You might have seen it around your gym or on your TV during the Olympics: what appears to be a brightly colored spider web via attack by a psychedelic spider all over your fellow fitness comrades. Kinesiology tape doesn’t just look cool. It packs a big punch when it comes to workout recovery and injury treatment. I spoke with OrthoCarolina Physical Therapist Chris Gabriel, OCS, CSCS about this nifty tool that you might want to add to your fitness regime.
For those that have never heard of it, kinesiology tape is a latex-free cloth tape that offers more flexibility and range of motion than other types of athletic tape. “I think of kinesiology tape as something we use for a few sessions in the clinic to get things moving in the right direction until the effects of the exercise program can take hold,” says Gabriel.
From stimulating a weak muscle, relax a tight muscle, or reducing inflammation and bruising, kinesiology tape has many uses and benefits. Although you can use it as an at-home treatment, there is an art and science to application, according to Gabriel. He advises seeking a Physical Therapist or Athletic Trainer for guidance on proper application and recommendations on which diagnoses might respond best to the tape.
What this approach to treatment lacks in research, it makes up for in results and professionally-backed recommendations for the product. While it isn’t a miracle cure for all ailments, it is an inexpensive, quick, and safe way to get moving again when coupled with proper mobility and strength training. There are techniques using kinesiology tape for every injury under the sun. While most products come with instructions for application, your PT or AT can give advice on exactly how to use tape specifically for your diagnoses.
Exam findings and patient history play roles in determining if tape is a viable option for your treatment plan. Gabriel cautions that randomly applying tape to is never a good idea. “Patellofemoral pain, Achilles tendon issues, bruising from a contusion or muscle pull/tear are some common injuries that I may consider a trial of kinesiology tape for, but it is just one part of the treatment plan,” says Gabriel. “We typically think of the tape as something that helps the patient move better and tolerate the exercise they need to truly fix the problem.”
Although most fitness companies have their own version of kinesiology tape, be wary of inferior quality products on the market. KinesioTex and RockTape are both quality products that come highly recommended.
After consulting with a PT or AT and purchasing your tape, Gabriel recommends applying tape before or just after physical activity. Pre-workout taping can help you get through a program you might not otherwise be able to complete by minimizing pain or compensation. After application, you can leave the tape on for 3-5 days before it loses elasticity and can become irritating if you have sensitive skin.
Removing kinesiology tape is a breeze and most people don’t have an issue with taking it off. Gabriel has a few removal tips to make your taping experience as pain-free as possible: 1) pull along the direction of hair growth, 2) take it off in the shower, or 3) try olive/baby oil to break down the adhesive. If you’re searching for something more long-term to help with support or control swelling, Gabriel recommends compression products such as socks and sleeves. Prevention is truly the best medicine and, while kinesiology tape isn’t a preventative treatment, Gabriel recommends good diet, fluid intake, proper warm up, and training as keys to successful injury prevention. For severe injuries, kinesiology taping is not a substitute for more rigid treatments like athletic tape or a brace.
If you have unanswered questions about this type of treatment, our friends at OrthoCarolina are the sports medicine authority both in the Carolinas and nation-wide. With resources like those right in your backyard, it would be a shame not to pay them a visit and make sure you are your healthiest self!