If you’ve run a race or watched the Olympics or other sporting event, you’ve probably noticed athletes “wearing” strips of tape on their body. You might know that this tape is called Kinesiotape (or KT tape), but you’ve probably wondered- How does it work? What does it do?
What is Kinesiotape?
Kinesiotape is an elastic tape that gives sensory feedback to you muscles while allowing full movement of your joints and contraction of your muscles. Kinesiotape has been around since the 1970s but became more mainstream after the 2008 Olympics. What separates Kinesiotape from athletic tape is the addition of spandex making it stretchy. Athletic tape is used to support a joint and typically restricts movement; however, Kinesiotape can stretch up to 40% of its length and remain elastic to provide support without limiting movement. Kinesiotape is also generally well tolerated by people with latex or adhesive allergies; and when applied correctly, can be worn for 3-5 days and generally will remain in place even after showering or swimming.
How does Kinesiotape work?
When applied correctly, Kinesiotape can help with many conditions including muscle activation/deactivation, proprioceptive feedback, and management of swelling. Our body is covered in nerve receptors, when the tape is applied it can cause compression or decompression of the muscle, fascia, or connective tissue to alter pain signals to the brain. More tension on the tape can cause
activation or excitement of a muscle. For example, if a patient is having trouble getting their quadricep muscles to contract after ACL surgery, we would apply the tape with maximum stretch to bring muscle fibers closer together to assist with activation of the muscles. On the other hand, if someone is having pain in their plantar fascia and tightness in their calf, we would use limited tension on the tape to “turn off” the muscle so that the pain signals are “blocked”. Kinesiotape is helpful in reducing swelling by applying the tape in a stretch that allows for assisting the lymphatic system in “pulling” swelling by anchoring the tape in an area of a lymph duct to direct the flow of the edema in that direction.
Christina Bateman, PT, DPT