint irritation by decreasing friction between skin and bone.
Who can Use the Kinesiology Tape?
Considering the wide range of functions that the Kinesio tape has, it can be used by almost anyone, but for specificity, here’s a list.
- Athletes are, of course, first on this list. They can benefit from all the functions of the Kinesio tape. They need everything from treatment of injuries to correction of posture to prevention and enhancement.
- Kinesiology tape is useful for people who have stressful jobs that require them to do a lot of manual labor frequently. The tape helps reduce pain and fatigue.
- At the same time, people whose jobs entail sitting in one position for a long time or individuals with conditions that mandate them to live a sedentary lifestyle will find Kinesio tape very useful. In this case, supporting their barely functioning muscles, improving posture, and eliminating the side effect of bad posture will take precedence.
- Lastly, people with musculoskeletal pain like back pain, joint aches, knee pain, and so on will also benefit from using Kinesio tape.
When Not to Use Kinesiology Tape?
Although it seems Kinesio tape is for just about everyone, there are cases when it should not be used.
- The first and probably most important place not to apply Kinesio tape is on an open wound. The tape is not designed to come in contact with blood and other fluids that may ooze from an open wound’s surface. Applying it to such will irritate and, ultimately, even infection.
- If you have delicate skin, you may want to take care with the tape or avoid using it altogether, as it can cause your skin to tear.
- Other conditions for not using Kinesio tape include cancer, removed lymph nodes, allergies, and deep vein thrombosis.
How to Use Kinesiology Tape
- The first thing to do before applying Kinesio tape yourself, no matter the condition, is to consult a professional. Only then will you know what kinesiology tape is suitable for you, which shape will have the maximum effect (I, X, or Y), and how often and for how long you should apply the tape.
- The next and possibly optional step is applying a test strip. This will let you know if the tape will stick and if you have allergic reactions to kinesiology tape.
- After making sure that the tape is fit for you, before applying it, you need to prepare the area. In this step, you must remove any excess hair from the area you want to apply it to. This increases the effectiveness and makes things less painful when you want to remove the tape. Fine hair should not cause a problem.
- After removing the excess hair, you need to properly wash that part of the skin with soapy water and dry it thoroughly with a clean towel. This is because moisture will make sticking much more difficult.
- Some kinesiology tapes come pre-cut, while others come in rolls. If yours come in rolls, ensure your hands are clean and dry before you cut them and that you use a pair of scissors to make the cuts neat.
- If you are applying the tape to a joint, bend it before using it so that the tape will not bounce off when you extend it.
- Lastly, peel the paper at the back of the tape, apply it to the spot, and smoothen it over the surface with your hands.
How to Remove Kinesiology Tape
- Apply oil or some other lotion to the tape. As you now know, moisture just makes tapes less sticky. Leave the oil on for some minutes.
- Peel the tape gently, downwards if it is on a limb, and towards the midline if it is on the trunk. The removal is often very painful, so, it is advisable to hold the part of the skin you are peeling it from to make it less painful.
Hampton Adams, a well-known athletic tape brand, has produced pilot products that make the removal easier, less painful, and without any residue. You should check them out!