At the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, the only thing brighter than the athletes’ uniforms was the brilliant multi-colored tape that seemed to adorn various body parts of nearly every athlete that attended. What exactly is that stuff?
That “stuff” is Kinesio tape, a form of elastic therapeutic tape applied by specially trained physical therapists to support injured muscles, decrease muscle pain and increase range of motion, primarily in athletes who need to keep on performing even when they’re injured.
Invented some 30 years ago by Dr. Kenzo Kase, a Japanese chiropractor, Kinesio tape is a strong, elasticized cotton tape that combines strength and support with flexibility and movement. Frustrated with conventional athletic tapes which he felt were too rigid, Kase decided that his patients needed something with “a texture and elasticity very close to living human tissue.” Kase discovered that the application of his unique tape seemed to replicate some of the beneficial effects of massage therapy in relieving pain and soreness in injured patients.
2008 Olympic Breakthrough
Although Kinesio tape has been sported by various Olympic athletes since 1988, the product gained tremendous popularity after 50,000 rolls were donated to therapists in 58 countries to use on athletes at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Now athletes ranging from Lance Armstrong to the Green Bay Packers swear by it, and some independent research supports its efficacy. A double-blind, randomized clinical trial in 2008 reported that application of Kinesio tape produced an instant improvement in range of motion in subjects treated for shoulder pain, compared with a placebo tape. Another study of whiplash patients found that Kinesio tape provided improved range of motion and pain relief which lasted several days.
Although various kinds of tape have been used to patch up injuries for many years, quite a few physical therapists find Kinesio tape to be a major improvement over the conventional zinc-based tape, which prevents all movement. Kinesio tape is able to stretch and contract, inhibiting movements that might cause further injury yet allowing ones that don’t. When properly applied, the tape allows runners to continue to train even with an injury.
Dr. Kase believes the source of a lot of joint and muscle pain actually is in the layer of skin between the dermis and the epidermis, which is compressed by conventional tape. “I needed to create something to lift these layers,” he explains. The tape opens the space between the dermis and the epidermis, enabling the flow of blood and lymphatic fluids. The tape, in fact, is said to provide results similar to lymphatic drainage massage to reduce swelling.
What is a CKTP?
The key to Kinesio tape’s efficacy is proper application, and Dr. Kase’s company has trained more than 100,000 practitioners worldwide on how to use it to best effect. At the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games it was used by physical therapists from 80 different countries, in a rainbow of colors, patterns and designs.
To find a Certified Kinesio Tape Practitioner near you, you can go to the Dr. Kase’s Website, KinesioTaping.com, and click on the CKTP Locator link at the bottom right hand side of the page. In New York City, ActiveCare Physical Therapy’s own Karena Wu is a Certified Kinesio Tape Practitioner as well as a Physical Therapist specializing in manual therapies, Kinesio Tape, vertigo, TMJ, Pilates for rehab and functional training.
Since therapeutic tape is not regulated the same way medications and some therapies are, not a lot of research has been devoted to understanding exactly how it functions. Athletes, however, will latch onto anything that they believe gives them an edge, and judging from the 2012 London Olympic Games, Kinesio tape is one of those things!