What’s up with the Colorful Tape?
This is a question that one of your coworkers might ask, or someone at the gym while you’re getting that good work in. “What is up with the colorful tape that is on your neck?” You may hear this from time to time and you may not fully be able to explain all too well to that person what the tape is biomechanically doing. That is why I am here today to actually explain to you what the purpose of taping is, the research behind KT Tape, and the benefits of tape. There is also a lot of blogs/YouTube videos from different medical professionals out there that are trying to decrease the validity of Kinesio taping and I am just going to clear some things up.
What is KT Tape?
KT tape was created by Dr. Kenzo Case in Japan in the 1970’s. Dr. Case was a Doctor of Chiropractic and wanted to develop a way to aid the body’s natural healing ability and fill a void in the treatment options that were available at that time.
Kinesio tape, specifically, is a specialized tape that is placed on the skin following the afflicted muscle, tendon, or ligament to help lower pain and inflammation in the area. It can also be used to help relax the fatigued muscle and allow support that also promotes mobility and flexibility in the body. One reason as a Doctor of Chiropractic that we love using this tape in office is that it extends the soft tissue mobilization and helps elongate the manual care that is performed in our clinical setting. In other words, it helps aid our adjustments and soft tissue work for days after receiving care in the office.
Here is a list of some of the conditions that KT Tape can help in the healing process with:
How Does It Work?
Here iThe above image shows a simple representation of what kinesio tape is doing by removing the compression of the skin and fascia on the dermis containing blood vessels, nerve receptors, and lymphatic flow/drainage.
In theory, the tape causes a wrinkle in the skin which pulls on the upper layer of the skin thus creating more space between the dermis and the muscle. This new space allows for decompression on the lymph channels running through the dermis and allows for better lymph drainage. Not only does it take compression off of the lymph channels but also takes pressure off the accompanying neural receptors that send specific information to the brain. When an injury occurs the space between the epidermis and the muscle is compressed, which also causes these nerve receptors to be compressed. These receptors send information to the brain regarding continuous touch, light touch, cold, pain, pressure, and heat. This information causes the brain to send out certain signals to the body on how to react to particular stimuli. Kinesio Tape alters the information that these receptors send to the brain and causes a less reactive response in the body, allowing the body to work in a more normal manner and removing some of the roadblocks that normally slow down the healing process.1
According to an article written by Dr. Bradley Grossman of the Mount Sinai Spine Center, “The tape alleviates pain and facilitates lymphatic drainage by microscopically lifting the skin. This lifting affect forms convolutions in the skin thus increasing interstitial space and allowing for decreased inflammation, reduced pain and inflammation, enhanced performance, injury prevention and promotion of good circulation and healing, and assisting the return to homeostasis. Kinesio Tape is designed to facilitate the body’s natural healing process while allowing support and stability to muscles and joints without restricting the body’s range of motion. It reduces swelling, scar tissue, muscle activity and pain and improves muscle contraction, healing, nerve receptors and posture.”1
What is it made of?
According to the website KTTape.com, “KT Tape is made up of reinforced 100% cotton sheathes designed to provide durability and increased strength. These cotton sheathes are embedded into weft yarn to provide uni-directional elasticity, allowing the tape to stretch in length but preventing the tape from stretching in width. These fibers ensure KT Tape will provide stable support without restricting motion.2
The Matrix is a mechanical mesh weave designed to provide precisely 140% bilinear elasticity along the length of the tape, and no elasticity in the tape’s width. 140% elasticity is critical because it is the same elasticity as human skin. By matching the exact elasticity in skin, and stretching lengthwise, KT Tape flexes and moves comfortably with the body’s tissue, releasing and recoiling like a rubber-band. KT Tape’s unique Matrix Mesh also allows for moisture release which is critical for comfort and wear-ability.2
The KT Tape product design team spent hundreds of hours in R & D developing the perfectly balanced adhesive- SecondSkin, a latex-free adhesive that is applied in a specialized wave pattern on the back of the tape creating a gentle heat- activated bond to the skin.2
Depending on how it is applied, KT Tape supports, enables, or restricts soft tissue and its movement. By stretching and recoiling like a rubber band, KT Tape augments tissue function and distributes loads away from inflamed or damaged muscles and tendons, thereby protecting tissues from further injury.”2
Obviously, taping like in the photo is a little bit excessive but here at inTune Chiropractic we are trained to find what is causing the issues and which area needs to be taped in order for the patient to receive the most benefit of the KT tape.
Every companies tape is slightly different, in our office we regularly use KT Tape Pro, which what was just explained above. Each company may use a slightly different material, a slightly different adhesive, and a slightly different Matrix mesh but all work along the same context and do the same thing. It is basically up to the practitioner or the patient which tape they like best.
KT Tape is not so much about controversy but more about the lacking amount of high quality research backing all of its claims and the different views medical professionals have on the subject.
If you go to different websites who produce and sell Kinesio tape you will see an asterisk by all of the clinical claims that are being made saying that they have not fully been clinically proven for all injuries or not proven in general. This is mainly because there are not huge systematic reviews or meta-analyses completed to fully prove all of these claims. Why is this you ask? Mainly it is due in part that these types of research studies have certain ways to conduct research and due to the nature of using tape there is no way to conduct a blind study. So, most of the research consists of case reports and smaller cohort studies. So as of now, most of the research is coming from how different patients respond to using tape.
You can go on YouTube right now and watch some videos from certain medical professionals saying that since there are no huge study then taping must be a placebo effect. But if your one of the many thousands of patients who have used KT tape you will say otherwise. You can see first-hand the multitude of different conditions that KT tape can help. Yes, it is not going to fully heal an injury, but it is an amazing tool to help our other clinical methods we as Doctors of Chiropractic are doing to help the root cause of the problem.
So now that you know what KT tape is, how it is made, the benefits, and some of the controversy of it amongst medical practitioners, you can see why we enjoy using it so much in our office and all the benefits we see first-hand in a clinical setting. If you ever have any questions about how we use tape or what conditions we can use to help you with please reach out and we can schedule a consultation and see you in the office!
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