Kinesio® Tape was invented by Japanese chiropractor, Dr. Kenzo Kase, in 1979, as a result of much research in kinesiology, the science behind muscular and skeletal movement. Dr. Kase developed both the method and the first elastic therapeutic tape, Kinesio Tape. He also founded Kinesio, the company behind the product, in the 1980s, and formed the Kinesio Taping Association (KTA) in 1984. Kinesio USA, LLC, began operating in 1994, headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Kinesio® Tape is a latex-free, elastic porous cotton strip with an acrylic adhesive used for treating athletic injuries and a variety of other physical disorders. Kinesio® Tape stretches up to 140% of its original length, which allows much greater range of motion, compared to traditional white athletic tape. It can also be left on for longer periods of time (up to 4 days) before reapplication is needed. Kinesio® Tape is about as thick as human epidermis (skin) and is designed to mimic its elastic properties to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, relax muscles, enhance performance, and help with rehabilitation as well as supporting muscles during a sporting event.
The Kinesio Taping® (KT) Method is the rehabilitative application of Kinesio® Tape to facilitate the body’s natural healing process while providing support and stability to muscles and joints without restricting the body’s range of motion as well as providing extended soft tissue manipulation to prolong the benefits of manual therapy administered within the clinical setting.
According to Dr. Kaze, the four major functions of Kinesio Taping® are:
- Supporting the muscle: Proper taping improves the muscle’s ability to contract even when it’s weakened, reduces a feeling of pain and fatigue, and protects the muscle from cramping, over-extension and over-contraction.
- Removing congestion to the flow of body fluids: Kinesiology tape improves blood and lymphatic circulation and reduces inflammation and excess chemical buildup in the tissue.
- Activating the endogenous analgesic system: “Endogenous” refers to something that is self-originating, and calling something “analgesic” means that it can relieve pain in a conscious person. So, this requirement means that the tape must facilitate the body’s own healing mechanisms, a central focus in chiropractic medicine.
- Correcting joint problems: The goal is improving range of motion and adjusting misalignments that result from tightened muscles.
These four functions drive the technology behind the tape, which features a very thin, highly elastic porous cotton top side, that lets the skin breathe and an underside of sticky water-repellant, medical-grade acrylic adhesive, which further supports the muscles and connective tissues. By targeting different receptors within the somatosensory system, Kinesio® Tape alleviates pain and facilitates lymphatic drainage by microscopically lifting the skin, which reduces swelling and inflammation. Kinesio® Tape can be applied in hundreds of ways and has the ability to re-educate the neuromuscular system, reduce pain and inflammation, enhance performance, prevent injury and promote good circulation and healing, and assist in returning the body to homeostasis (internal conditions remain stable and relatively constant).
How is Kinesio® Tape applied?
Kinesio® Tape is applied in five general cuts or techniques:
- The “Y” cut is most commonly used. It is used for muscles, like the deltoid (the muscle forming the rounded contour of the shoulder), so that it can surround the muscle to inhibit or facilitate stimuli.
- The “I” cut is used for acute injuries in small or linear places primarily for edema (a collection of fluid in the spaces between cells of the body – swelling) and pain. For example, an I-shaped piece of tape can be applied to the teres minor (the muscle that laterally rotates the arm and assists in bringing it toward the body) or rhomboid minor (a small skeletal muscle on the back that connects the scapula with the vertebrae of the spinal column).
- The “X” cut is used for muscles that change depending on movement, such as the biceps femoris (a two-headed muscle located on the back of the thigh, which causes both hip extension and knee flexion).
- The “Fan” cut provides large coverage area and flexible positioning of the tape, which helps facilitate and channel the lymph drainage more effectively and decrease edema (swelling). It is commonly used for treating lymphedema (a back up or congestion of lymphatic fluid) because the Kinesio Tape allows for greater drain of the lymph, and as the body moves, the tape acts as a pump continually stimulating the lymph circulation on a 24hr/day basis. The “Web” cut is just a modified fan cut, where both base ends are left intact with strips being cut in the middle part of the Kinesio strip.
- The “Donut” cut is primarily used for edema in a focal or sport specific area. Overlapping strips are used and the center is cut over the area being treated.
Correct tension is also key to success with Kinesio Taping:
- For muscles that are injured or overused, needing relief and healing from pain and tightness, the tape is applied with no tension, starting from the tendons that hold the muscle to the bone and extending toward the origin of the muscle.
- For chronically injured or weakened muscles, needing support and full range of motion, the tape is applied with light tension, starting from the origin of the muscle and extending toward the tendons that hold the muscle to the bone.
In some cases, the treatment of a patient’s condition may also require treatment of other underlying conditions. The Certified Kinesio Taping Practitioner (CKTP) may need to perform assessments to include manual muscle testing, range of motion (ROM) testing, gait assessment, and any other orthopedic special tests that may be necessary in order for him or her to determine the best treatment for the patient’s needs.
Before the tape is applied, the Certified Kinesio Tape Practitioner assures that the patient’s skin is clean and free of oils, sweat and lotions. Otherwise the tape will lose its adhesive abilities. After application, the practitioner rubs the tape to activate the heat sensitive glue. Approximately 30 to 60 minutes is required for the glue to become fully activated before the patient can become physically active or shower. If activity occurs prior to this time, the tape may come off.
Small amounts of body hair will not interfere with the effectiveness or adhesion of the tape. However, areas with significant amounts of hair should be clipped or shaved for best results and less pain when the tape is removed.
How do I maintain the Kinesio® Tape once it’s been applied?
During the first few days, if an edge of the tape has begun to lift, it can be trimmed. Rounding the edges may help prevent the edges from lifting prematurely. To dry tape after exercising, swimming or showering, pat gently with a towel. Do not use a hair dryer, because the adhesive is heat-activated and may become difficult to remove.
Can I apply Kinesio® Tape myself?
It is important to apply the Kinesio strip with the correct degree of tension. If too much tension is applied, the effects are diminished. It is better not to have enough tension than too much. This is why it is important to have the Kinesio Tape applied by a Certified Kinesio Taping Practitioner, and only after a proper evaluation of your condition has been performed by qualified health professionals.
How does Kinesio® Taping differ from the traditional McConnell method of athletic taping?
Traditionally, athletes or others with muscle injuries would tape a muscle or joint to restrict motion and prevent further injury. Kinesiology taping takes the opposite approach, using the tape to open up the muscle and allow full movement.
How do I take the tape off?
Removing tape is best done by a Certified Kinesio Taping Practitioner (CKTP) to reduce the risk of re-injury or causing new injuries (as a result of incorrect removal). It is generally much easier to do when the patient has bathed or the tape is moist. The practitioner will remove the tape from the top down, in the direction of the body hair to limit any discomfort and skin irritation.