By Sara Strain, Occupational Therapist, Functional Movement Technique Certified, Roc Doc (Rock Tape Medical Professional)
For most people that have watched any type of professional sports or the Olympics, they have seen the colorful tape that is applied to many parts of the athlete’s body. But what is it? Is it just a colorful accessory or a fad amongst athletes? Kinesiology tape has been around since the 1970s, however, the popularity for it began growing after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing when Kerri Walsh Jennings, 3-time Olympic Gold Medalist in beach volleyball, wore the tape over her right deltoid. Today, kinesiology tape can be found in most every drug store and it is being utilized by a wider group of people. Since the majority of the population is not professional athletes, could there be any therapeutic benefits for the rest of us?
Did you know that your skin is the largest organ in your body? So doesn’t it make sense to treat “the skin” as a part of the healing process? The tape itself is the same thickness as human skin, so most people don’t even notice that it is there after the initial application. It is made of a stretchy breathable cotton. The idea behind kinesiology tape is that it separates the layers of skin and tissue so that there is more blood flow, resulting in more lymph drainage and reduction of pain and swelling. A benefit of taping as opposed to a traditional brace, is that it can be applied to almost any joint and it’s more functional. People can continue their normal routines without worrying about an external brace. The adhesive is heat-activated, and once it adheres to the skin, it can be worn in the shower and while swimming. Wear time is typically around 3-4 days, but then it can be reapplied over the same area as needed.
Kinesiology tape has been especially popular with runners, cyclists, and weight-lifters (including Crossfit members), but we are also seeing a lot of benefit with clients that need work on posture and musculature control, as well as those with bruising and edema after surgery or accidents. The overlying idea is that pain affects motor output, which means our performance with basic activities of daily living, walking, or even high-level competition could be adversely affected because of pain. Think of the last time you stubbed your toe or hit your knee on a hard surface. Many times your ability to walk or climb stairs (your motor output after a painful stimulus) has been at least, temporarily altered. But what about long-standing injuries and pain, the indication is that kinesiology taping could assist with pain management in order to produce normalized movement and performance of a task. The brand name, KT Tape, has funded multiple research studies looking at the effectiveness of taping. They found substantial evidence supporting KT tape is effective in reducing musculoskeletal pain. There is also research around the idea of fluid dynamics to reduce bruising and edema. But this use of kinesiology taping differs because there is different taping application approach in order to increase lymph drainage, which in turn could speed healing and recovery time. The goal behind postural taping is to assist in establishing a target posture to facilitate normal movement patterns, which could prevent pain and injury.
Athletes are in tune with their bodies. If kinesiology taping doesn’t work for them, they aren’t going to continue using it, however, what we are seeing is that more and more people are utilizing this treatment method. But as with many treatments, there are skeptics that say that the benefits are all psychosomatic. However, unless you have a skin allergy to the adhesive itself, there is not much harm in trying it. Initially, it is recommended that you have a physical therapist or occupational therapist assess your condition or injury and properly apply the kinesiology tape in the most effective manner for you. So, what are you waiting for… give it a try! Find a FMT therapist or Rock Doc at: Rocktape.com/us/find-medpro