Kinesio Tape has become the “latest thing” to use as a modality for a variety of treatments in the sports medicine world. “Kinesio tape is a latex- free hypoallergenic cotton fiber tape with an acrylic heat-activated backing that stretches along its longitudinal axis.”(MedicineNet) Even though the tape itself does not have any medicinal properties, the way the tape can be used makes it an effective tool for those with an injury.
Kinesio Tape is currently being used to change muscle tone, move lymphatic fluids; correct movement patterns, and improve posture. Some of the benefits of Kinesio Tape are that it is more economical over time as compared to other modalities, it is easy to learn and apply, there are less types of tape versus “conventional” taping styles, and it can be used for a longer time period per treatment. The longer time period pertains to the fact that you may apply Kinesio Tape and leave it on for 48 hours and it will still be working nearly as well as when it was initially applied. Other commonly used modality treatments, such as ultrasound and e-stim, may only last for a few hours before the effects are no longer seen. Regular athletic tape can be thought of in the same manner. Applying regular athletic tape will create support for a short amount of time, but as the individual continues to wear it, the tape begins to stretch.
There are six basic concepts of Kinesio Taping techniques referred to as “corrections”. They are: mechanical, fascia, space, ligament/tendon, functional, and circulatory/ lymphatic. Mechanical corrections are used for improved stability and biomechanics. Fascia or fascial corrections create, or direct, movement of fascia. Space corrections are used for decreasing pressure over a target tissue. Tendon/ligament corrections decrease stress on a ligament or tendon. Functional corrections provide sensory stimulation to either assist or limit a motion. Circulatory/lymphatic corrections help move lymphatic fluid from more “congested” to less congested areas. Kinesio Tape pulls on the upper layers of skin, creating space between the dermis and the muscle. This space is believed to relieve some of the pressure on the “lymph channels” allowing the lymph flow to have more room to move through the affected area.
This space also houses nerve receptors that send information to the brain. When the space between the epidermis and the muscle are compressed, the nerve receptors themselves are compressed sending info to the brain making it think that the affected/injured area is being touched, having a light touch, cold, pain, pressure and/or heat. This info causes the brain to work “overtime” and process excess stimuli that is not needed. Application of Kinesio Tape can help the neurological system work more efficiently and decrease non-necessary pain-receptor impulses. Kinesio Tape may also be able to influence deeper tissue in the body as well. In theory, increased space would allow muscle bundles greater contractility and more fluid movement through the space, thus optimizing muscle output. The end results are believed to reduce fatigue, increase range of motion, and help produce a better quality of muscle contraction. Kinesio Tape has also been shown to decrease the effect of scars. It works on reducing adhesions, pitting, softening, flattening, improved pliability, and the reduction of contractures.
As you can see, Kinesio Tape is a relatively new item in the sports medicine field and is something that can, and should, be considered for a multitude of injuries, or musculoskeletal rehab. It is also suggested that before applying Kinesio Tape to a patient, the clinician should be educated on application techniques/theories, as well as contraindications to help ensure patient safety and successful outcomes. Remember, as clinicians our main focus is to “do no harm” and while the risks of using Kinesio Tape are low, we should follow best practices in our utilization of this increasingly popular modality.