Have you ever been at the gym or watched an athletic event and seen someone covered in strange patterns of tape? Maybe along their shoulder or calf? Have you ever wondered what the purpose of the tape was, or exactly why they were using tape instead of a brace? Here’s what you need to know about the method behind this tape, what it does, and how it’s useful.  

In the past, when someone was physically injured, it was common to restrict movement as a way to allow the area to heal. Throw a brace on it so you’re not moving it so much or at all and let it recover, right? But through numerous studies and a better understanding of injuries and the healing process, the practice has changed. For some injuries, that movement restriction is still very important, but for many, the full restriction is actually counter-productive; decreasing circulation to the area and causing a weakness of the associated muscles. Instead, controlled stabilized movement and bracing are far better. We’ve seen this with the changes in recommendations surrounding slings and bracing for the last decade or more. And this is where all that tape comes in. 

A Japanese chiropractor named Dr. Kenzo Kase wanted to dig deeper to find a method that supported movement while keeping the muscles safe. He created the first elastic therapeutic tape called Kinesio Tape in 1979 and the methods of use for it. There are now numerous versions of this same type of tape under a variety of brand names and methodologies, but they’re all based on the same concepts. 

This type, unlike traditional athletic tape, is very elastic, stretching and retracting to gently lift the layer of skin and connective tissue so that blood and lymph can move more freely in and around the muscle and other tissues, allowing the healing process to take place more efficiently. There are numerous, very specific applications for a variety of muscular dysfunctions and injuries so it’s important that you have someone well trained and qualified to apply the tape correctly so as to best support your specific issue. Some applications help to stabilize a joint, such as those you may see wrapping around a shoulder, knee, or ankle, while still allowing safe movement. Others can help to take the pressure off of an area that seems to be restricted in some way. Some are thought to stimulate or inhibit muscular contraction. And yet others can help to increase lymphatic flow, decreasing swelling in an area. The specific application used on your body will depend on the type of injury and goals for treatment. 

One of the great things about this tape is that due to its components, it can stay in place for days at a time, even through sweating, showering, and daily activities. For some, one application is all it takes to stabilize and allow healing to take place. Others may require numerous applications over time. It all depends on the exact injury and how your body responds and heals. It’s important that you pay close attention to how you feel before and after the tape application and how your movements are affected and relay this information to your massage therapist. We can adjust the tape however you need to best suit your body.