Is it Tape? Is it a Tattoo? It’s Kinesio Tape

Do you remember Olympian Kerri Walsh from the 2008 Beijing Olympics? Not sure? Let’s rephrase the question: Do you remember USA women’s beach volleyball team and the woman who had the odd, black, pattern all over her shoulder? Was it a tattoo? Some kind of tape? A fashion statement? Or a sports medicine thing? Now you remember, don’t you? (For the record, it was tape—Kinesio tape.) And since those 2008 Olympic Games, if you’ve kept up with athletics at all, you’ve probably seen more and more athletes—Olympic, professional, collegiate, and amateur—sporting Kinesio tape on their shoulders, backs, elbows, and other parts of their bodies, too. What gives with that stuff?

Although it’s eye-catching, and, well, kind of cool to look at, Kinesio tape serves more than just an aesthetic purpose. It’s a stretchy adhesive tape designed to provide many benefits to athletes, including faster healing and improved performance while battling injury.

Kinesio tape definitely has a loyal following among athletes, trainers, physical therapists, and sports chiropractic professionals from all over the world. Just look back at the 2012 London Olympics, where countless athletes from various countries used Kinesio taping in every sport from diving to volleyball to basketball to track.

One of the most common reasons that athletes and trainers use Kinesio tape is to relieve pain caused by tendonitis and muscle inflammation. The tape provides an athletic boost and promotes a faster healing process for professional and amateur athletes at many different athletic levels.

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Physical therapists and sports chiropractors have seen marked improvement in athletic performance and injury recovery when Kinesio tape is used. According to Jim Wallis, an athletic trainer at Portland State University, after years of working with Kinesio tape, he has seen an improvement in nine out of every 10 athletes who have used it.

Kinesio tape lifts the skin away from the affected tissue, which allows an increase in blood flow—and other bodily fluids— that the body can utilize to accelerate the healing process. Wallis notes that this helps the body clear lymphatic fluids faster and reduces inflammation. Furthermore, the tension in the skin created by the tape reduces pressure on sensory neurons within the skin, which can diminish the sensation of pain. Depending upon how the tape is applied, it can serve different purposes, such as providing a communication system among muscle receptors, acting as a reminder for overstretched muscles to back off before further injury occurs, or even allowing for greater contractibility to improve muscle function.

Although Kinesio tape is most commonly used during the acute phase of muscle injury, it can also be used for non muscle-related injuries, as well. Patellar tracking disorders, plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome may also be relieved with Kinesio tape.

Kinesio taping differs from other taping methods that are used in sports medicine and sports chiropractic. Athletic tape, which is what most athletes are accustomed to, is commonly used to prevent injuries by limiting movement in joints. Although this form of tape wrap is beneficial, Kinesio tape serves a different purpose. Kinesio tape mimics the elasticity of the skin and provides support by working with an athlete’s movements; athletic tape, on the other hand, restricts movement. In fact, the word “kinesio” means movement. When used properly, Kinesio tape will work with an athlete’s movements while providing the right amount of restriction and support to prevent further injury.

Kinesio tape may appear, at first glance, to be part fashion statement—and it can look pretty cool—but years of use by athletes and physical therapists alike indicate that the tape provides a drastic improvement in injury recovery and prevention. The results that Kinesio tape provides indicate that it will soon turn up in most all athletic communities—from Pop Warner to elite professional organizations.

About the Author:

Dr. Kevin Christie is a Chiropractic Physician and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) in Miami, FL at Health-Fit Chiropractic & Sports Medicine where he treats college athletes, as well as professional athletes from the NFL, MLB, and NHL. Dr. Christie was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist to the Board of Athletic Trainers as the Chiropractic Advisor. He is also part of the IRONMAN® Provider Network through A.R.T., which sets up a treatment tent for every IRONMAN event to provide treatment to IRONMAN athletes.