You may have seen a friend coming out of a physiotherapy clinic sporting colourful bands of tape on their arms or legs, and have wondered just what that tape (commonly called Kinesis Tape) does. While they can certainly be aesthetically pleasing to look at (in a futuristic, bionic-man kind of way), the Kinesio Tape – or K-Tape for short – have several uses and functions.
1) Improvement of Muscle Function with K-Tape
Bad posture, intense training or repetitive movements can cause an overloading of the muscle apparatus, which in turn may result in the macro- or micro-tearing of the connective tissues in the muscles. Consequences of this include pain, swelling, stiffness and an increase in muscle stiffness. On the opposite side of the spectrum, a decrease in muscle tension occurs as a result of a lack of activity, because of a traumatic event, such as after an injury or an operation, or because of a congenital birth defect.
K-taping can help relax the muscle (decrease muscle tension) or activate the muscle (increase muscle tension), depending on application technique. This is especially useful in cases where there are muscle imbalances, and could help improve one’s functional movement and biomechanics. Taping achieves these by both physical assistance and tactile feedback through the skin – giving what is called a ‘proprioceptive boost’ to the user.
2) Taping Helps Eliminate Circulatory Restrictions
Inflammation is a common physical reaction to tissue injury. It manifests itself through pain, an increase in tissue temperature, redness in the skin, and swelling. External swelling is the result of fluid accumulation in the spaces between the skin and muscles. The flow of lymphatic flow may also be disrupted by inflammation, causing fluid to stagnate. K-taping may help lift the skin in the injured area, increasing the space between skin and subcutaneous tissue, reducing pressure as well as promoting lymph flow.
Lymph flow in the body is in part regulated by the various ‘collectors’ throughout the body, acting as the active transport vessel systems in the human body. Taping techniques helps stimulate lymphatic flow into these collectors, and the lifting and stretching provided by the tape can also help prevent the build-up of fibrotic bridges within the system.
3) Pain Reduction with Taping
Mechanoreceptors in the skin are activated by the tape application and mechanical displacement of the skin. Pain inhibition occurs along the spinal tract based on Melzack and Wall’s Gate Control Theory (for more information, read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gate_control_theory). Activation of nerves that do not cause pain (called non-nociceptive nerves) can have an inhibitory effect on pain fibres, reducing the amount of pain perception in the brain.
4) Taping Supports Joint Function
Improving muscle imbalances around the joints can help alleviate pressure exerted on the joint itself during movement. By improving one’s biomechanics of movement, one reduces the stress experienced by the joint. In addition, functional and mechanical corrective taping techniques can provide passive support to the joint, resulting in improved joint function, pain inhibition and therefore a shortened healing process.
One can therefore see a lot of functional benefits from the use of taping, and the techniques can be used on anybody from elite athletes to an average office worker. There are no known side-effects to taping, but people with the following conditions should avoid taping in the affected area:
- Allergy to tape / bandages
- Open wounds
- Scars which are not fully healed
- Parchment-like skin (eg. during acute episodes of neurodermatitis or psoriasis)
If you have any additional questions about the usage of taping as part of treatment, or other ways to optimize your health, our therapists at Van Sports and Physiotherapy Clinic can assess and get you started on an individualized treatment plan to live life active! Call 604.661.8878.
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