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I recently read an article in the April 4th, 2011 Los Angeles Times paper called “Sticky Issue of Tapes”.  The article stated that kinesiology taping in general had no benefit and only offered a placebo effect on patients that used it. I on the other hand have a different opinion about kinesiology tape, along with the many other sports medicine practitioners I have worked with. Honestly I don’t believe the person who wrote the article had much experience or knowledge on working with the tape or in it’s application. I could be wrong and everybody has a right to his or her opinion, but here is my take on it.

Kinesiology tape is different than other medical or athletic tapes since is it elastic (stretches 40% beyond original length), breathable, hypoallergenic, waterproof, latex free, and does not restrict circulation like other common tapes.  Other tapes such as regular athletic tape do serve an important role and have their time and place for certain applications. However athletic tape does not breathe at all, blocks sweat and evaporation, can cause cuts and blisters, and loses 50% of support within 5 minutes of weight bearing activity.

Kinesiology tape aids in improved range of motion and is useful for muscle inhibition or facilitation depending on which direction it is applied on the muscle or joint.  It also works well for ecchymosis and lymphatic drainage. When it is applied for lymphatic drainage the tape creates convolutions, which lift and pull the skin and anchoring filaments, creating an opening or space between the cells to allow fluids to drain and immune system cells to flow in and out.

Since the kinesiology tapes have an elastic property and allow the skin to breathe they make a lot of sense for the conditions they are used for.  For example an athlete with an acromial clavicular compression injury can find relief from a scapular stability taping. This type of taping inhibits the scapula from moving forward excessively therefore, relieving compression in the AC joint. Understanding the mechanics of this, it just makes sense in why this would help this condition.  For plantar fasciitis taping the arch of the foot helps the plantar fascia from crashing, and provides tremendous relief without immobilizing the foot and suffocating the skin like athletic tape would.  As for edema and ecchymosis it does increase the reduction of swelling and contusions.

Several years ago I had a downhill bike accident, I crashed on a 10-foot drop off.  Even though is was not a considerably big drop, I smashed the palm of my left hand on the ground pretty hard resulting in my hand blowing up to the size of a baseball mitt, and my forearm was severely bruised from the wrist to my elbow, and got a nice concussion as well. After the accident I had an edema taping applied to it and the swelling and bruising dissipated at a record speed.  It completely went back down to normal within 3 days.  This is a condition I had suffered from several times before and it took weeks for the swelling and discoloration to go away without taping.  I have seen the same results on my clients and they all attest to the effectiveness of kinesiology therapeutic taping.  The tape is not going to magically heal any injury instantly, but it does help in these conditions and with joint mobilization, and often acts as a reminder as to body positioning, such as the scapular one I mentioned above.

At our facility we use both Kinesio Tex Tape, and KT Tape preferably over other tapes such as Spider Tech Tape, which is more expensive and less adhesive, and we find it not to be very user friendly.   Balance Tex, another elastic tape is moderately breathable but does not work well around body contours. The difference between the two tapes that we use is that the KT Tape is 25% more adhesive than the Kinesio Tex Tape, and has a better breathing quality due to the improved wave pattern on the back of the tape.  Generally we use the Kinesio Tex Tape on our older or senior population because it is somewhat less adhesive than the KT Tape, and is kinder to their skin during removal.  Here is a funny fact about KT Tape. It was developed by a group of business professionals that had no medical background what so ever, they just copied Dr. Kenzo Kase’s original Kinesio TexTape which was first developed in 1973, and changed the wave pattern on the back of it somewhat. This was because Dr. Kase declined on an offer they approached him with. Nonetheless KT Tape is a great product, even though it is a “knock off” of Kinesio Tex Tape.

Before using any of the kinesiology tapes they should be tested on a small part of the patients skin to see if it causes any irritation, and make sure to teach them how to remove the tape properly by pulling the skin away from the tape. Not the tearing the tape away from the skin.

People often ask about the different colors the tape comes in.  I have heard all different kinds of crazy answers like the black is the “extreme injury tape”, suggesting that it is a stronger more durable tape. The fact is that the colors are purely fashion statements. They were to elicit different moods, blue for tranquility, red for excitement, and green camo just in case you’re going hunting.  The other factor is heat transmission.  Darker colors to generate more heat, and lighter to keep the area cooler.   Kind of like when you wear a black shirt and stand directly in sunlight. The colors of the tape may vary but the characteristics of the tape are essentially the same from one color to another.

So there you have it, my opinion on kinesiology tape.  I think people get confused or either misinformed about the role this tape plays in the sports medicine arena.  I think anytime, before someone writes something about anything, that they need to have a pretty good understanding of it.  I don’t write about investment banking because I know so little about it, so I just stick to my area of expertise, and I will say that I know a little something about kinesiology therapeutic taping.

Now I will sit back and wait for all the hate mail that I expect will follow…

Jon Torerk, CSCS