You’ve seen it many times on TV… Well, if you do watch TV. You’ve seen these tapes on professional volleyball players, cyclists, gymnasts, and just about any athlete that performed at the Olympics. You’ve seen these brightly colored tapes worn around the arms, knees, backs, abs, shoulders, or anywhere that receives an impact.
You’ve seen these tapes and often wondered, “what are they? Some kind of decorative fashion for athletes?” These beautiful tapes indeed add to the allure of the sport, but they also do so much more. This article delves into what kinesiology tapes are and how they can benefit your routine.
What is Kinesiology?
Kinesiology is simply the study of motion. Kinesiology involves the study of the musculoskeletal system as movement occurs. It studies the relationship between the bones, joints and muscles when these movements occur and how this relationship can be maneuvered to enhance movement.
Kinesiology does not just study the mechanics of human movement. It also studies how this movement impacts health and wellbeing. It employs anatomical, biomechanical, physiological, and neuropsychological principles to understand movement’s mechanisms and source solutions or enhancements to movement.
The study and application of kinesiology have been useful in sectors like biomechanics, orthopedics, sport psychology, motor control, skill acquisition and motor learning, physical and occupational therapy, exercise physiology, and rehabilitation methods. Kinesiology is used as a non-invasive therapy that combines the traditional principles of Chinese medicine with modern muscle monitoring techniques to understand a person’s health status.
Kinesiology uses several non-invasive tools to study and treat movement mechanics. However, one of its most essential tools is the kinesiology tapes which we will explore further.
What are Kinesiology Tapes?
Kinesiology tape, also called elastic therapeutic tape, Kinesio tape, k tape or KT, is a therapeutic tape used on specific body parts. They are used to provide support to the body, reduce pain and swelling and allow athletes to improve performance. It is made of an elastic cotton strip with an acrylic adhesive to relieve pain.
Developed by a Japanese-American chiropractor in the 1970s, kinesiology tapes became popular during the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. The tapes were made to replace standard athletic tapes that provided support but a limited movement. To achieve this, kinesiology tapes are made with a proprietary blend of cotton and nylon, with a stretch capacity of 140% of their original length. As a result, these tapes stretch greater than their normal length then slink afterward, creating a pulling force on the skin.
Although majorly used by athletes, kinesiology tapes have varying use cases beyond sporting activities. These tapes are also used by:
- People who engage in hard physical labor like construction workers, factory workers, gardeners, mechanics, miners, etc.
- Those who sit and work for long periods every day on a desk.
- Those who suffer from the effects of bad posture.
- People that suffer from back pain.
- Those who suffer from joint, muscle, or tendon injuries of any kind.
- Pregnant women.
How Does Kinesiology Tape Work?
Kinesiology tapes are made from a mix of cotton and nylon, which is very stretchy, and mimic’s the skin’s elasticity. When applied correctly, Kinesiology tape works by lifting the skin from the tissues below it. There are nerve receptors in their skin and the deep layers of the fascia, muscles, and other connective tissues. When the tape is applied, it causes compression or decompression of these areas, causing an alteration of pain signals to the brain.
Another way these tapes work is to affect the spaces between joints. When the bones in joints are very close to each other, there is resulting friction, causing inflammation. Small studies have shown that k tapes cause a slight increase in the space between the joint bones, which causes a reduction in friction and inflammation that takes place there.
Another study found that kinesiology tapes help improve blood and lymph circulation, which reduces inflammation and swelling after an injury. When applied, kinesiology tapes may create extra subcutaneous space, causing a change in pressure underneath the skin. This pressure change causes improved blood and lymph flow leading to faster healing of bruises and skin injuries.
Benefits of Kinesiology Taping
Kinesiology tapes reduce pain and swelling, improve circulation and support the muscle. These tapes have lots of benefits and purposes for which they are used, including;
- It helps to increase circulation and reduce inflammation
Kinesiology tapes produce a massaging effect on the kin, which helps relieve muscle congestion and stimulate blood vessels for the effective flow of blood and lymphatic fluids. Improved circulation effectively flushes the system off irritants. Thus, KT helps reduce inflammation and spark a rapid recovery by improving circulation.
2. It helps to improve posture and muscle support.
Kinesiology tapes are used to support the body and correct bad posture. It can also help the weak muscles function efficiently and reduce pain around joint areas. K tapes help protect your muscles and bones against over-contraction, cramping, and over-extension and are used as extra support to muscles and joints in people with patellofemoral stress syndrome, Achilles tendonitis or IT band friction syndrome, restoring the body to normal. It is also used to improve movement in stroke patients.
3. It Helps to Improve Athletic Performance
Kinesiology tapes put pressure on resting muscles and stimulate them to wake up. These tapes also support joints and have been noted to increase the spaces between joints, thereby enhancing motion. These actions help improve performance in athletes who require the added push to achieve peak performance. Indeed, kinesiology tapes have been used by marathoners, volleyballers and gymnasts to achieve peak performance and faster recovery.
4. Treating injuries
Muscle injuries typically occur due to over congestion of muscles. Kinesiology tapes help massage the muscles, reduce congestion, and relieve injuries. These tapes also increase recovery time in athletes.
Kinesiology tapes are typically used with other treatment options for more effective injury healing. These tapes should not be used on open wounds as they may inhibit healing and cause infections. However, some studies suggest that Kinesio tapes may help improve the appearance of long-term scars.
Use Cases for Kinesiology Tapes
Kinesiology tapes may be used for specific conditions or on specific body parts to serve specific purposes.
Kinesiology for pregnancy
Pregnant women use kinesiology tapes to relieve pregnancy-related pain. Kinesiology tape is safe and effective in relieving musculoskeletal pains in the low back, round ligament and pelvic girdle regions most common during pregnancy.
Since k tapes are drug-free, they do not affect the baby’s health, meaning that pregnant women may use them in any trimester. These tapes are effective for various pregnancy-associated pains and symptoms like carpal tunnel, swollen feet, lower backaches, tummy aches and waist pain. Kinesio tapes provide support and stability to muscles and joints during movement. Because they’re very stretchy, they do not limit movement in pregnancy. They are effective in controlling pregnancy-associated inflammations and fluid accumulation. They also lift the skin around the belly, relieving lower body pressure.
Pregnant women may use kinesiology tapes in several different ways. For example, they may place it around the downside of their belly to reduce ligament pain or place it vertically in front of the belly to give abdominal support. Kinesio tapes may also be used for palates activities to improve motion and flexibility throughout pregnancy.
Kinesiology for Shoulder
Pain or cramps in the shoulder joints or muscles are very uncomfortable and often limiting. The shoulder is an important part of the body and is important for upper body motion and some types of lower body motion. Instability or injury in the shoulder typically extends to other body regions, including the neck, spine and chest.
Kinesiology tapes are effective in relieving shoulder pains. Applying k tapes to the shoulder creates spaces between the shoulder joints, resulting in pain reduction and stress relief. These tapes also help set the shoulder to its original state, lengthen the muscles and remove pressure from the upper back. Kinesiology taping may be used in conjunction with other therapies like massages, muscle relief therapy, muscle balancing training etc., to provide more stability to the shoulders.
Kinesiology for Ankles
Kinesiology tapes are beneficial for different ankle injuries, ranging from inflamed tendons, sprains, stretched ligaments to weakness in the ankle area. They help provide motion support during injury and relieve ankle pain and swelling. In addition, using kinesiology tape in the ankle helps reduce pressure, provide stability and give compression to the ankle joint.
Side effects of kinesiology tapes
As much as kinesiology tapes are beneficial in reducing inflammation and healing injuries, they may also be a cause of injury and cause instability if used incorrectly. Kinesiology tapes should never be taped too tight around an area as that may worsen the injury in the area by causing further inflammation. In using kinesiology tapes, you want them just to fit. Not too tight and not loose. Therefore, always lookout for a tape that’s the right size for that area and get a professional to help you apply it.
The KT tape original cotton elastic kinesiology tape for athletes comes in a range of sizes and provides optimal support for athletes, while there are also different categories of kinesiology tape to suit many other purposes as required.
Kinesiology tapes have been around for a while, and their benefits are beyond doubt. These tapes are essential for athletes, pregnant women, people with back pain, and various conditions. K tapes should be used with care and be applied in conjunction with other therapies like massages. Please consult with your doctor or physiotherapists to work out the areas of your body most in need of taping and how to optimize its use.