Kinesio tape is an elastic cotton strip with an acrylic adhesive that is used with the intent of treating pain and disability from injuries and a variety of other physical disorders. Research suggests that elastic taping help relieve pain.
The list of kinesiology tape benefits is so extensive and so varied, it has earned the nickname “magic tape.” It is no wonder that it has become one of the most widely-used therapeutic modalities in both athletic and healthcare settings. Following are are some of the features that make it unique:
- It is effective on its own, but can be combined with other therapeutic modalities for even greater impact
- It is worn around the clock for several days, providing therapeutic benefits the entire time
- It is one of the least expensive but most effective therapeutic modalities available
- It has no side effects and few contraindications
- Most people can learn to apply it themselves
The physical benefits of kinesiology tape include:
Although it contains no medications or topical substances, kinesiology tape can effectively relieve both acute and chronic pain. Its elasticity lifts the skin slightly, which immediately reduces pressure on sensitive pain receptors under the skin. In addition, its stimulating effect on pain pathways provides a competitive stimulus that blocks pain signals going to the brain. This is especially effective for pain from “hot” injuries, where the intensity of the pain is out of proportion to the severity of the injury.
Reduced Swelling and Inflammation
Reduced pressure on the lymphatic drainage channels enhances removal of fluids and other materials that collect in an injured area. This applies not only to sports injuries, but also to post-surgical recovery and other inflammatory conditions, including lymphedema (severe swelling of the extremities.)
Accelerated Recovery from Bruises and Contusions
One of the most dramatic effects of kinesiology taping is the removal of blood that accululates under the skin due to bruising. The k-tape is applied in a fan pattern over the bruised area and the bruising is dissipated via the same lifting mechanism described above. Within a couple of days a distinct fan pattern can be seen where the tape was applied over a bruised area.
Prevents and/or Relieves Muscle Spasms and Cramping
Enhanced circulation improves delivery of oxygen and nutrients to overused or fatigued muscles, helping to prevent or relieve spasms and cramps.
Speedier Recovery of Overused Muscles
Fatigued, overused muscles contain byproducts of exercise (such as lactic acid) that contribute to pain and stiffness and limit the ability to continue exercising. When kinesiology tape is used over these areas, enhanced removal of these byproducts allows for more rapid recovery. Combined with improved delivery of oxygen via enhanced bloodflow, this could translate into improved performance in an endurance event or more complete recovery between repetitive, high intensity events.
Supports Injured Muscles and Joints without Restricting Range of Motion
The unique elastic properties and application techniques of kinesiology tape allow it to provide support to injured muscles or joints without restricting range of motion.
Allows Athletes to Remain Active while Injured
This is one of the most important benefits of kinesiology taping for competitive athletes. Depending on how it is applied, kinesiology tape can prevent either overstretching or over-contraction of injured muscles. When combined with its pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, this can allow athletes to continue training and/or competing as their injuries heal.
Enhances Strength and Muscle Tone in Weak or Poorly-Toned Muscles
Certain neurological or muscular disorders can make muscles so weak that it isalmost impossible to do the exercises that are critical to improve daily functioning. Kinesiology tape not only provides support to these muscles, but it can also improve muscle activation, allowing therapeutic exercises to be carried out more effectively. One of the major uses in this category is with infants and young children with hypotonia, poor muscle tone that limits their ability to learn to sit up, crawl, etc. A simple application of kinesiology tape can improve posture and assist in mobility.
How Does Kinesiology Tape Work?
How does kinesiology tape work? It contains no medications or topical ingredients. It is so light and flexible, it is barely noticeable when worn. It is non-restrictive and allows normal movement. A roll of tape costs less than $20 and anyone can learn how to apply it. So, how can something so simple and inexpensive be so effective at relieving pain, inflammation and swelling?
All of the wonderful benefits of kinesiology taping are related to three things:
1. How the tape interacts with the skin and the underlying fascia
2. How the tape interacts with the nerves under the skin
3. How the tape interacts with the circulatory system under the skin
Following is a simplified explanation of the major mechanisms of action:
Injured Area Without Kinesiology Tape
Trauma to a muscle or joint causes blood and other fluids to collect in the area, resultingin bruising and swelling. As these fluids build up, they exert pressure on pain receptors (sensory nerves) under the skin, causing pain. This combination of pain and inflammation is beneficial immediately after an injury, when rest and immobilization are necessary. Following this acute phase, the fluid should begin to drain away through the lymphatic drainage vessels in the area, allowing the swelling to recede. Sometimes, however, the inflammation can compress these drainage vessels to the point that they can’t do their job and swelling persists. The blood vessels in the area are also compressed, which reduces the delivery of oxygen and nutrients for healing. The longer the cycle of pain and inflammation continues, the more delayed the healing response will be.
Injured Area With Kinesiology Tape
When kinesiology tape is applied correctly to the skin over an injured area, the elasticityin the tape gently lifts the skin, creating small convolutions or wrinkles on its surface, which can sometimes be seen in the tape as well (see image at top of page.) These convolutions create a microscopic space between the skin and the tissues below, with alternating areas of negative and positive pressure. In the negative pressure areas, the lymphatic vessels can dilate (open), allowing drainage of excess fluid away fromthe area, further reducing the pressure on the blood vessels and pain receptors. As blood flow improves, the enhanced delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the injured tissues accelerates the healing process.
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