A look into the growing trend of using kinesiology tape to aid in healing injuries.
The 2008 Olympics in Beijing probably marked the moment in sports history when kinesiology tape first raised public awareness — or curiosity — on a large scale. U.S. beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh had some on her shoulder, and talk went like this:
Is that a temporary or permanent tattoo?
Tape? You mean like an Icy Hot patch?
It’s an elastic tape without a warming/cooling effect that is actually supposed to stabilize and speed healing?
For many, it sounded like a stretch.
As the story goes, kinesiology tape was developed about 30 years ago by chiropractor Dr. Kenzo Kase. Despite its relative obscurity in the mainstream until Beijing, it has enjoyed widespread use internationally by progressive chiropractors, physical therapists, and sports doctors for at least a decade.
Kinesio tape was developed as an alternative to non-flexible tapes that were previously the standard. It was designed to serve those original purposes while enabling athletes to return to competition or training sooner — in many cases, immediately.
Explanations of what kinesio tape can do are met with a combination of skepticism and wonder. However, when an accomplished expert like Dr. Ted Forcum, a veteran member of Summer and Winter Olympics sports medical teams, enthusiastically explains the broad range of injuries and ailments that can be addressed with the stuff, one can’t help but give it a try.
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Forcum first received professional training in non-elastic taping 30 years ago, but the arrival and continual improvement of elastic taping products have enabled him to develop more versatile taping methods.
I contacted Lumos, Inc., one of a growing number of kinesiology tape manufacturers and the maker of KT Tape, to ask if I could try its product to combat knee and shoulder/neck pain I’ve been having.
Jim Jenson, vice president of sales and marketing at Lumos, responded and provided some background regarding the history and use of kinesiology tape, along with an explanation of why he thinks his product is user friendly and suited for professional use.
KT Tape is pre-cut — one of those innovations that seems obvious in hindsight. Other brands come in a single long roll. Jenson said Lumos worked with multiple chiropractors and come up with three standards:
- Strips are pre-cut to a standard 10-inch length for convenience.
- Rounded corners ensure better adhesion, especially for use in water.
- Each strip has a perforated line running down the middle so it can easily be separated and applied in a Y-shape, a common practice.
Jenson said a proper adhesive pattern and tackiness to stay on despite activity, bodily oils, sweat and water is essential to making an effective kinesiology tape.
I followed this up with a call to Forcum, who went into greater detail about the use of KT Tape. He broke it down into two primary approaches: function and stabilization.
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To illustrate a functional approach, Forcum used the example of a swimmer with a shoulder injury. In that case, the body wants to compensate for the injury, which could increase the tone in one muscle and decrease it in another. Kinesio taping can preserve balance by encouraging continued full range of motion of the affected area by providing dynamic support, lymphatic drainage for less swelling, quicker healing, and reduced pain. The same would apply to an ankle sprain.
A stabilization approach would strive for the same result that rigid taping provides, but without limiting activity and movement. Forcum said that in this scenario, the goal is to maintain proper positioning and movement of joints and muscles along their desired natural arc to avoid further aggravation to the affected area, while enabling an individual to be active during healing.
After receiving some KT Tape, I asked my chiropractor if she knew anything about kinesiology taping. “Sure,” Dr. Johanna Lelke replied, “I was trained by a well-known authority on the discipline, Ted Forcum.”
The doctor recommended we do a supportive Y-strip from my shoulder blade to the base of my neck to relieve some of the pressure in that area, and then cut up the already perforated KT Tape for a lymphatic drain along my inner knee.
The early results are good, as I’ve noticed improvements in my shoulder/neck area and my knees.
History Of Usage
Since Kerri Walsh acted as the original plug for the technology and practice, more and more athletes have claimed positive results and relief through the use of kinesiology tape. Forcum said he used the tape on members of the Coors Light Cycling Team in the early 1990s and again with cyclists at the Beijing Olympics.
Recently, Forcum has worked with professional triathletes Greg and Laura Bennett.
To emphasize the relevance of kinesiology taping for all types of lifestyles and sports activities, Forcum was excited to report that one of his age-group clients was able to complete Ironman Coeur d’Alene despite a hip injury.
Clearly, the stuff works.
“I wish I had this back when I was an athlete,” Forcum said.