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Kinesiology Tape: Supporting Recovery

By January 10, 2020 No Comments

Whether you’ve had a physiotherapy appointment or not, you may have seen kinesiology tape at some point on someone else and wondered what it might be. While to the untrained eye it may look like it’s not doing much for the healing process, kinesiology tape can be a helpful tool for a wide variety of physio issues. Here’s how it works and how it helps:

How Kinesiology Tape is Different from Other Tape

Kinesiology tape is an elasticized tape that is strategically applied to your muscles. It’s typically made from a combination of cotton, spandex, and adhesive, and differs from other forms of athletic tape because it’s able to stretch and move more freely, allowing for a full range of motion. Compared with athletic tape which is designed to create support around a joint (effectively restricting motion), kinesiology tape stretches up to 40% and retains elasticity without hindering your body’s movements.

How it Works

When applied correctly, kinesiology tape lifts the skin from the tissues below to cause localized compression or decompression of the area, reducing pressure on the tissue. Correct ‘taping’ also provides extra support to muscles by improving their ability to contract, even if they are weak, and can protect the muscle from overextending or over-contracting.

What Kinesiology Tape is Used For

Physical therapists may use kinesiology tape for a number of ailments. Depending on the severity of the injury, these may include:

  • Knee pain
  • Shin splints
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Achilles tendon pain
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Joint alignment
  • Supporting weak zones
  • Re-educating muscles
  • Assisting with general muscle pain

Many specialized athletes may also use kinesiology tape to help protect against injury when they are competing in special events.

When Not to Use Kinesiology Tape

No matter what your ailment, there are a few instances where it’s not advisable to use kinesiology tape. You should avoid it if you have:

  • Fragile skin
  • An open wound
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Active cancer
  • Had a lymph node removed
  • Diabetes leading to reduced sensation in certain areas of the body
  • An allergic reaction to certain adhesives

As always, it’s best to discuss if kinesiology tape is right for you and how to use it with your physiotherapist before testing it out on yourself.

How to Apply Kinesiology Tape

Once you’ve had a chance to consult with your physiotherapist, they can apply the tape and help train you in the proper application before you try to put it on yourself at home.

Each ailment will require the tape to be applied in a specific pattern that will help support the muscle and alleviate pain. Often, the tape is applied in an X, Y, I or fan pattern. You may also need stabilization or compression strips.

If you are unsure, ask your physiotherapist to watch you practice applying and removing the tape a few times. This will help you get comfortable with the technique to ensure you are doing it correctly when you apply it at home.

How Long Kinesiology Tape Lasts

No matter what the ailment, it’s important to use kinesiology sparingly during times of healing and not as a crutch. While it sounds like a great way to shortcut healing, the truth is you’ll want to work closely with your physiotherapist before returning to familiar routines.

That said, kinesiology tape does last a long time and is typically worn for three to five days (even withstanding showering and swimming). The reasoning behind constantly wearing the tape is to re-educate your muscles to perform in an optimal way. If, after one wear, your muscles are doing what you want, there may be no need to re-apply.  However, it’s a good idea to listen to the advice of your physiotherapist and discuss with them a game plan to get you back to your old self and pain-free.

If you have an injury, it’s important to get a clear diagnosis and a treatment plan in place as soon as possible.  Physiotherapy can decrease recovery time, relieve pain and improve range of motion for patients. Contact us today to discuss how we can help.

While kinesiology tape isn’t ideal for every situation, our Kinesiologist will assess whether this tape, athletic tape or another solution is best for you and your injury.