by Joané van Oudtshoorn, first published in We Love Pets SA.
You’ve likely seen athletes taped up in this colorful, eye-catching tape, from sore shoulders to aching knees. This wonderful tool
that rehabilitation therapists, in the human and animal field, use daily has more benefits than just what meets the eye.
First things first, let’s start at the beginning…
Kinesiology is the scientific study of the mechanics of body movements. It aims to detect and correct imbalances and is not used to diagnose disorders. Kinesiology tape is an elastic, breathable, therapeutic tape specifically formulated to have positive effects on the body when applied by a therapist.
Today, there are numerous brands of kinesiology tape on the market, but the original product, Kinesio tape or Kinesio Tex Tape, was developed in the late 1970’s by Dr. Kenzo Kase, a Japanese chiropractor who wanted a tape that provided support but didn’t limit movement the way traditional athletic tapes did. Kase created kinesio tape with a blend of cotton and nylon. The tape is designed to mimic the skin’s elasticity so you can use your full range of motion while moving or competing.
The tape’s medical-grade adhesive is also water-resistant and strong enough to stay on for three to five days when applied directly to the
skin. In the veterinary or animal rehabilitation field the kinesio tape has been adapted and tested to stick to different types of coats by
adapting the adhesive pattern to a more wavy pattern that will adhere better. It can be applied in an X, Y, I, or fan pattern, depending on the therapist’s goals.
How does it work?
It is believed to decrease inflammation, improve lymph drainage, and increase proprioception and muscle activation by stimulating receptors in the skin. It encourages awareness of an area and is especially helpful when dealing with neurological patients.When the tape is applied to an area it recoils slightly, gently lifting the skin. It is believed that this helps to create a microscopic space between the skin and the tissues underneath it. The change in pressure between the layers enhances the flow of lymphatic fluid, therefore improving circulation.
The lymphatic system is the way that the body regulates swelling, as well as fluid buildup and responsible for removing waste substances from the blood stream. The lifting action of the kinesio tape reduces compression on the affected area. It also reduces pressure on pain receptors within the skin and reduces resistance to lymphatic drainage that will increase sensitivity and pain.
Some studies have shown that kinesiology tape is effective in improving joint range of motion mainly looking at the shoulder, elbow and knee joint in humans and dogs. Even though the increase in space is slight, it helps reduce the chance of joint irritation.
Signals in pain pathwaysAll of our tissues (skin, connective tissue, fascia, and muscles) contain sensory receptors that feel pain, temperature, and touch. Those receptors all contribute to proprioception or body awareness. Kinesiology taping creates a lift that unloads the underlying tissues. Trigger points are a good example. Physical therapists have used taping to lift the skin over these tense, knotted
muscles. When the area is decompressed, pain receptors send a new signal to the brain, and tension in the trigger point decreases. Kinesiology taping is most effective when it’s used in conjunction with other treatments like manual therapy.
Kinesiology tape can help re-train muscles that have lost function or that have gotten used to an incorrect way of working. For example, kinesiology taping can be used to correct posture, by activating core muscles. This may be because the strange sensation of tape on the skin can make the patient more aware of the area.
Kinesiology tape is also used to add extra support to weak muscles or joints that need it. Unlike white medical or athletic tape, kinesiology tape allows normal movement. In fact, some studies show that it can enhance movement and endurance, therefore improving performance.
Although you should never use kinesiology tape on an open wound, there is some scientific evidence to suggest that kinesiology tape can improve the longterm appearance of scars after surgery or injury.
Why do we use it?
- Relieve muscle pain and tension
- Reduce inflammation
- Re-educate muscle memory
- Improve body awareness
- Support the musculoskeletal system during training, travelling or performance
- Encourage full range of motion
- Decrease recovery time
When not to tape:
There are some circumstances in which kinesiology tape should not be used. They include:
- Open wounds
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Active cancer
- Lymph node removal
- Fragile skin
Long & short of it
Although the effectiveness of kinesiology taping is not well researched yet, it may have many positive effects on the body. Before using it, you should always consult with a professional before you try to put it on yourself or your animal. Taping is not a permanent solution but can assist in treating the root problem in a rehabilitation program.