You may have seen this coloured tape on a player in a sporting match you watched, a competitor in the local running race, or even a family member with an injury….So what is it?
Kinesiology tape, sometimes referred to as ‘K-tape’, Kinesio ä Tape, Rock Tape, or various other names, is an elastic, therapeutic tape that became popular around the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Many Olympians began wearing the tape on the international stage and since then the tape has gained popularity in sports, in health clinics, and even at your local chemist.
Although the tape has many different names, and comes in many different brands, it is all effectively the same thing. The main differences between manufacturers/brands is the quality of the material, the amount of stretch in the tape, and the quality of the adhesive used.
What does it do? There are a number of proposed effects of kinesiology tape:
Many studies have aimed to investigate some of these effects without much success, but without getting into depth about all of the research the main effect the tape can play a role in is pain relief.
So how might it affect pain?
Pain is a complex sensation. Our brain is bombarded with information from many sources every second of the day such as touch on the skin, light through the eye, chemical taste through the tongue, sound in the ears and a myriad of other examples.
Our skin is full of sensory receptors that detect different stimuli, including deep and light touch, vibration, stretch, and temperature.
Kinesiology tape is thought to work by stimulating some of these receptors in the skin, whether it be by the stretch effect it has on the skin due to its elasticity, or pressure on the skin as it pulls skin in to the central portion (recoiling from a stretched application).
When these sensations are transmitted to the brain it can affect the brain’s perception of what is happening in that painful area, which can in turn reduce the sensation of pain produced by the brain (much like you might rub your elbow after you bumped it on the doorway. That rubbing stimulus affects your brain’s interpretation, and alters the pain output).
When do we use Kinesiology Tape?
We use kinesiology tape as an adjunct to osteopathic treatment, to continue to have an effect on the nervous system when you aren’t in the clinic.
As movement and exercise can often be the most important factors in return to optimum function and reducing pain, kinesiology tape can help in allowing you to carry out activities or perform exercise that might be more uncomfortable if you didn’t have the tape applied. The tape can also provide an awareness of the injured area and help to avoid using the region more than is ideal at that time.
Example: You have pain in your elbow related to repetitive work at the computer. You can’t take time away from work at the moment, but the pain makes working uncomfortable. Kinesiology tape can help reduce the pain in the elbow and allow you to perform your work with less discomfort and distraction.
Although the tape is not reducing tissue healing time, it can make the healing process more comfortable, and allow you to return to normal daily activities sooner.
So even though kinesiology tape might not be able to make you run faster, jump higher, or lift heavier, it can allow you to do all those things with less pain, and a better awareness of that area.
All of the osteopaths in the clinic use Kinesiology tape. If you have any questions, or wonder whether Kinesiology tape can help you, ask one of the osteopaths when you’re next in the clinic.
Chris Kinch (Osteopath)