Whether you’re a highly active individual or simply find yourself stuck in the same position for hours on end at work, biomechanical issues or injuries are bound to occur.
Kinesiology tape, developed in 1979 by Japanese chiropractor Dr Kenzo Kase, has become popular among physiotherapists in treating sports and lifestyle-related issues due to the many benefits it provides.
Physiotherapist Sue Ramauthar from Physio Wellness Physiotherapists, explains that therapists use the brightly coloured thin elastic cotton and polymer tape for both proactive and reactive treatments for sportspeople and the general population.
The performance benefit
“The tape’s structure models normal skin in terms of thickness and elasticity and works via various mechanisms.”
In terms of its proactive applications, kinesiology tape gently lifts the skin and lower fascial layers to enhance the interstitial space between the muscle and various superficial tissues.
This mechanical lifting may improve lymph drainage and exercise metabolite removal, while also enhancing the delivery of vital energy and nutrients to fuel and repair muscles, both during exercise and at rest, which can have a performance and recovery benefit.
This also helps to reduce swelling in injured muscles and promotes healing by enhancing the delivery of vital nutrients to muscles and other tissues.
“The other performance benefit stems from kinesiology tape’s ability to improve functional movement patterns by enhancing proprioception – your ability to sense your movement and limbs in space,” adds Sue.
This proprioceptive benefit stems from the tape’s ability to stimulate mechanoreceptors in the skin, which can help to control ROM and movement efficiency.
Another benefit is the tape’s ability to relieve pain by activating the endogenous analgesic system. SpiderTech™ tape, for example, is clinically researched and developed with advanced wave technology to activate Merkel cells (nerve endings) on the skin that signal your nervous system to block discomfort.
In this way, SpiderTech™ supports the body’s natural physiology and may deliver minor pain relief, while also providing support for joint instability, sprains and muscle and ligament strains.
And this application for enhanced functional movement is also beneficial to reduce a client’s injury risk. If physios find that joint or musculoskeletal structures are out of alignment, they can apply tape to improve postural and joint alignment and restore natural function to reduce injury risk.
“In this regard, taping serves as a preventative measure, ensuring clients do not exceed a healthy or beneficial ROM. When applied correctly, the kinesthetic awareness the tape creates can help them better understand their limits and work safely within that range,” explains Sue.
This also applies in a reactive treatment context, as the tape helps injured patients working through rehab programs. By supporting compromised biomechanics from injury or weakness, the tape allows clients to train within a safe ROM that won’t exacerbate the injury, without limiting movement in the way that traditional strapping does.
All in the application
The ability to deliver these benefits is highly dependent on the tape’s quality and how it’s applied – the direction of pull, the shape, the tension and the location of the tape all play important roles in delivering the desired effect.
“Due to its popularity, there are many different brands and products available on the market today. Products from cheaper brands don’t generally offer the same adhesion or efficacy compared to premium brands, which is why we exclusively use SpiderTech™ products in our practice,” states Sue.
“Physiotherapists are trained to apply the tape correctly, and usually rely on rolls to do so. While applications can last for up to 5 days if you use quality products, clients may need to reapply the taping between sessions, if the taping comes loose, or before events or races.”
These requirements make pre-cut kinesiology tape extremely functional and versatile. When selecting a pre-cut option, Sue recommends that you stick with quality brands to get the most benefit and that you carefully read and follow the application guide provided with the tape.
SpiderTech™ offers a large range of more than 17 body part-specific pre-cut products. The patented Snap-Stick-Go tape backing makes it simple to apply, with easy-to-follow numbered application instructions and online support for specific needs.
“It can be beneficial to have a qualified professional demonstrate how to apply the pre-cut tape initially. We always aim to empower clients in this way to enable them to tape themselves before an event or between treatment sessions when required.”
She adds that you can also use the pre-cut tape as a first-line treatment for minor injuries or niggles. “However, if you don’t experience relief, it is important to consult a qualified professional.”
About Sue Ramauthar
Sue is the founder of Physio Wellness Physiotherapists, an outpatient physiotherapy practice with branches in Johannesburg – Rosebank and Parktown North – and Cape Town, which deals predominantly with lifestyle and sports-related injury rehabilitation.