Updated: Mar 21
Ok, so there might be hotter topics right now, like dry needling, cupping, cryotherapy, etc., but prior to these hot topics, kinesiology tape made a huge surge into the spotlight as many professional athletes started to wear the tape during their competitions. Which led many people who were wanting to be/look like the pros to start using kinesiology tape. Yes, kinesiology tape is still relevant today and serves a purpose in rehab, training, and competition. However, most people do not understand how to properly apply the tape, when it is appropriate to use, or how it actually works. So, let's take a closer look at how the tape actually works and the benefits it can provide.
How Does Kinesiology Tape Work?
First of all, kinesiology tape does not suddenly make you Superman or Superwoman or give you super powers to performing incredible feats, so you can all of the sudden lift heavier or run faster. It also does not just magically fix the problem. Rather it is a tool that we can use to help assist our body's own healing mechanisms.
To understand how the tape works, you first must have a basic understanding of how pain works. Now pain is very, very complex, so I am only going to scratch the surface with how pain works, so you can get a better understanding of what we are trying to accomplish by using kinesiology tape. Contrary to what you might think, we do not have "pain sensing" fibers or nerves. Rather, our sensory nerves are constantly taking in information and sending it to the brain for interpretation. If our brain interprets the signal as a threat, then the brain sends a pain signal to that area of our body. This triggers us to alter whatever it is that we are doing to try and get away from that threat. Meaning, our body does not sense pain, rather it is an opinion or interpretation in our brain.
Pain does not always = tissue damage, rather pain is often a request for change. As mentioned above, our brain is interpreting a threat and wants us to move away from the perceived threat. Because of this, pain can alter our movement patterns in unpredictable ways. Chronic pain (pain lasting longer than 3 months) alters our motor output (how our muscles work), which makes using correct movement patterns impossible.
Pain also alters the map in our brain (our homunculus - see picture) associated with the area in which we are experiencing pain. Essentially making that area in our brain fuzzy, so it doesn't work as sharply as when pain is absent.
Now that you have a better understanding of how pain works, we can discuss the details of how the tape works. The goal of kinesiology tape is to decrease the perceived threat and increase evidence of safety to alter how the brain is interpreting the signals it receives. If we can do these two things, the brain will decrease its pain signals, which allows the brain and the area in which we are experience pain to work better.
Kinesiology tape has a built in stretch, which when applied to the skin causes a lifting effect. This allows for a couple of benefits.
Creates a decompression effect on the skin and superficial fascia, which allows for better movement of the muscle below.
Increasing space improves blood flow, which can reduce swelling.
Improving movement and decreases swelling = decreased pain
Another effect of the tape is increasing the brain's awareness of the painful body part. As mentioned, our skin has a number of sensory receptors that send signals to the brain, but these signals and the interpretation of these signals get fuzzy when we are experiencing pain. Using kinesiology tape on the affected area improves our sensory input and helps sharpen the map in our brain (the homunculus), which sharpens our communication between the brain and that area. This improves the output of the nervous system and improves our motor control. If we improve our motor control and movement patters, we decrease pain and our poor compensatory movement patterns.
YES, Kinesiology Tape Does Really Work!
The answer to our original question is, Yes! Kinesiology tape does actually work and has great benefits that can help someone dealing with an injury or aches and pains that are impacting their performance. However, as mentioned, it is NOT the fix to your problem, rather it is another tool in our tool box to help our body's already great natural healing mechanisms.
If you are dealing with an injury or aches/pain and are wondering if kinesiology tape might be beneficial for you and what else you need to do to fix the underlying problem consider taking advantage of one of our FREE Discovery Sessions ($175 value). In the Discovery Session, you will learn the underlying cause of your problem and the recommended recovery plan, which might include kinesiology taping techniques. You can also have all of your questions answered prior to booking an appoint. To schedule click here >> FREE Discovery Session or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.