Kinesio Tape: Not Just for Olympic Athletes

Posted by admin in Dr. Dean's Wellness Blog


Another Olympics has come and gone and there are amazing images that will live on in our minds for years to come;  Team Canada’s Rosie MacLennan winning our first and only gold in Women’s Trampoline, the Men’s and Women’s eight Rowing silver medals, Brent Hayden’s bronze in the pool, Christine Girard’s bronze in weightlifting, Derek Drouin’s surprise bronze in high-jumping,  Women’s soccer heartbreak in the semi’s, and celebration of success in winning the bronze, American  Michael Phelps and Jamaican  Usain Bolt’s historic, record-breaking achievements, and of course the Queen parachuting into the stadium!!  Then there was that one colourful image that kept popping up in almost every sport, on almost every athlete (see photo above).  Some speculated that it was an attention getting form of body art; most hadn’t a clue what it was or why it was being used.  Like most athletic gear, it has function over fashion.  The idea that it appealed to some viewers as a fashion statement is amusing to those of us who have worked with and benefitted from this colourful tape known as Kinesio Tape.

Recently there was an article in the Vancouver Sun about the Kinesio Tape seen on athletes during the Olympics.  The article suggested some were skeptical about how effective Kinesio Tape was.  In truth, of the people interviewed for the article, only the two researchers who had limited data on the performance of the tape gave a skeptical view.  Clinicians working with athletes as well as the athletes themselves reported very favourable results from years of Kinesio Tape usage.  The suggestion by these2 researchers that there was limited evidence for the tape and that it might be working as a placebo was dismissed by the athletes themselves who have experienced the benefits of Kinesio Tapping.  When German Volleyball player, Sara Goller was asked why she used Kinesio Tape, and if it had anything to do with the colour, she replied “I don’t really mind the colour; it’s more about what it does.  It can release or put tension on a muscle, it depends on what you want.”  Function over fashion for these Olympic athletes!

From a clinical standpoint, I would suggest that the sheer numbers of high performance athletes in the world that report that the tape is helping to support or relieve pain from injuries, is evidence in itself.  The fine tuning of these athletes makes them ultra aware of their bodies and how they are functioning.  There is no place in elite competition for supports that provide no benefit.

Further research to establish exactly how and why Kinesio Tape helps and to what extent it can support healing and function, is always welcomed; however the fact that this research has not been completed does not equate with the tape having a lack of effect, nor is that evidence of a placebo.

Kinesio Tape is not new; it’s been around since the 70’s!  It was invented by one of Japan’s leading Chiropractors, Dr. Kenzo Kase.  It was designed to have a thickness similar to our epidermis, and as such, within a short time after application a person is almost unaware of its presence.  It’s hypoallergenic, and has polymer elastic properties that are woven in such a way that they allow it to be stretched up to 55-60%.  It’s long lasting (3-5days), and can even withstand repeated showering.  It’s virtually painless to remove.

Three common uses of this tape are:

1)  Structural support (allowing the athlete to perform with an injury through functional support)

2)  Proprioceptive (sensory) signaling to an area (example, back muscles for posture , tape acts as a reminder)

3)  Helps reduce swelling and bruising.

There is both art and science to Kinesio Taping.  A clinician must be trained in the art of Kinesio Taping application.  There are specific patterns and tensions for each application.  An understanding of function and physiology is the guiding principle.  The picture below is an image from a chiropractic clinic in the US that shows the result of taping using a fan shape to help with the reduction of edema.  You can see how the bruising follows the lines where the Kenisio Tape was applied.  The tape works by helping to lift the skin over the injured area which in turn aides the lymphatic drainage.

Kinesio Tape is not just for Olympic Athletes.  Kinesio Tape is another modality that clinicians can use on anyone who is suffering with an applicable injury.  In some cases it’s all that is needed to keep a person mobile and functioning while they heal.  In many cases it will allow an individual to continue with their sport, leisure and/or recreational activities without losing ground on their fitness and fun!

For those hoping to optimize their function after an injury, Kinesio tape may be an option to investigate.  And for those who are strictly looking for fashion over function, well, it’s less painful than a tattoo!