What is Kinesio Tape and How Does it Work?
Many of you have likely heard about Kinesio Tape (KT) or have seen athletes wearing it at the latest sporting event. The multicolored, many shaped, and decorative tape is not easy to miss. Some of the biggest names in professional sports are found wearing it – James Harden, Michael Phelps, David Beckam, and Tom Brady are just a few of the names. Many people think it “looks cool” but rarely understand the technology and physiology behind the
tape itself. So why do people wear this tape and what purpose does it serve? Is it more for look and appeal or is there real science occurring? Read below for my take on KT.
Kinesio Tape Fundamentals
Kinesio Tape works because it has the ability to stretch. Depending on the amount of stretch, location, and direction/placement of the tape you can achieve different results. It can be used to inhibit a muscle, facilitate a muscle, assist with circulation, or even to provide feedback for postural correction. Despite what you may hear, Kinesio Tape does not do a good job at supporting bones/ligaments given its stretch factor nor does it replace true bracing. So often athletes and "average joe's" wear the tape to assist with muscular faults – such as tendonitis, strains, overuse injuries, or imbalances.
Proper KT Use
Kinesio Tape alone will not cure/treat any injury or deficit. It should be used as a tool and in cooperation with other forms of treatment such as stretching or exercise. Although KT can be worn for multiple days, it is not designed to be worn for months on end. For long term help, a physiological change must occur. A good analogy for this is putting duct tape on something to “fix it”. Yes the tape helps, but it will not permanently fix the problem.
My Greatest Pet Peeve:
People often will apply KT incorrectly by simply seeing a picture (sometimes on the box alone) or watching a poorly made YouTube video with no idea how much stretch or direction the tape is placed. Sometime they are lucky with their placement and it helps, other times, the way they applied the tape makes no physiological sense and still helps – the placebo effect. Pay close attention to the direction and amount
of stretch you place on the tape to assure best outcome. I urge everyone to confirm that the video you may watch is from a professional Kinesio Tape Certified Clinician.
Kinesio Tape Brands
When I first learned about KT, there was 1 brand available, the original Kinesio Tape. This tape still seems to be the best in terms of durability and function; however, this is also more expensive than other brands you find. There are multiple forms of this brand ranging from classic (tends to be more ridged) or finger print wave (which tends to have a better stretch and adherence), both of which are beneficial depending on the application. Overall my opinion is – you get what you pay for. I have found that some brands are okay and last a few days whereas others may only last a few hours. It is also good to consider that this tape is meant to be on your skin for prolonged periods and cheaper material may cause skin irritation. In conclusion, the original continues to be the best and I would recommend this over any other brand I have used to date.
Overall KT is a valuable tool used to assist with a wide variety of injuries/pain. It can be used on almost everyone given the medication free and friendly application process. It can be worn for multiple days and moves with your skin for comfort. The most important factor when using KT, is to be sure it is applied properly and with intention as well as that the tape is used in conjunction with other forms of treatment to maximize long term results. Below is a helpful link to learn more as well as purchase my recommended brand of KT.