Kinesio tape (K-tape) is the name of the brightly coloured tape you may have seen applied to many a sportsman/woman over the last few years. In fact, at London 2012 it was novel to see an athlete without it. But K-tape is not only used within the sporting arena, you may have noticed a friend or colleague exposing a decorative pattern of neon tape? So, what is it and what’s it being used for?
K-tape is a stretchy, breathable elastic tape, which is applied by healthcare practitioners (such as physiotherapists, chiropractors and sports massage therapists) as part of an injury treatment. It can be used simply as a supportive strapping, stabilising a weak area, but is also used to speed injury recovery. The theory is that due to its elasticised properties, the tape can be stretched to the same elasticity as the skin and once applied, it lifts the skin slightly away from the tissues beneath it, improving fluid movement (blood and lymph) and aiding tissue repair. It is also reported to alleviate pain and tension. There are claims that Kinesio tape can help to improve sporting performance (for example applied to the shoulder of a volley ball player for greater range of motion) and also to prevent injury.
At the clinic, K-tape is used by a number of practitioners, after a full assessment/diagnosis, as part of a treatment plan, alongside manual therapies such as soft tissue massage, mobilisation, manipulation and dry needling. Kinesio taping is not something that has been researched and trialed extensively to offer any strong evidence that it does all that it claims. But, most of our therapists use the tape as an adjunct to their core treatment and patients report positive results. Post 2012 Olympics, it was suggested that the taping was just a fad, but here we are nearly 6 years on and it is still as popular as ever.
What would it commonly be used for?
Kinesio tape is used to treat a wide variety of musculoskeletal injuries. In general, all injuries benefit from an increased flow of blood and lymph – both carrying nutrition to the damaged area and waste products / inflammation away. Common injuries such as muscle strains and ligament sprains seem to respond well to taping, along with some tendinopathies and impingement (such as a shoulder). Patients of any age can have tape applied and the only side affects seem to be a reddening of the skin when it’s removed (it’s rather like a plaster to take off – a little painful so best done quickly!). Very rarely we see a patient who has an allergic reaction to the adhesive.
With no real side-effects or draw backs, the use of K-tape is widespread within sport and injury treatment. We would suggest that if your practitioner recommends it as part of their treatment plan, then it’s worth a try. Not everyone benefits from every type of treatment, but this is something that can only help rather than hinder recovery.