A few years ago when I started to receive active release therapy, my doctor would apply kinesio tape. Admittedly, I was somewhat skeptical and saw my bright blue tape as a pretty cool fashion statement at the gym. I had no idea if it was working, and after one hard gym workout, the tape was falling off. Fast forward to present day, and now my sports massage therapist is taping me up. However, his methods are a little different, and three days later, it’s still on. It literally took him about 15 minutes to apply three pieces of tape exactly right, so now I want to know…
What is kinesio tape? What is it suppose to do? And does it work?
I had trouble determining who exactly developed the technology behind kinesio tape: Dr. Kenzo Kase or Komp (couldn’t find his first name). However, it does seem that this type of taping has been around since the 1970s, and after first being used primarily by medical practitioners, it then began to be used by Japanese olympians. Kinesio tape is made of a soft cotton and contains no latex. It is light, stretchy and has the same thickness as the human skin. The adhesive is heat activated, so it is important that it is rubbed briskly after application for activation. Because the tape is made from a soft cotton, moisture is able to dissipate through the material and the tape will usually last about three days. And perhaps the best thing about kinesio tape is it comes in bright fun colors! Just check out my hot pink tape with my pink toenails…
The idea behind kinesio tape is that it allows for more range of motion with less pain than if you did not have the tape. It also claims to relax overused muscles, reduce inflammation, and the wave pattern on the tape supposedly lifts the skin which in turn improves circulation and takes pressure off of your pain receptors. Wow – that’s a lot of benefits from one neon piece of tape! From my experience, I can’t say that I have experienced all of these amazing benefits. However, great athletes such as Lance Armstrong, Kerri Walsh, and Serena Williams can be seen sporting the tape. In fact, Lance Armstrong dedicates a page in one of his books to his positive experiences with kinesio tape.
As far as whether or not kinesio tape works for athletes, research is still in its early stages. One study that I found, concluded the tape did improve immediate pain – free shoulder range of motion, but over an extended period of time, the kinesio tape was no more effective than regular sports tape. Another study reported that the use of kinesio tape did improve the lower back’s range of motion. However, if you are looking for some anecdotal evidence, I can’t say that it did much for me. But I am one person, and what may not work for me, may be great for you.
As more people learn about kinesio tape, I see it on more and more athletes. And over time, the evidence with grow to either support or not support the claims. It seems to be a popular preventive measure and remedy, and even if it doesn’t do all that it claims to, at least it’s a pretty color.
Happy Trails and Happy Running,