Comprehensive Guide to Kinesiology Tape

Kinesiology is the study of muscular and skeletal movement. Obviously, skeletal muscles are important for range and ease of movement. Many people think that kinesiology is only important for athletes. However, the study of kinesiology is also important for regular everyday people. Even if you’re not an athlete, a strained or hurt tendon or muscle can cause you a great deal of discomfort and limited range of movement. Thankfully, there have been many advances in kinesiology in recent years. One of the most popular advances is kinesiology tape.

Kinesiology tape is just the latest popular treatment in the kinesiology field. Athletes, both professional and amateur, have used many techniques over the years to treat sore, pulled, or strained muscles. These treatments range from topical creams to pain pills to massages. Treatments in the field have approved overtime as physiologists have learned more about how the muscles operate. Many treatments in the past focused on restricting movement in order to prevent further damage to injured muscles. Such treatments are still popular today. However, letting the circulation to muscles improve rather than constricting the body is the basis of kinesiology taping.

Kinesiology taping was developed by a Japanese chiropractor named Dr. Kenzo Kase. He came up with the original method in 1979 and called it the kinesiology taping method. People who want to learn how to apply kinesiology tape will need to know that it works by lifting the skin and tissue over the muscle slightly so that circulation can be unimpeded.

As Dr. Kase came up with a method, it should come as no surprise that he developed the first therapeutic elastic tape. He called this tape “Kinesio.” Dr. Kase founded Kinesio, the company that makes the product, in the 1980s. He was also the one who founded the Kinesiology Taping Association, also known as the KTA. This was done in 1984. The Kinesio company began operating in the United States in 1994. At the time, it was headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico. However, it wasn’t until nearly a decade later that kinesiology taping started to gain popularity with famous athletes, from which it sped to everyday people.

For a decade or more, kinesiology taping was mostly used by chiropractors, orthopedics, and acupuncturists to treat small numbers of everyday people.

Japanese athletes, especially Olympic volleyball players, were amongst the first professional athletes to discover and begin to implement kinesiology taping. However, Lance Armstrong’s 2003 book “Every Second Counts,” which mentions the tape, was really the first mainstream exposure for this product. It would not be until several years later that it truly became famous. This happened at the 2004 Summer Olympics, where American beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh was prominently featured on TV wearing kinesiology tape on her shoulder. She later became a spokesperson for KT Tape.

What is Kinesiology Tape For?

kinesology tape
Obviously, athletic tape has been popularly used by professional and amateur athletes alike for many years. However, kinesiology tape is significantly different. Traditional athletic tape was often used to immobilize a muscle or joint by wrapping the extremity with many layers of tape. This will help prevent further injury. However, it will also restrict movement and will not help the injury heal.

Kinesiology taping takes pretty much the opposite approach. That is, it stretches out the tissues slightly it to allow unimpaired circulation to the muscle. This allows the muscle to heal more quickly. Keep in mind that with kinesiology tape, an extremity is never wrapped up like it is with traditional athletic tape. One single layer of kinesiology tape is put over the injured area. As previously mentioned, this allows blood flow to be unimpeded. However, there is another type of fluid that is able to circulate more freely then it would be if kinesiology tape was not used. This fluid is called lymphatic fluid, and it comes from the lymph nodes.

How Does Kinesiology Tape Work?

The most prominent and dramatic effect of kinesiology taping has already been discussed at length in this piece. Improving blood and lymphatic circulation is the key benefit of kinesiology taping. This reduces inflammation and decreases the amount of chemical build-up in the tissue. However, this is far from the only benefit of kinesiology taping. Kinesiology taping also supports the muscle. It can allow the muscle to contract even when it’s not at 100%, which can help prevent cramping. The third benefit of kinesiology taping is activating the body’s analgesics. Bodies analgesics are the internal mechanisms that allow an injured body part to heal more quickly and cause less pain. The fourth benefit is seen as a result of the previous three. Through allowing better circulation to the muscles, better movement of the joints is achieved.

The Construction of Kinesiology Tape

Kinesiology tape is made to interact in a healthy way with the human skin. Athletic tape is also designed to be used on human skin, however, it is not nearly as comfortable or healthy as kinesiology tape. Kinesiology tape is extremely thin and is constructed with a stretchy and breathable cotton blend. This allows the skin to breathe, and the elasticity allows the tape to move with you and prevents it from restricting motion. As you might imagine, the side of the tape that is applied to the skin is sweat repellent. The tape is so secure that it can often stay on the body for 3 to 4 days even after you have showered several times.

Kinesio Taping Method

Kinesiology taping is not a particularly complex or involved process. However, if you have never used kinesiology tapes before, then you should do a great deal of research and perhaps practice taping yourself up before any sort of athletic activity. Dr. Kase has published a book that contains a thorough set of instructions for taping various areas of the body. If you really want to commit to kinesiology taping, it is a good idea to read and study this book. Keep in mind how beneficial kinesiology taping can be, and you will realize that it is more than worth it. Professional athletes, of course, have trained and experienced orthopedic professionals applying their tape. If you have an important athletic competition coming up, you can go to kinesiology to find a certified kinesiology taping practitioner in your area. To become a certified kinesiology taper, you must train at two separate classes and complete an online exam. There is a great deal of material from certified kinesiology tapers available on the Internet that you can learn from.

How To Put On Kinesiology Tape

The first step you must take when kinesiology taping yourself is to select your kinesiology tape. The level of elasticity used in different kinesiology tape varies. However, the most common level of elasticity is 130% to 140% of the tape’s original length. Keep in mind that you don’t want to stretch it to its full length when applying it. You only want to stretch slightly, and then your body will stretch the tape naturally through movement.

The second step after picking the tape is cutting it. This is slightly more complex than you might think. Many amateur kinesiology tapers like to make a simple straight cut across the tape, called an “I” cut. This will work for most applications. If you are a little more knowledgeable, you might want to try Y, X, or fan shapes. Instructions in the previously mentioned book will suggest a correct shape for the application of kinesiology tape you have. To get the tape to its proper link, just hold it up to the area that you were taping.

Before you actually apply the tape, make sure your skin is clean and dry. Peel the tape backing off and smoothly but firmly apply it to the affected spot. The tape should cover the area from the muscle to the tendons that hold the muscle to the bone.

Once the tape is in place, rub it firmly for several seconds to activate the adhesive. Once you’ve done this, you should wait roughly an hour for the tape to set completely. It should stay for 3 or 4 days after it is set. Even showering and heavy exercise should not remove the tape unless you intentionally do so.

After a period of three to four days, or perhaps shorter if you intentionally remove the tape, has passed you should wait a day or two before putting on more tape. Even while the tape is still on, keep in mind that it may take up to 24 hours before you notice any significant changes. You have to give your body time to heal the area. No matter how long the only the tape on, you shouldn’t have to worry about skin irritation as the tape is hypoallergenic and latex free.

Challenges of Using Kinesiology Tape

One of the most common challenges that people using kinesiology tape have to deal with is the difficulty of finding the right kinesiology taping method for certain body parts when you are trying to do it by yourself. Obviously, if you have someone else helping you this is not a problem. However, it is a common obstacle when applying kinesiology tape to the lower torso, for example. Many people who are relatively experienced and put it on their own kinesiology tape have developed a way to put the tape on their own backs. Generally, these people will use two mirrors to give themselves a clear view of their backside. Actually applying the tape does take some practice when using this technique. If you need to put the tape on your back and you have anybody else can help you, even if they are not certified, this may be the better option. You can give them some basic instructions until they know how to put the tape on correctly.

The Kinesio Tape Brand

The Kinesio brand is the original brand, and it is still the most popular amongst both amateur and professional athletes. A brief background on the Kinesio brand was already discussed in the introduction to this article. Kinesio continues to offer much the same products today. They have many different options depending on personal preference and on the specific athletic use. The tape comes in rolls up to 3 in wide. It is available from 16 feet to 103 feet in length. There are several different colors available, as well. The colors are black, blue, beige, and red. The red tape looks more like pink, so as you might expect, it is very popular amongst female athletes. Kinesiology tape is considerably more expensive than traditional athletic tape, so people who aren’t used to kinesiology tape may be surprised by the price. A 16 foot roll is about $33, although there are deals available which can reduce the price significantly. However, you should keep in mind that kinesiology tape is more effective and advanced than traditional athletic tape.

Competitors To Kinesio Tape

In recent years, several competitors to Kinesio have hit the market. Kinesio still holds the patent for a manufacturing process and the trademarks to the original kinesiology tape. However, some competitors have come up with kinesiology tape that is very similar to the original, and (they claim) even better. Kinesio, however, is the only manufacturer that offers training from licensed professionals on applying the tape properly. Many professionals do prefer the original Kinesio brand because it stays on the longest, and because it is easiest to customize for various lengths.

Rock Tape

While Kinesio’s competitors cannot copy their design directly without breaking copyright laws, many of them have made changes to kinesiology tape that they claim makes the product more effective. One of the most notable competitors of Kinesio is called Rock Tape. It is important to note that Kinesio was designed for chiropractors and other health professionals and later became popular with athletes. However, Rock Tape was one of the first companies to pop up once they became popular with athletes and they took a different approach. It was made from the start to be used by high-level athletes during competitions. While Kinesio has a stretch potential of between 130% to 140%, Rock Tape has a stretch potential of 190% because it uses a special nylon blend. This particular fabric is extremely water-resistant and very flexible, supposedly more so than Kinesio. In addition to their tape offering, they have come up with a topical muscle discomfort treatment called Rock Sauce. This “sauce” is designed to be used in conjunction with the tape. Rock Sauce is quite similar to many products you might be familiar with, such as Biofreeze or Ben Gay.

KT Tape

This company is another notable competitor of Kinesio Tape. It is distinguished from the other two companies by several different characteristics. For one, it comes in a wider range of different colors, from green to orange to pink to purple to red, blue, gold, and black. Also, it is made from synthetic fabrics rather than natural fabrics. Finally, this brand uses an extremely strong adhesive they call Second Skin. This means that it can be worn for up to 7 days, which is significantly longer than the tape of the competitors.

Applying Kinesiology Tape To Different Body Parts

KT Tape Shoulder

Many amateur and professional athletes have a lot of problems with their shoulders. Shoulders have many moving parts, tendons, ligaments, and joints. As with another often problematic body part, the knees, shoulders are frequently causes of pain and soreness to athletes. Kinesiology tape can help you decrease the amount of soreness while still maintaining mobility. To learn how to apply kinesiology tape to your shoulders, read on.

The first thing you have to do is make sure your shoulders are clean and dry. If you have hair on your shoulders in the area that you’re applying the tape, you should shave. Otherwise, the hair may be ripped out when the tape is removed. To apply the tape, first cut a strip to the correct length. It should go from the top of your shoulders to your elbow. Stretch your arm out and begin peeling off the tape. Put one end of the tape on your arm, and slowly peel off the rest of the tape as you apply it to your skin. Once it’s on your skin, rub it several times to activate the adhesive.

Now it is time to apply the tape to the rear part of the shoulder. Follow the same instructions that you did with the first strip of the tape, except angle the strip so that it meets the first strip at the bottom. Remember not to move your shoulders too much for an hour or so until the tape completely sets.

KT Tape Back

This body part is another common source of problems for athletes at all levels. It can be difficult to figure out how to apply a kinesiology tape to your spine and surrounding muscles by yourself. However, it is possible if you follow the steps below.

First cut two “I” strips that are the length of your entire spine from the base of the neck to the top of the tail bone. Next, sit down and lean forward to stretch the muscles. Put one strip on each side of the spine. Make sure each strip is about 20% stretched out. Cut another strip that is long enough to reach from hip to hip across your spine. Apply it across the vertical tapes. Rub the tape vigorously to activate the adhesive.

Kt Tape Ankle

Ankles can be one of the hardest areas of the body to apply kinesiology tape to. This may come as a surprise for people who are not familiar with the kinesiology tape application process. Unlike the elbow, for example, ankles are easily accessible to someone applying their own kinesiology tape. However, the complex network of joints, ligaments, muscles, and other tissue in the foot area means that kinesiology tape needs to be applied very carefully.

Before you begin applying the tape, you need to clean off your ankles thoroughly. Just soap and water may not be enough. A sanitizer may be required. Once you clean off your ankles, it is time to apply the tape. Peel the backing off of a couple of inches of tape. Apply it with no stretch to the outside of the foot right above the sole. Take this strip and wrap it under the heel and up the other side of the ankle. Peel off the backing as you go. While you don’t want to stretch the tape on the outside of the ankles, do stretch it when you are putting it over the heel. Once you apply this strip, your next strips go along the inside of the foot and around the heel to the outside of the foot. You only want to stretch the tape what’s going around the rear of the heel. Complete applying this strip of tape by stretching it underneath the foot to meet the first part of the strip along the inside of the foot. Apply a second strip the same way, except start at the outside of the foot instead of the inside. You may have finished applying all the strips of tape to your ankles, but the process is not quite done yet. Make sure to rub all of the strips or tape to activate the adhesive. You also want to make sure that every strip of tape is on skin rather than on another bit of tape. Your ankles should feel supported, but not constricted.

KT Tape Knee

Bend your leg at a 90 degree angle. This will make the bones and the ligaments of the knees easier to access. Take a short strip of tape and cut off the end corners. Rounding the tape will help keep the tape from catching on your pants or shorts. Peel off the backing of the tape. Stretch the tape out to about 80% of its maximum length and place it horizontally across the center of your knee. Make sure to not stretch out the ends when you were putting them on the knees. You only want the middle of the strip of tape to be stretched out. Put another strip of tape over this strip of tape using the exact same technique. Take a longer strip of tape about 6 inches long and 4 vertically from the bottom of the knee’s bones to the middle of your thigh at about 25% stretch. Next, apply another vertical piece to the other side of the leg using the exact same technique. Now you have applied all these strips of tape necessary to support your knees. Rub up and down the strips of tape vigorously to activate the adhesive.

KT Tape Neck

The neck is one of the trickier body parts to tape up correctly. Only in recent years has it become common to use kinesiology tape on the neck. It is been a widely accepted practice to use kinesiology tape on shoulders, backs, and elbows for years. However, the techniques for kinesiology taping the neck have just been developed because there’s less of a history of taping up this body part. To tape up your neck using this technique, you’re going to need three strips of tape. If you do not have pre-cut tape, you can simply cut 3 strips for yourself.

If your tip doesn’t come pre-cut, you will need to cut them. Make sure you have a very sharp pair of scissors. Caught a strip about 4 inches long, and then cut straight down the middle to create a Y strip. Trim the corners to make them round.

Once you have cut the tape, do not peel off the backing quite yet. It is time to make sure the skin of your neck is very clean. Clean it with soap and water. You may need to use a skin cleanser if your skin is very dirty. It is important that your skin is clean so the adhesive will adhere properly. Once your skin has been cleaned, it is time to apply the tape. Sit down and tilt your head forward to stretch your neck muscles. Don’t stretch so much that it hurts, but you want to feel that the muscles and ligaments of your neck are taught. Using a mirror, apply the tape, starting with the single piece at the top of the neck and moving down in a downwards facing Y shape. Make sure the tape is slightly stretched but not too stretched. Put another short piece of tape horizontally across where the single strip divides into two pieces. Rub the tape vigorously to activate the adhesive. Remember that you need to wait about an hour after you’ve applied the tape for it to set. During this time, do not exercise vigorously or take a shower.

Final Thoughts

Kinesiology tape might not be every for everybody. It does cause irritation for some people. If you try to use it and it causes irritation, you may want to try a different brand. If the irritation persists, you may need to find a different solution for soreness and swelling. Also, kinesiology tape does not work as well for some people as it does for others. Everybody’s body is different, so the kinesio taping method that is effective for someone may not be as effective for somebody else. However, it is worth a shot if you are an athlete, even if you are just an amateur playing in your local recreational League. You may find that you get significant benefits from using kinesiology tape. Kinesiology tape is relatively cheap, so you might as well give the shot.

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