With the start of the XXX Olympiad this summer, thousands of athletes from countries all over the world descended upon London for the start of what was to become a thrilling two weeks of sports spectacular. It seemed like everyone was tuned in to watch some of the worlds most famous athletes, while some were lucky enough to watch in person.
If you tuned in on your televisions, you most likely saw athletes like Lolo Jones and Kerri Walsh adorned with colored tape in interesting designs. No, the tape was not a fashion statement nor part of uniforms, but a rather a relatively old invention called Kinesio Tape. Developed in 1979 by Japanese Chiropractor and acupuncturist Kenzo Kase, the tape was used on the stomachs, legs, arms, and backs of the many of the athletes competing.
In the late 70’s, Dr. Kase argued that a more flexible tape (as opposed to the standard taping done by athletic trainers), could be applied to injured muscles, stimulating circulation through its tug on the skin. Sounds simple right? Well in actuality, it is! The tape simply promotes and improves circulation that clears out inflammation build up in the muscle. Thirty years later, it is widely used in physical therapy offices as a modality to promote the body’s own natural healing.
But how does Kinesio taping actually work? It is based on a philosophy that aims to give free range of motion for the body to help heal itself. Its effectiveness is exhibited through the activation of the neurological and circulatory systems. Muscles constantly extend and contract within a normal range, however when they over extend and over contract, they may have problems recovering and thus become inflamed. When the muscle becomes inflamed, swollen or stiff due to fatigue, the space between the skin and muscle is compressed, resulting in constriction to the flow of lymphatic fluid. This can signal “PAIN” to the brain, thus resulting in it. The elasticity of the tape limits the ability of the sore muscles to overstretch.
When applied correctly by a physical or occupational therapist, four major functions of Kinesio tape have been observed.
1.) Supports and reduces over extension of muscles and improves the contraction of a weak muscle.
2.) Removes congested body fluids by increasing blood in lymphatic circulation.
3.) Helps with pain by possibly activating the spinal inhibitory system (in more general terms, it blocks painful sensations.
4.) Corrects joint problems by adjusting mal-alignment and reduces muscle tone and abnormality of fascia.
So there you have it. If you are suffering from back, shoulder, or knee pain (among other pain), ask your physician or therapist if you would be a good candidate for Kinesio tape.