Many athletes can be seen wearing tape while playing their sport, but what is this tape? Why does it help? There are two very popular methods used for taping. One is the traditional athletic tape, which usually will be seen wrapped around an athlete’s sprained ankle. Just a side note, 2 million ankle sprains occur each year making it the most common sport’s injury. The use of athletic tape in a sprained ankle helps to provide additional support and stability to the ankle joint by restricting movement. However, restricted motion may lead to more pain and future injuries.
Recently, many athletes are seen with strips of tape placed in various areas of the body. This method of taping is called Kinesio Taping, and Dr. Kenzo Kase, a chiropractor from Japan, invented it in 1973. Interestingly, the tape is about the same thickness of skin, and the tape stretches 140%, which allows the tape to be stretched the same way that skin is stretched during physical activities. The application of this tape is different from the athletic taping because the tape is not being wrapped tightly around a joint with many strips, but rather only several pieces of tape will be applied to the injured area. Also, unlike the athletic taping method, Kinesio Taping allows for full range of motion.
Kinesio Taping is beneficial in helping to diminish pain, inflammation, and improve movement. The theory behind diminishing the pain is based on distraction of the nerves. An example of nerve distraction, is when a football player tries to catch the ball, but jams his finger in the process; the player will then shake his hand to try to lessen the pain. This works to lessen the pain, because the shaking of the hand distracts the nerves, which are sending information to the brain telling the player that his finger hurts. Similarly, the tape distracts the nerves in the injured area by pulling on the skin while playing the sport, which will decrease the nerve signaling to the brain that the area is in pain.
Inflammation is decreased by application of the tape, because the tape pulls “upwards” on the skin, which will create more “space” to allow more blood flow to the injured area, as well as allowing the inflammation to leave the area. Removing the inflammation will also contribute to decreasing the pain.
Movement is improved using the Kinesio Taping method, because the tape allows the joints and muscles to function with full range of motion. This may seem opposite of what an athlete may need, since it would seem that the best way for an injury to heal is rest and not moving, but it is just the opposite. When there is lack of movement in an area, the joints and muscles will become very stiff causing reduced range of motion, which will result in more pain and achiness. The best way to help a sports related injury is to not stop movement for long periods of time, but rather still allow movement, which the Kinesio Taping will provide during the sport. The exact science behind how Kinesio Taping really works has not been determined even though many research studies have been conducted. However, many athletes can testify that Kinesio Taping has helped them with returning to their sport, as well as improving their performance.