Karena Wu, P.T., C.S.C.S., C.K.P.T., is the president/clinical director of ActiveCare Physical Therapy in New York. Wu shares everything you need to know about kinesiology tape, including its role in injury rehabilitation and performance.
Men’s Fitness: What is kinesiology tape?
Karena Wu: Kinesiology tape is an elastic tape that has a longitudinal stretch that can be used therapeutically as well as to enhance performance. It’s made of cotton over elastic fibers; it's breathable, flexible, and mimics skin’s elasticity. Dr. Kenzo Kase originally developed it back in the 1970s because he was dissatisfied with the tape available (only rigid, athletic strapping tape and another tape that had a three-dimensional stretch).
What performance benefits does kinesiology tape have?
Kinesiology tape provides neurosensory feedback so that you do not feel pain/discomfort as much or at all, which then helps to activate the neuromuscular response and activation of muscles. For sports, it can help to facilitate muscle contraction/endurance.
How does kinesiology tape benefit injury rehabilitation?
Kinesiology tape can help with fluid movement because the elastic recoil of the tape ‘lifts’ the skin, which increases the space underneath to allow for lymphatic drainage. Your lymph system is a systemic whole-body system that helps with moving fluids into and out of the area. The lymphatic system sits just under the skin, so when you put the tape on it helps to clear an area of swelling. Increased lymphatic drainage helps with tissue healing, which helps speed up the healing process. You can wear it in the shower and while sleeping, so it's providing therapeutic treatment 24/7.
When should I consider kinesiology tape as treatment?
You can apply kinesiology tape immediately after you feel pain, as pain is a perception from stimuli that tells the brain to immediately start either a healing process or protect itself so it will reduce the intensity of the inflammatory cascade of events. Kinesiology tape can be applied before ice. If you ice and then put the tape on, the adhesive in the glue won’t stick as well to the skin so you'd need to heat the glue to activate it, thereby negating the cold therapy because you have to ‘heat’ the glue to activate it.
Where does the tape go and how do I apply it?
Anywhere that is free of excess body hair and where it can stick to skin. To apply it it's best to go to a healthcare practitioner (like a physical therapist or chiropractor) who has had training in kinesiology tape. Kinesio Tape, Spider Tech, and Rocktape all have taping courses. A standard roll is cut to the specific client’s intents and needs. There are also precut versions for specific body parts. You can buy it, and, using the instructions, tape yourself without any training.