What's all the fuss about
As thw Olympics get properly underway you've probably seen the athletes running, jumping, cycling, throwing, climbing and tumbling their way across your screens looking like they are held together with Gaffa tape ? What is this strange phenomonen that looks so colourful and pretty ? What does it do ? Does it actually work ? Who is it aimed at.
What is is ?
The tape is called Kinesio-tape or K-Tape for short ! It is a woven, slightly stretchy tape that was formulated back in the late 1970's by a Japanese chiropractor as a means of helping supporting patients movements and helping healing and rehab take place. It differs from the traditional types of zinc oxide sports taping that we have used in the past. That tape is rigid and non stretch and is used primarily to support joints but reinforcing the ligaments ( like a boxers hand wraps or a climbers wrist tape ) or to protect skin and prevent tearing - think Rafa Nadal's taped up fingertips stopping the delicate skin tearing during the huge torsion forces involved in a tennis stroke.
What does it do ?
K-Tape is stretchy to the point of being elastic meaning it can be used on muscles where zinc oxide tape wouldn't be appropriate such as the shoulder or neck regions. And it's on muscles which is where the clever stuff comes in. The elastic nature of the tape mimicks that of human skin and the slight elastic pressure lifts the upper layers of the skin, aiding lymphatic circulation and helping to reduce swelling. The ability to add or reduce tension in the tape varies the amount of sensation input through the skin in a process called ' proprioceptive feedback ' ...... basically feeding information back into the nervous system to allow it to make minute adjustments towards balance and co-ordination.
This in turn allows muscles to either be stimulated to do more or switched off to calm down.
Does it actually work ?
In terms of scientific studies it's patchy - some studies claim an increase in performance in muscle power and running economy in runners but there isn't overwhelming evidence it produces huge gains in ths regard. As a Physiotherapist used to basket weaving rugby and lacrosse players ankles I was hugely sceptical when I was first introduced to it ! I mean, it's a bit of elastic tape, right ?! How much impact could that possibly have !
I have to admit - I've been forced to eat my words. Patients have had some lovely results with it reducing pain and allowing them to partake in sports that they otherwise woud have to sit out.
Who uses it ?
Really took off in 2008 Olympics when Kerri Walsh won a gold medal taped up and the world woke up to K-Tape ! But K-Tape is not the preserve of elite athletes, I use it often on my patients in little ole' Leicestershire. Some conditions that really respond well are Achilles pain, anterior knee pain and shoulder impingements and instabilities. Muscular aches and sprains can be strapped to ' offload ' sore tissues allowing pressure to be relieved and pain to be reduced.
A few tips for K-Tape application
Skin needs to be intact, clean and dry. Greasy lotions and creams don't allow the tape to stick
It's showerproof rather than waterproof really.
Keep it on for a maximum of five days - after that your skin will need a break.
........ oh and when it comes to removal, don't let some sadistic person suggest ripping it off in one swift move !!!!