If you watched the recent Crossfit Games, there is a good chance you noticed some athletes donning multi-colored tape strips and patches on various body parts. It was quite noticeable on those more scantily-clad, such as beach volleyball and track and field athletes. In fact, one volleyball gal looked like she had the Michigan football “winged” helmet decal emblazoned across her abs.
This stuff is called Kinesiology or Kinesio tape. A bit of history:
Kinesio tape has actually been around for quite a while. Kenzo Kase, a Japanese chiropractor and acupuncturist, designed the tape and taping method back in 1979. Kase believed a flexible tape would stimulate better circulation to an injured muscle due to its tug on the skin. Traditional tape and taping methods were thought to be too restrictive and even exacerbate injuries as a result of the inhibited flow of inflammatory fluids under the skin.
Does Kinesio tape actually expedite recovery from muscle injury, or is it also used to enhance performance? If solely used for injuries, there must have been dozens of wounded Olympians competing. My guess is the tape is used for performance benefits as well. If so, does it work or is it yet another gimmick one must use to “keep up with the Joneses?”
A study conducted in Italy attempted to determine the immediate effects of kinesio taping on maximal muscle strength of the dominant quadriceps of 36 healthy subjects. Subjects were tested across three different sessions, randomly receiving three experimental kinesiotaping conditions:
Tape applied with the goal of enhancing muscle strength.
Tape applied with the goal of inhibiting muscle strength.
Tape applied incorrectly with the goal to deceive.
Quadriceps muscle strength was measured by means of an isokinetic maximal test performed at 60 and 180 degrees per second. Two secondary outcome measures were also performed: a one-leg triple jump for distance to measure leg performance and the Global Rating of Change Scale to calculate the correlation between the Kinesio taping technique and the subjective perception of strength.
Here is what they found:
None of the three taping conditions showed a significant change in muscle strength and performance. The effect size was very low under all conditions. Only a few subjects showed an individual change greater than the minimal detectable change. Global Rating of Change Scale scores demonstrated low to moderate correlation with the type of taping applied, but some placebo effects were detected independent of the condition.
This study concluded no significant effect in maximal quadriceps strength immediately after the application of enhancing, inhibiting, or deceptive Kinesio taping. Therefore, the test results do not support the use of Kinesio taping as a means of altering maximal muscle strength in healthy people.
That stated, there are also those skeptical about the Kinesio taping’s effect. According to Dr. Nicholas Fletcher, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Emory University, there are few large scientific studies regarding its effectiveness. Dr. Fletcher stated, “I think, if anything, there is a placebo effect involved, and there probably is a little bit of a peer pressure effect. When people see athletes who are doing so well, they think, ‘Maybe this could work for me.’”
What Makes kinesiology tape Special? – Elasticity
In most cases, kinesiology tape is comprised of flexible nylon and cotton fibers; this allows the tape to provide a “snap-back” effect, producing a neuromuscular response underneath the skin where the tape is applied. Through recent fascial research, it has been shown that pulling on the skin can create widespread effects within the body.
Myofascia is a very important piece in the taping game (this is what you are effecting when you roll out and mobilize). Obviously, the health of your myofascia is pivotal to promoting proper movement patterns. When kinesiology tape is applied to the skin, it creates a neurological response, providing a change in the way that my0fascia functions, thus changing the way that movement patterns are performed. We can essentially allow for better muscle activation and promote better movement patterns with the support of kinesiology tape.
This elasticity also creates a lifting effect on the skin to allow for better lymphatic drainage and blood flow. These are two pivotal components in allowing for swelling drainage and tissue nutrient restoration during the healing process.
Kinesiology tapes use a superior adhesive (it varies depending on the tape brand) that allows for superior support over long periods of time and under extreme conditions. This adhesiveness allows for the tape to withstand water, sweat, mud, etc. without coming off or losing support. The brands above promote the fact that you can, in fact, go swimming wearing kinesiology tape.
How is this possible? Kinesiology tape provides a stimulus in the skin that externally supports damaged tissue and allows for better circulation for faster healing. This is why wearing tape after intense workouts or acute injuries provides faster recovery.
Lymphatic Drainage/Swelling Reduction
Kinesiology tape is unique in its ability to create a lifting effect on the skin to allow for better lymphatic drainage in areas of swelling. This can have a dramatic effect on recovery time after a workout and healing of damaged tissue after injury.
One of the most important aspects of rehabilitation is movement. This is pivotal because it provides blood flow and drainage in the areas of injury to allow for faster healing. It also reduces the amount of muscle atrophy or withering away that can occur after and injury. White athletic tape restricts range of motion and deactivates muscles; whereas, kinesiology tape promotes muscle activation, while maintaining support. This allows for proper movement patterns even with injury and allows for a much faster healing process.
Things come and go in the fitness industry – ankle weights, salt tablets, compression garments, toning shoes, sauna suits, ad nauseam. Some even come back. Kinesio taping may be the classical case of revisiting the past.
Does Kinesio taping facilitate recovery for injured muscles? I do not know. Does it enhance athletic performance? We need more research to determine that. What’s your experience? Let us know in the comments below.
Credit: Breaking Muscle , Tabata Times