Kinesiology tape was invented in the late 1970s by Japanese chiropractor Kenzo Kase, who wanted to give athletes muscle support without negatively affecting their mobility. Today, countless versions of the product commonly called KT tape can potentially boost performance and alleviate pain and swelling when you exercise. The science of kinesiology strives to maintain balance in the muscles, tendons and tissues for optimal function. Learn more about how kinesiology tape works along with tips and trips to optimize its effects.
Structure and Material
KT tape blends nylon and cotton for an elastic texture formulated to reflect the natural stretch of the skin. In contrast, traditional athletic tape is made from cotton, which supports the joints but restricts movement. The tape stays on for up to five days even during showers thanks to a medical-grade adhesive.
When applied, KT tape pulls the skin slightly up to create a small space above its underlying tissue. This compresses and decompresses nerves in these areas, alleviating pain and discomfort. At the same time, lymphatic fluid and blood can move freely through the painful muscle, cleaning and detoxifying the area to support natural healing.
Research on Kinesiology Tape
A study published in the International Journal of Sports and Physical Therapy found that use of KT tape expands available space in the knee joint. Similar research in the Joual Manipulative Physiological Therapy found comparable results for the shoulder joint, suggesting that KT tape works by reducing friction and thus irritation and inflammation within the joints.
A meta-analysis by Sports Medicine indicated that we need more research to determine the true efficacy of kinesiology tape. However, the authors reported that use of the tape likely has a small positive impact on strength and range of motion. Another study, this one published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, suggests that KT tape reduces pain by changing the way the nerves in the taped areas receive pain signals.
Who Can Benefit
People most often use KT tape for the wrists, shoulders, shins, knees, hamstrings, elbows, back and calves. It can treat most types of soft tissue injuries, including but not limited to strains, sprains, swelling, arthritis pain and muscle overuse.
You may want to try kinesiology taping if you have had a tendon, joint or muscle injury, experience joint pain, lead a physically active lifestyle, spend a lot of time sitting, or do a job that requires physical labor and repetitive motion.
How To Use Kinesiology Tape
The right taping method depends on your physical needs. For example, if your doctor has recommended KT tape after orthopedic surgery, a tight wrap helps contract and thus strengthen the muscles in that area. Conversely, wrapping gently can reduce pain caused by muscle spasms. You can correct posture and bolster tired, overused muscles as well.
Consider experimenting with these common ways to use KT tape:
Taping from the calf up the back of the leg to support the Achilles tendon
Wrapping it around the knee when experiencing pain with activity
Supporting the muscles on each side of the spine to relieve lower back pain
Taping across your deltoid muscles to relieve shoulder pain
Anchoring tape along the forearm to reduce pain in this area, sometimes called golfer's elbow
You may want to ask for assistance from your doctor, physical therapist, coach or trainer when you first try kinesiology tape. When used correctly, you should notice relief in about 24 to 48 hours.
Talk to your doctor before using KT tape after a workout injury or when experiencing pain. He or she can perform an examination to diagnose underlying conditions that could be causing your symptoms.