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Kinesiology Tape or Athletic Tape?

posted by Tape Expert

tape_comparisonThere’s no longer any doubt that kinesiology tape has earned a spot alongside traditional athletic tape in the first aid kits of trainers, coaches and athletes. Now the question that’s arising is, “When should I use traditional athletic tape and when should I use kinesiology tape?”

The first thing to make clear is that kinesiology tape is not intended to replace sports tape. The two types of tape have completely different functions, and both have important applications in the treatment of sports injuries. The purpose of this post is to help new users understand the difference between the two types of tape, as well as when to use each.

Appearance

rocktape_colors_verticalTraditional sports tape comes only in rolls and is usually white. Kinesiology tape comes in both rolls and in precut applications for different parts of the body. Kinesiology tape also comes in a wider variety of colors, the most common being black, blue, pink and beige. A new kinesiology tape called RockTape, has combined fashion with function by offering 12 colors and patterns, including biohazard, black and white cow pattern, logo tape, and white and yellow “instant message” tape!

Properties

Traditional athletic tape is thick and non-elastic. It can retain moisture for extended periods of time, which can cause skin irritation if not removed quickly. Kinesiology tape, on the other hand, is thin and stretchy, with properties almost identical to human skin. Because it is so porous, it releases moisture easily, allowing it to dry quickly after sweating, swimming or showering.

Adhesive

The adhesive backing on regular sports tape is typically very strong, and can cause significant skin irritation or breakdown if applied directly to the skin. For this reason, a non-adhesive pre-wrap is generally used to prevent direct contact between the tape and the skin. This allows the tape to adhere to the pre-wrap and to itself, without actually sticking to the skin. Kinesiology tape uses a much gentler, acrylic adhesive that almost eliminates the incidence of skin irritation. The combination of this hypoallergenic adhesive with the elasticity of the tape allows kinesiology tape to be comfortably worn for up to 5 days per application.

Application Techniques

taped_ankleConventional athletic tape is wrapped tightly around an injured joint or muscle in overlapping layers until the area is virtually immobilized. The compression created by this technique reduces circulation of both blood and lymphatic fluid, which could cause additional damage to an injured area if left on too long. For this reason, sports tapings are generally done a short time before an activity, and removed immediately following its completion.

ankle_spider_pinkThis differs greatly from kinesiology tape, which is almost never wrapped completely around any part of the body. Instead, it is applied directly over and around the borders of an injured muscle group or joint. The elasticity actually enhances both blood flow and removal of lymphatic fluid, which allows kinesiology tape to provide true therapeutic benefits. Because there are no limitations within a safe range of motion, athletes can continue to train and/or compete while wearing kinesiology tape.

Functions

The main function of regular sports tape is to provide support and stability to an injured joint or muscle group by immobilizing it. This would be the taping method of choice in cases of severe injury, where any movement of the injured area could result in additional damage. Traditional taping is also indicated in situations where joint instability is so extreme that a tight tape job is necessary to provide additional support.

The elastic properties of kinesiology tape make it unsuitable in situations where extreme support and stabilization are required. On the other hand, this same elasticity allows kinesiology tape to provide outstanding therapeutic benefits in the areas of recovery and rehabilitation. Because it increases both blood flow and lymphatic drainage, a kinesiology tape application can rapidly relieve swelling and inflammation, as well as accelerate the healing process. Other properties allow it to relieve both acute and chronic pain, which all injured athletes welcome. As pain and inflammation recede, normal muscle activation can be restored, returning strength and coordination to injured areas.

A new, promising application for kinesiology tape is the possibility of safe, natural performance enhancement in healthy athletes. Check out my previous posts on Rock Tape to learn more about this exciting development.

kinesiology tape
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