At this year’s Summer Olympic Games it was common to see the colorful tape adorning many athletes in a variety of patterns. Web traffic to Kinesio, the company’s website, has increased 1,000% since the Olympic games.
Kinesiology or k tape is a strong cotton, elastic adhesive tape that is used to treat athletic injuries and other physical disorders.
It doesn’t hinder range of motion, is waterproof, and is designed to last for approximately five days. When it was first introduced in the 1960’s it was used primarily by orthopedists, chiropractors, acupuncturists and other medical practitioners of Japanese medicine.
Kineseo tape has also been used since 1988 by Japanese Olympic and professional athletes. Its popularity really surged in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics where 50,000 rolls were donated and used by various athletes.
The taping technique was designed by Japanese chiropractor and acupuncturist Kenzo Kase in 1979. He believed that standard taping methods were too restrictive and may even prolong injuries because they blocked the flow of fluids beneath the skin.
He believed a more flexible tape that could be applied to injured muscles would stimulate circulation through its tug on skin and start clearing out the damage through your lymphatic system. His basic concepts are creating space, flow and cooling.
Dr. Kase believes that the source of some joint and muscle pain lies in the thin layer of skin between the epidermis and the dermis. Conventional therapies compress these areas. He claims that the tape opens the space between the epidermis and dermis enabling a better flow of blood and lymphatic fluids. This results in a cooling effect which minimizes swelling and damage.
There are currently around 100,000 practitioners who are trained in the application of kinesio tape and approximately 80 countries used it on their Olympic athletes. The correct placement of the tape is crucial to receiving any benefits. It’s not like the average person can just slap some tape in the general area of their injury and receive the benefits.
Does it Work?
Kinesio tape certainly looks cool and you’re probably wondering if it works. So far there hasn’t been any scientific evidence that k tape produces “clinically significant benefits.” In a total of seven studies done so far there wasn’t any long-term benefits found, but researchers speculate that it may help with short-term range of motion and muscle stabilization.
Some additional benefits may come from the placebo effect. Your mind is a powerful force. If you believe that something will help you then it probably will. There are thousands of athletes worldwide that firmly believe that it helps their performance.
Hopefully larger research studies can be put together in the near future. Many adjunct therapies don’t get large amounts of research because it doesn’t get the funding that products from major drug companies put out.
If you decide to try kinesio tape during your marathon training remember that it is not a cure and should be applied by a trained therapist as part of your rehab. Personally, I only see the kinesio craze getting bigger and I expect that you’ll be seeing kinesio tape on an athlete near you.