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Kinesiotape: What is It and Who is it For?


By Megan Westling, DPT, OCS, RYT

Much of the time when “taping” is mentioned, patients either have no idea what to expect, or they’ve heard it is a technique used only for athletes.  There are several different types of taping, including athletic and leukotape, which work to rigidly provide structural support to a muscle or joint. Kinesiotape, however, uses only the elastic property of tape to influence functions that the body already possesses, rather than rigidly doing the function for the body. The tape has a wave-like pattern that resembles a fingerprint.  As the tape is latex-free and hypoallergenic, it has been safely used on most populations, including older adults and children as well pregnant women.

So how exactly does kinesiotape work?

The tape’s effect on the body depends on how it is applied: a lighter placement will relax the muscle, whereas a tighter pull works to stimulate receptors to improve function of muscles, tendons and ligaments. The tape has this effect on the body by microscopically lifting the skin, increasing space and promoting fluid drainage.  If a technique such as stretching or strengthening works well in the clinic, taping can be a good option for a continued therapeutic benefit between sessions.

A little history on kinesiotape:

Kinesiotape was first used in rehabilitation hospitals in Japan, being introduced more internationally at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea.  Dr. Kenzo Kase developed the taping method in 1979 to improve his treatment effectiveness in between sessions. It is now used worldwide, with the majority of tape users being non-athletes. Here are some of the most common reasons for taping in the general population: Muscle activation and relaxation, muscle and joint support, inflammation control, athletic performance and pain relief.

The physical therapy toolbox is large. As health care providers specializing in the musculo-skeletal system, we have been trained in manual techniques, exercise prescription, and other interventions, such as taping, to treat and prevent injury and pain. Taping can be used for inflammatory conditions such as tendonitis or bursitis; it can be used to decrease tension headaches, or even improve nerve injuries such as brachial plexus syndrome.  If you are recovering from an injury or if you just want to improve your quality of movement, ask your physical therapist if kinesiotape might be an option for you.

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