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Posts Tagged ‘How Kinesiology Tape Works’

rocktape_runner_2Kinesiology tape has become a mainstream item in the treatment of sports injuries and other health conditions involving pain, inflammation and muscle dysfunction. Now, however, a new kinesiology tape combined with a new kinesiology taping technique is helping athletes run faster, jump higher and last longer.

The tape is called RockTape, a kinesiology tape engineered especially for performance athletes. The taping technique is called PowerTaping, and involves taping entire “kinetic chains” responsible for specific athletic activities. This post is going to focus on the features of RockTape that allow it to enhance athletic performance.

Most kinesiology tapes have a 130-140% longitudinal stretch that is the key to the amazing pain relief and anti-inflammatory benefits they produce. Rock Tape, however, has a 190% longitudinal stretch, coupled with a high-quality nylon reinforcement of the cotton fibers. This gives RockTape a superior “snap back” ability compared to other kinesiology tapes, similar to the difference between a strong, thick rubber band and a weaker, thinner one.

rocktape-fiber-stretchedRockTape Elastic Fiber – Stretched Position

This enlarged photograph shows a single strand of Rock Tape elastic fiber in the stretched position. Note the similarity to the coils in a spring.

RockTape Fiber Relaxed

RockTape Elastic Fiber – Relaxed Position

The tightly wound elastic coils allow the tape to snap back to its resting position very quickly when released. When RockTape is stretched, then applied to a muscle that is contracting and relaxing, the recoil properties of the tape help the muscles return to a resting state more quickly after every contraction.

This assistance in returning to a resting position allows muscles to expend less energy as they continually contract and relax. This results in less muscle fatigue and greater endurance – a huge benefit to athletes in all endurance sports. Power athletes can also benefit from the same principle, as the snap back phenomenon enhances the speed and power of the contraction/relaxation cycle.

Click here to learn more about PowerTaping techniques for athletes.

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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.

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kinesiology_tape_rollsOne of the features that makes kinesiology tape different from other types of therapeutic tape is its elasticity. Kinesiology tape is designed to stretch up to 40% beyond its “resting” length (i.e., its length with the paper backing still applied).

This “stretchability factor” greatly increases the therapeutic benefits available from kinesiology taping as opposed to traditional athletic taping techniques. This post will provide a general overview of the benefits associated with the elastic properties of kinesiology tape. The following information is equally applicable to both formats of kinesiology tape currently available: Kinesiology Tape by the Roll (brand names Kinesio Tex Tape and SpiderTape), and Pre-Cut Kinesiology Tape Applications (brand name SpiderTech Tape).

 The Benefits of Stretchable Kinesiology Tape

  • kinesiology_tape_athletesWhen kinesiology tape is stretched as it is applied to the skin, it creates a microscopic lifting of the skin in the taped area. This relieves pressure on the local pain receptors, reducing irritation, pain and spasms. Conventional athletic tape, on the other hand, can actually increase pain in an acutely injured area as it does not accomodate to swelling or movement.
  • This lifting action also allows for enhanced circulation of both blood and lymphatic fluid. Increased bloodflow accelerates healing by delivering more oxygen and nutrients to injured tissues, while improved lymphatic drainage reduces swelling, edema and inflammation.
  • The elastic properties of kinesiology tape allow it to provide therapeutic benefits to an injured or painful area without the rigid compression of traditional taping. This means that kinesiology taping applications can be safely left in place for several days, as opposed to conventional athletic tape that must be removed within hours because of reduced circulation. In fact, the longer a kinesiology taping application is worn, the better, since the therapeutic benefits continue to accrue for the entire time it is worn.
  • The elasticity of kinesiology tape makes it the preferred method of taping for injured athletes who desire to continue training and/or competing as they recover from their injuries. When applied with the appropriate amount of stretch, kinesiology tape can provide support to an injured area, preventing harmful overstretching or over-contraction, without restricting a healthy range of movement.
  • When stretched kinesiology tape is applied to the skin, the ongoing sensory stimulation from the tape can override pain signals from an injured or inflamed area, providing a safe, non-pharmaceutical approach to pain relief.

Watch for upcoming posts providing more detailed guidelines for stretching tape and muscles in kinesiology taping applications.

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kinesiology_tapeWondering what that funky-looking, colored tape is that so many athletes are wearing these days? It’s called kinesiology tape, and it has become an overnight sensation among injured athletes, people with chronic inflammatory conditions, accident victims and individuals recovering from surgery.

The surprising ability of this lightweight, thin, stretchy therapeutic tape to quickly relieve pain and reduce inflammation makes it effective for a wide range of conditions. Although best known as an athletic tape or sports tape, its uses extend well beyond the realm of athletics. Following is a partial list of conditions known to respond favorably to kinesiology taping.

Joint Pain –  Arthritis, Bursitis, Lupus, Degenerative Joints, Poorly Aligned Joints, Joint Instability

Muscle Pain or Spasms – Torn Muscles, Pulled/Strained Muscles, Tight Muscles, Fibromyalgia, Muscle Spasms, Muscle Cramps, Calf Strain, Pulled Hamstring, Groin Pulls, Strained Gluteals, Abdominal Strain,

Soft Tissue Injuries – Tendonitis, Strained Tendons, Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis), Golfers Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis), Patellar Tendonitis, Achilles Tendonitis, Whiplash, Back Strain, Neck Strain, Rotator Cuff Injuries, Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Joint Injuries – Joint Sprains, Dislocated Joints, Sprained Ankle, Sprained Knee, Sprained Wrist, Sprained Elbow, Degenerated Meniscus, Knee Cartilage Injuries, Unstable Joints, Joint Hypermobility

Overuse Injuries – Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Repetitive Stress Syndrome, Shin Splints, Iliotibial Band Syndrome, Tension Headaches, Tennis Elbow, Golfer’s Elbow

Swelling and Edema – Lymphodema, Joint Swelling, Edema, Lymphatic Congestion, Chronic Joint or Muscle Inflammation

Postural Problems – Poor Posture, Round Shoulders, Weak Muscles, Muscle Imbalance, Poor Muscle Tone, Hypotonia

Rehabilitation after Surgery – Athletic Injury Surgery, Reconstructive Surgery, Joint Replacement, Meniscus Repair, Ligament Surgery, Tendon Surgery

Bruising – Bruising following Injuries or Surgery, Contusions

Foot Pain – Plantar Fascitis, Fallen Arches

Following are some important things to know about kinesiology tape:

1. Kinesiology tape can be bought in rolls or pre-cut applications for specific body parts. Home users with no kinesiology taping training should begin with precut kinesiology tape.

2. When properly applied, one application of kinesiology tape can be worn for up to 5 days. It will remain firmly in place through showering, swimming and even heavy sweating.

3. The therapeutic benefits of kinesiology tape continue around the clock for the entire time it’s worn. Thus, a single kinesiology taping application can be compared to receiving continuous therapy 24/7 for up to 5 days.

4. Kinesiology tape is made from high grade cotton with a hypo-allergenic acrylic adhesive. It contains no latex and no medication. Very few people experience skin reactions to kinesiology tape.

5. Kinesiology taping is safe and effective for people of all ages, from infants to the elderly.

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tape_comparisonKinesiology taping and traditional athletic taping or strapping differ from each other in the following areas:
1. Composition of Tape
2. Method of Application
3. Wear Time
4. Therapeutic Function

Composition of Tape
While both types of tape are generally made from cotton, this is where the resemblance ends. Kinesiology tape is very thin and elastic, while traditional athletic tape is thicker and inflexible. Many athletic tapes contain other ingredients, including latex and zinc oxide, which can contribute to skin irritation and allergic reactions. Kinesiology tape is make from 100% high quality cotton, with a hypoallergenic acrylic adhesive.

Method of Application
athletic_tape_ankleConventional athletic tape is almost always  wrapped tightly around a joint or muscle group, completely enclosing the area in tape. A pre-wrap is generally required to help reduce skin irritation. Because there is no elasticity in the tape, this technique is used to immobilize or greatly reduce the range of motion of the injured area.

kinesio_tape_ankleKinesiology tape, on the other hand, is seldom wrapped completely around any part of the body. Instead, it may be applied across an injured area and/or along the boundaries of the injured joint or muscle group. This type of taping can be used to limit unhealthy movement patterns, but still allow full range of motion within healthy limits.

Wear Time
Because traditional athletic tape creates significant compression of injured tissues, it can limit both blood circulation and lymphatic drainage.  Skin irritation can also occur due to poor breathability, heavy adhesive and friction. Thus, it can only be worn for short periods of time. Because kinesiology tape is both flexible and breathable, one application can be worn for several days without skin irritation or other complications.

Therapeutic Function
Conventional athletic taping has only two functions – to provide support and/or to limit range of motion in injured or unstable joints and muscle groups. It does not have any therapeutic or rehabilitative benefits beyond these physical functions. Kinesiology taping, however, actually provides a number of therapeutic benefits. The benefits of this therapeutic tape include:
– pain relief
– reduction of inflammation, edema, swelling, bruising
– re-activation of inhibited muscle fibers
– accelerated recovery from intense exercise
– prevention/relief of cramps and spasms

The bottom line … for rigid support of injured or unstable joints, conventional athletic tape is indicated. For all other therapeutic requirements, kinesiology taping provides superior benefits.

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One of the most amazing benefits of kinesiology taping is its ability to reduce swelling or edema. When properly applied, the results are often rapid, and are maintained as long as the tape is worn. What is it about this therapeutic tape that allows it to relieve swelling as no other modality can? First, a little background info.

Introduction to the Lymphatic System
lymphatic_vesselsSimilar to the circulatory system of blood vessels that carry blood, the lymphatic system consists of lymph vessels that carry lymphatic fluid. Rather than delivering substances to the tissues, however, the lymphatic vessels remove substances, including excess fluids, cellular debris and infectious organisms. Another difference is that the lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump, and relies on other mechanisms such as osmotic pressure and muscle action to move fluids through its vessels. The lymphatic system is the main mechanism for reducing swelling and edema in the body.

The Anatomy of Swelling & Inflammation
swollen_ankle_2When part of the body sustains a traumatic injury, cells in the area burst and spill their contents into the extracellular space surrounding the injured tissues. This fluid is a major component of the swelling that accompanies an acute injury. When a large amount of this fluid collects in an enclosed area, it exerts pressure on the blood vessels, lymphatic vessels and pain receptors. Severe swelling can actually reduce the circulation of both blood and lymphatic fluid to an injured area – the opposite of what it needs to recover and heal.

Kinesiology Tape Increases Lymphatic Drainage
st_body_lymphatic_1When kinesiology tape is applied to an inflamed area, the lifting motion of the tape creates a space between the top layer of skin and the underlying tissues. This space creates a pressure gradient between this area and the surrounding tissues that allows fluids to move into the lymphatic vessels and be eliminated from the body.  In addition, enhanced muscle activation increases the muscle pump pushing more fluid through the lymphatic vessels. The result? Swelling goes down, pain is relieved, and the healing process is accelerated!

My next post will discuss how to apply kinesiology tape to facilitate lymphatic drainage.

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kt_athlete_cyclistsThe recent explosion of kinesiology taping in North America and around the world isn’t just a fad that will be popular today and gone tomorrow. Kinesiology taping is a well-researched, clinically proven therapeutic modality that started as an athletic wrapping tape, but has now earned its place in hospitals, therapy clinics, trainers’ kits and athletes’ bags. Kinesiology tape can be applied quickly and produces rapid results. The “Big 3” therapeutic benefits of kinesiology taping include:

1. Pain Relief
2. Reduction of Swelling and Inflammation
3. Structural Support without Loss of Range of Motion

Today I’m going to focus on how kinesiology taping relieves pain.  The physical qualities of kinesiology tape that are important in pain relief are its thinness and its elasticity, both of which are virtually identical to the same qualities in human skin.

For maximum pain relief, the affected muscle or muscle group should be held in a stretched position as the tape is applied. After the tape has been applied and the muscle returns to its resting position, the tape will appear slightly puckered or ridged. Pain relief is often rapid and dramatic. In simplest terms, there are two main mechanisms at play:

1. Mechanical Effect
kinesiology_tape_pain_reliefThe puckering of the tape indicates that the upper layers of skin have been lifted slightly from the tissues below. This lifting action relieves pressure and irritation on the pain receptors directly under the skin, rapidly reducing the pain signals they send to the brain.

2. Neurological Effect
Although the conscious sensation from a kinesiology taping application disappears very quickly, it actually produces an ongoing low level sensory stimulation for the entire time it is worn. Although virtually undetectable to the wearer, this sensory stimulation productes a continuous loop of stimulation from the muscle to the brain and back again. Because of its ongoing nature, this stimulation is able to interfere with and override many of the pain signals from the injured area.

My next post will discuss proper application techniques when kinesiology taping for pain relief.

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pain_icon_largeOne of the most exciting developments in the area of pain relief is kinesiology tape – a new type of therapeutic tape that possesses virtually the same thickness and elasticity as human skin. Because of these qualities, once it is applied there is very little sensation associated with wearing it, making it exceptionally comfortable compared to other types of tape.

Another factor that makes kinesiology tape unique is that it actually provides significant therapeutic benefits, as opposed to simply providing support and limiting movement. The most dramatic effects noticed by most users are a rapid relief of pain, accompanied by a reduction of swelling and inflammation. This post is going to focus on how kinesiology tape relieves pain.

1. Acute Pain – Kinsiology Tape Relieves Pressure on Pain Receptors
Acute pain is caused by a recent trauma or injury. Post-surgical pain is also a type of acute pain. The most effective technique for pain relief is to hold the injured muscle in a stretched position while the kinesiology tape is applied. When the taping has been completed, the skin will appear slightly puckered as the tape gently lifts it. This lifting action creates a space between the skin and the inflammed tissues below. reducing pressure on the blood vessels, lymphatic vessels and nerve endings in the injured area. Improved blood flow enhances delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the injured tissues, accelerating the healing process. Improved lymphatic flow reduces swelling which relieves pressure on the pain receptors providing rapid pain relief.

2. Chronic Pain – Kinesiology Tape Activates Sensory Gating Mechanisms
Chronic (ongoing or long term) pain often results when the neuromechanisms responsible for sending pain signals to the brain stop working properly. Like a switch stuck in the “on” position, they brain forgets to turn the pain signals off, even after the trauma has been resolved. This pain is abnormal because it is out of proportion to the severity of the injury. At this point, it becomes detrimental, as it has far-reaching effects on both muscle function and quality of life.

A simple application of kinesiology tape helps relieve chronic pain in several ways. The sensation of the tape on the skin stimulates several types of pain receptors, including some called merkel cells. After the tape is applied these cells begin to notice the minute sensations coming from the tape, and begin to tune into them. In simplified terms, the stimulation provided by the kinesiology tape interrupts, then overrides the pain signals going to the brain, effectively breaking the abnormal pain cycle.

Because a single kinesiology tape application is worn continuously for 3-5 days, the pain relief benefits can accrue over this entire period of time. Kinesiology tape is truly a breakthrough in non-pharmaceutical management of both acute and chronic pain.

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