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 – and 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”, 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 and 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, additional support would be given to the surrounding tissue of the injured area 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, and also more complex areas such as the abdomen. KT taping is intended for patients of all ages, and feeling (and seeing) the desired effects will depend on the shape it is applied in as well as the amount of stretch used with the tape when adhering it to the skin.
Kinesiotape can now be found on shelves around the country and can be used as an over the counter solution on injured or painful areas of the body. Of course, speaking to your Physical Therapist or athletic trainer first before applying on your own is highly recommended. Not only will they be able to help you understand the benefits of using this rehabilitation method, but they can prepare you so that when you apply the tape to your skin, you’re doing it properly the first time.
Now that you know what the tape is and who invented it, read on to find out more about the most common uses for the product, as well as to learn how exactly it is able to provide relief from serious injuries.
Common Injuries that May Result in the Need for Kinesiotape Use
This type of treatment is most commonly used by athletes of different types, since their bodies are often subjected to repetitive movements and overuse of their joints. 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, which leads to thousands of patients needing to consider the next options for themselves. Will they resort to surgery? Will they try physical therapy first? What other options can be considered?
For many of the athletes that are injured in these ways, 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, taking time off from a sport is all that is needed. In other situations, a physical therapy regimen will be recommended. For some athletes, surgery and then physical therapy will be the only way to adequately address the injury and make sure 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.
Does Kinesiotape actually work?
The tape is meant to be used to treat symptoms like issues with gait and stability, (touchdown, unrolling, cadence, stability and stance) and hip extension. It does so through things like inhibiting or promoting muscle tension, which encourages toning and or detoning of the target muscle group, and improves the positioning of joints and increases blood flow.
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 improved proprioception at the knee joint, reduction in pain, and 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.
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, and like other medical interventions and products, it needs to be used properly.
For starters, having an injury diagnosed by a medical practitioner is the first step, as mentioned above. 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, nor will their injuries progress or heal in the same fashion, following medical advice (be it from a physical therapy professional or a doctor or nurse) is highly recommended and encouraged.
Not only will a professional 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, kinesiotape should not be worn consistently for long periods of time (typically no more than 4-5 days at a time). Removing it will allow the body to continue to heal and give 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, depending 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. Different strategies for application may be used throughout the healing process, but knowing how to apply this tape in the first place is key. Once you’ve been shown how to apply and remove this tape in the most beneficial way for you, there will be no issue with you replacing it on your own.
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 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.
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. 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.