You may have seen someone at the gym or on the beach covered in colorful tape and wondered what it was. Yes, it looks cool, but what’s the purpose?
What is kinesiotape?
Kinesiotape (KT tape) is a therapeutic tape that is applied in specific places on the body to decrease pain, swelling, provide support and improve function. KT tape is designed to mimic our own skin. It has great elasticity and allows the wearer to have full range of motion. The tape is water resistant, allowing the wearer to swim, sweat and shower without it peeling. The type will typically adhere for 3 to 5 days depending on the area, taping technique and activity level of the patient. The tape works by pulling in the applied direction to gently lift the skin to create space between the skin and underlying tissues which promotes healing.
What does kinesiotape do?
A study performed in 2017 showed increased blood flow to the skin of the taped area. It is also believed that taping may also improve lymphatic circulation. Your lymphatic system regulates swelling caused by a protein-rich fluid called lymph. The space created by the pull of the tape changes the pressure gradient the under the skin. The change of pressure causes the amount of swelling to change in the injured area. This pressure change can cause bruises to heal faster. Two recent studies in 2014 and 2018 showed a reduction of fluid buildup in post breast cancer treatment and total knee replacement surgery. There is currently the need for more research due to mixed results, but reports of people applying tape on bruised areas and removing the tape can be found here.
Kinesiotape can also be used to decrease pain using the pain-gate theory. Our bodies have receptors that response to external stimuli and send a message to the brain about what is happening. Pain receptors send signals to the brain which are received slowly, while touch receptors signals are received very quickly. When the tape is applied to the skin, touch receptors are stimulated. The touch and pain receptors compete to send their messages to the brain. The touch signals arrive first and cause the brain to neglect pain signals, thus making KT tape useful for pain relief. Similarly, if you bump your elbow you will instinctively rub the area to relieve the pain. Using kinesiotape over a painful area can have a similar effect on pain.
Kinesiotape can provide support and stability to weak muscles or joints while enhancing quality of movement. Kinesiotape can aid in the retraining of muscles that have decreased function or move in improper movement patterns. KT tape can also play a role in improving scar mobility.*
*Although these are key points, increased research needs to be done in order to confirm the efficacy and success of the above treatments.
Which kinesiotape should I buy?
There are currently many different brands of kinesiotape on the market. Each use their own definitions as well as techniques in their application to achieving the same goals.
Do not use kinesiotape if you:
- Have open wounds
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Active cancer
- Lymph node removal
- Skin allergies
- Fragile skin
If you are interesting in learning more about kinesiotape tape or how you kinesiotape can help your rehab, feel free to contact us. We have plenty more tips from where these came from! With Direct Access in NJ we can get you in for an evaluation without you having to see your Doctor, probably quicker than you could get that appointment, while also saving you both time and money!
Please, call us to schedule your student’s evaluation at one of BeneFIT’s locations, Bridgewater (908.203.5200) or Chester (908.879.5700) with one of our highly trained Doctors of Physical Therapy!