You’ve probably seen a professional athlete or two wearing funky coloured athletic tape. During the Olympics we see shoulders, backs, thighs and shins wrapped in hot pink or neon green strips of stretchy tape. There are many brands of this tape – Rocktape, K-tape, Kinesio-tape, etc. They are pretty much the same; super adhesive tape that has some stretch. But why would you wear it? How can a tape that allows full range of motion provide any sort of therapeutic benefit?
Let us tell you…
Before this tape came into the spotlight, we associated therapeutic taping with limiting joint motion and helping improve stability to the tapes areas. However, with these flexible tapes the goal is not to limit movement. The goals are very different.
1 – Provide Feedback to the Muscles
Sometimes our muscles just need a little reminder to work properly. When we’ve been dealing with an injury this is especially important. The mechanical feedback that the tape provides help us coordinate movement and move effectively. However, this benefit of the tape is not exclusively helpful to injuries – it can also help with our posture. Application of this tape across the shoulder blades can help provide our body with feedback that will remind us not to slouch!
2 – Decompresses Tissue (helpful for swelling and inflammation)
When this tape is applied, it is stretched before it is tacked down onto the skin. This pre-application stretch allows for the skin to wrinkle under the tape, and essentially create more space for the tissues under the skin. This helps to decompress the pain receptors of nerves, and therefore decrease the pain we experience. It helps to decompress the lymphatic vessels under the skin, which helps drain inflammation from the area. It also helps to decompress and alleviate excess tension on the muscle, and therefore allow the muscle to function efficiently. The ability to decompress tissues makes this tape effective at decreasing swelling and bruising quickly!
3 – Delays Fatigue of Muscles
Isn’t it amazing that an application of tape can help your muscles work harder for longer. Sure, this is great for setting personal bests at the gym, but it’s especially important for rehabilitating injuries. Muscle weakening is an inevitable part of injuries that last longer than a few weeks. Using this tape can help muscles work through their rehab exercises for longer, and therefore help improve strength more quickly!
4 – Decreases Pain Sensation
We briefly discussed the ability of this tape to reduce pain above. The extra room this tape creates between tissues reduces the friction between layers of fascia and muscle, which can often be a cause of pain that has become chronic. There is less compression of nerve endings, which creates fewer and less frequent pain signals and therefore decreased pain perception.