Recently I have incorporated kinesiology taping into the treatment process for certain patients. The practice encourages proper circulation and facilitates movement while providing support for muscles, tendons and joints. The idea is to help reduce tension and pain whether you’re engaged in physical labor, athletic activities, or just the rigors of everyday life. This month’s blog will explain how kinesiology taping works and help you decide if it’s a treatment that may be right for you.
What is it?
The term kinesiology refers to the science of muscular and skeletal movement. In the past, treating injured muscles meant restricting their movement – think of old-school athletic tape – but a greater understanding of kinesiology led Japanese chiropractor Dr. Kenzo Kase to develop a taping method that lifts the skin and attached muscle so blood can move freely in and around the muscle. In addition, taping relieves pressure on the lymph channels between the muscle and the dermis and alters the information that nerve receptors send to the brain, as the space between the muscle and the epidermis is no longer compressed.
The taping process is meant to activate the body’s endogenous analgesic system, which allows the body to heal itself. That’s why it’s a good complement to acupuncture – it aligns with acupuncture’s ability to increase blood flow to areas that need it and to encourage healing, it helps hold the relief achieved by acupuncture in between sessions, and it’s non-invasive.
Kinesiology tape is made of thin, elastic, latex-free cotton that stretches and recoils with muscle movement. It can be worn up to four days at a time. The material is sweat-proof, so it will stay on during an intense day of exercise or work, and it can get wet, so you can wear it in the pool or shower. The tape is typically applied in three shapes: An “I” for small or linear areas, such as the rotator cuff; a “Y” for larger muscles, such as the deltoid, and an “X” for large and long muscles, such as the biceps. Tape is applied differently based on whether a muscle needs relief from pain and tightness or from chronic injury or fatigue.
Not just for athletes.
Kinesiology tape emerged on the international scene during the 2008 Summer Olympics, when athletes from 58 countries could be seen wearing the tape. The increased space between the skin and the muscle helps muscles contract, which improves range of motion while reducing muscle fatigue. In the years since, medical studies have shown that kinesiology tape can improve range of motion and provide short-term pain relief for those who have suffered back, shoulder, or other musculoskeletal injuries. Taping can also be used as a treatment for edema, or swelling, which can be the result of an injury, an infection, pregnancy, or other conditions.
Ask Your Acupuncturist
Why shouldn’t I put on my own kinesiology tape?
Since kinesiology tape can be purchased online – from Kinesio, the company founded by Dr. Kase, as well as Rock Tape, KT Tape and a number of other firms – many people buy their own tape and apply it themselves. This is especially true for common athletic injuries such as runner’s knee or shin splints. However, it’s important to have someone familiar with the body’s muscular structure apply the tape; otherwise, it might not be effective or possibly exacerbate an existing problem. In addition, because those injuries could be the sign of a more serious problem, patients should undergo a more thorough assessment of their condition before tape is applied.