What is Kinesiotape and How is it Used?
This article about kinesiotape was written by Request Physical Therapy
What is Kinesiotape?
We have all seen it, but we’re not all sure of exactly what it is.
Picture this: you’re at a swim meet, and the swimmers racing in the final heat appear from the locker room. They walk in a line to the blocks, swinging their arms and smacking their muscles to get themselves hyped for the race. But wait. What is that maze of black tape on that guy’s shoulder? What’s on that other swimmer’s knee? You expected to see rows of circular cupping bruises, because you know that technique is useful to competitive swimmers. But where did those patches of black come from? What are they? The answer? Kinesiotape.
Kinesiotape, short for “kinesiology therapeutic tape”, is an adhesive rehabilitative tool developed by Dr. Kenzo Kase in 1979 – more than 40 years ago!
The invention of Kinesiotape, the use of which is now more casually termed “KT taping” or “pt tape”, began with Dr. Kase’s urge to provide longer-lasting rehabilitation effects for his patients after they left his chiropractic office. Dr. Kase’s thought process behind the invention followed the theory that by lifting the skin around the injured area, the interstitial space would increase and more lymph and blood would be able to flow to the area. This would in turn provide inflammation-reducing effects.
Inflammation can impede activity and cause pain, so finding a lasting way to eliminate this was important to him.
With this inflammation reduction, the surrounding tissue of the injured area gets additional support with the use of this tool, too. Dr. Kase thought of hundreds of ways to apply Kinesiotape to the body, targeting common areas like the shoulder and the knee. He also considered more complex areas such as the abdomen. Patients of all ages benefit from the use of PT tape. Feeling (and seeing) the desired effects depends on the shape you apply it in. Results also vary based on the amount of stretch used with the tape when adhering it to the skin.
Where to Find PT Tape
You’ll find kinesiotape on store shelves around the country. Many people use it as an over the counter solution on injured or painful areas of the body. This, like other types of physical therapy, are great alternatives to painkillers. Of course, you need to speak to your Physical Therapist or athletic trainer first before applying on your own.
A physical therapist doesn’t just help you understand the benefits of using this rehabilitation method. They also prepare you so that when you apply the tape to your skin, you do it properly the first time. This is a treatment method that works best when consistently applied correctly. Be sure to know what you’re doing when using it!
Now you know what the tape is and who invented it. Great, information, right?
Read on to find out more about the most common uses for the product. Below, you’ll also learn exactly how it is able to provide relief from serious injuries.
Common Injuries that May Result in the Need for Kinesiotape Use
Athletes of all types commonly turn to kinesiotape as a form of treatment. Why? Their sports of choice often subject the body (and their muscles) to various injuries, overuse, and potential issues. There are hundreds – if not thousands – of injuries to treat with kinesiotape.
While not a total list, the following injuries/symptoms are some of the most commonly experienced ones that have been shown to benefit from the use of KT tape.
- Runner’s knee
- Plantar fasciitis
- Muscle sprains, strains and ruptures (ankle, knee, shoulder, elbow)
- Lower back
As one example, in the United States, there are up to 200,000 Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) ruptures annually. This leads to thousands of patients needing to consider the next options for themselves. Will they resort to surgery? Will they try physical therapy first? Do they have direct access to physical therapy? What other options are there to consider?
For many of the athletes – and people in general – that have injuries like these, seeking out the services of a doctor is the first course of action.
After the initial injury has been assessed and a diagnosis has been made, the patient’s treatment can begin. Sometimes, you just need to take some time off. In other situations, physical therapy is a solution. For some athletes, surgery and then physical therapy will be the only way to adequately address the injury. This course of action also helps ensure that healing happens properly.
But in other cases, physical therapy professionals will recommend using additional treatment methods along with therapy sessions – and this is where kinesiotape comes into play. Patients commonly use PT tape along with other physical therapy options. These include the following.
Does Kinesiotape actually work?
Athletes use PT tape to treat symptoms like issues with gait and stability. These include touchdown, unrolling, cadence, stability, stance, and hip extension. It does so through things like inhibiting or promoting muscle tension. This encourages toning and or detoning of the target muscle group. It also improves the positioning of joints, and increases blood flow. Any of these benefits can make a difference, but when happening at the same time? It can be life-changing.
While the use of this tape is still relatively new to some, the benefits can be noted in studies like this one, which was done on 48 athletes with confirmed ACL tears.
The results of this study showed a significant improvement in all areas of testing regarding gait and balance. These results were due to three key factors.
- Improved proprioception at the knee joint
- Reduction in pain
- Increased blood and lymph flow
The results are not only what patients and medical professionals hope for. They prove that the use of this KT tape can provide a significant benefit to people suffering from an injury of this nature, as well as others that are similar. Physical therapy works. This is not up for debate. The rate of success just depends on exactly what patients need and how they approach their care and exercise schedules. It isn’t only about how often your exercise, or how hard you push yourself. You also need to choose the right type of activity and weigh the pros and cons of home health care vs in-person physical therapy.
Should you be taping yourself?
While KT tape can be applied and reapplied outside of a medical or physical therapy office, beginning use should not start at home. This is a very specific product with a very specific goal. Like other medical interventions and products, it needs to be used properly.
For starters, getting diagnosed by a medical practitioner is the first step.
From here, patients will be able to work with their care team to find the best solutions for their particular injury. Since no two people are the same, their injuries won’t progress or heal in the same fashion. This make following medical advice (be it from a physical therapy professional or a doctor or nurse) is highly recommended and encouraged.
A professional won’t only be able to help patients understand why and how the tape will work for them, They will also be able to show them how to properly apply it for their specific injury, when to remove and replace it, and what the proper schedule for wearing it is. Similar to using a brace or a wrap, don’t wear kinesiotape consistently for long periods of time. The recommended length for wear is between four and five days at a time.
Removing it allows the body to continue to heal. It also gives patients a chance to assess their improvement before reapplying. It is also important to note that depending on the area where the tape is applied, it may not last for the full length of time that it could. This depends entirely on the amount of use that part of the body gets.
Since KT tape can be applied in a variety of different ways (single pieces, an “X” shape, layering, etc) it is important to consult a professional before trying to apply the tape yourself.
It is common to use different strategies for application throughout the healing process. This makes knowing how to apply this tape in the first place key. Once you know how to apply and remove this tape in the most beneficial way for you, there is no issue with you replacing it on your own.
You may not feel or see a difference immediately after using KT tape. This is normal. Sometimes, it simply takes longer to feel progress. You may need to incorporate other types of physical therapy or settings into your routine. The main focus should always be on the future, though. Doing more now means faster progress. Those with an underlying disability or difficulty in a specific area of life may need longer before they see or feel a difference.
It is a product that is meant to help, but using it incorrectly may do more harm than good, which can cause setbacks and prolonged injury recovery periods – something no one wants. Since this type of treatment is often considered an extension of physical therapy, using the BetterPT app or patient clinic location tool website to find a clinic near you is the best course of action for not only becoming more educated on the benefits of using kinesiotape, but on whole-body healing, too.
Try using Telehealth services through the BetterTelehealth platform. This allows patients to receive treatment from physical therapy professionals when it is most convenient for them. The best part? You do it right in your home through your Internet-connected device.
Whether it’s the services of a facility like ReQuest Physical Therapy or another local clinic, your PT professional will be more than happy to discuss the benefits of using kinesiotape to promote muscle group health.
ReQuest Physical Therapy consists of two convenient office locations in Gainesville and Tioga. The company was founded in 1986 after Joe Cirulli experienced an injury and was unsatisfied with the methods of treatment presented to him. The ReQuest Physical Therapy staff has spent more than three decades improving and implementing the kinds of PT programs they offer patients. Initially focused on correcting lower back and spinal pain, today, these PTs utilize traditional therapy plans along with unique options like Chill Recovery, the MedX Spine Program, and therapeutic massage techniques for improved patient health.