Justine Whitaker – Director and Nurse Specialist of Northern Lymphology Ltd, is a Qualified Kinesio Tape Instructor.
Kinesio® Tex Tape and its application technique were invented in the early 1970’s in Japan by Dr Kenzo Kase. As a Chiropractor he found that other taping methods which were available such as athletic tape and strapping worked well in supporting muscles and joints but didn’t allow movement which he found restricted the healing process of painful and injured areas. Knowing that most injured tissue has an element of swelling (oedema), he developed a tape which when applied in specific techniques and stretched, not only could he direct fluid to be drained but also assist the body to relieve pain and aid muscle and joint rehabilitation.
Kinesio® Tex Tape is now a huge international phenomena and is used and applied in a great many medical and sports sectors across the world. The 2008 Olympic Games athletes were seen wearing brightly coloured tape to various parts of their bodies, in various sporting activities from various countries. In the UK, the Kinesio® Tex Taping Method is widely used in many hospital and clinic settings as well as national football teams and other sporting activities.
What does Kinesio® Tex Tape do?
The Kinesio® Tex Tape and method allows free movement of the skin, tissue and muscular structures, unlike other forms of taping techniques. The 100% cotton tape together with its ability to stretch, combined with the method of application improve lymphatic function resulting in reduction of oedema. This is achieved by the taped skin forming convolutions (ripple effect). When the skin is lifted by this technique, the flow of blood and lymphatic fluid is increased and depending on where the tapes is first applied, will have a ‘pulling back’ or ‘recoil’ nature to the drainage pathway therefore allowing fluid to be directed (or channeled) to an area which is working well. For example if tape is placed near the armpit and then applied down towards the leg, this will help drain oedema from the leg.
What are the functions of the Kinesio® Tex Taping Method?
The expanding and contracting properties of the tape provides gentle sensory stimulation to various types of sensory receptors in the skin during movement. The brain processes these sensations at different rates which result in the tape allowing the following five main functions to happen:
- Lymphatic Function: removes congestion of lymphatic fluid or haemorrhages (bruising) under the skin. Stimulates the mechanisms that facilitate the movement of lymphatic fluid.
- Skin Function: relieves pain or abnormal feeling on the skin and muscles, stimulates the skin.
- Fascia Function: return homeostasis to the fascial matrix.
- Muscle Function: supports the muscle in movement both for weak and tight muscles. Elastic properties of the tape replicate and enhance the function of muscle fibres and tendons.
- Joint Function: corrects misalignment of the joint. Improves alignment of structure through its affect on muscle layers and pain therefore enhancing correct posture.
Who should apply Kinesio® Tex Tape?
Dr Kase founded the Kinesio Taping Association International (KTAI). KTAI, through nationally recognized providers within over 70 countries worldwide, offers training to practitioners who may work in one of the following professions: Medicine, Nursing, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Chiropractics and Sports Therapy. Training is undertaken at 3 levels and when level 3 is completed and after passing a written exam, the practitioner will have the letters CKTP after their name, standing for Certified Kinesio Taping Practitioner, and should be registered with the KTA. When the practitioner is registered with the KTA it is a guarantee that they are practising a technique which they have been officially certified to do, thus offering patients/clients security against unofficial and copy techniques. CKTP in the UK can be verified on the following website: Kinesio UK
Can I apply Kinesio® Tex Tape to myself?
Yes, in some instances. This will depend on your condition and where the tape needs applying. Initially the tape needs applying by a CKTP and assessment and discussion between yourselves will decide whether it is appropriate to do so, they will also be able to direct you as to where you can buy the tape.
When should I not apply Kinesio® Tex Tape?
Kinesio® Tex Tape has very few side effects as it is made from cotton, however on occasion allergic reaction may occur to the adhesive properties of the tape. Generally if a rash or irritation occurs it is usually due to inaccurate application or it has been worn for too long. The following Precautions need to be considered however your CKTP will guide you to appropriate treatment:
- Cardiac problems
- Open wounds
- Blocked arteries
- Active infection
- Active cancer
What are the limitations of the Kinesio® Tex Tape?
Body hair may need to be clipped or shaved prior to application and this will need extra caution in an area where lymphoedema is present. The tape needs to be applied approximately 30 minutes prior to activity to allow the tape to adhere correctly. Occasionally extra adhesive properties such as a skin preparation may need to be considered dependent upon the degree of activity and individual perspiration levels. A willingness to wear the tape in public for multiple days needs consideration as it does on occasion need to be applied in areas of the body which are on view e.g. the neck.
What does Kinesio® Tex Tape look like?
Kinesio® Tex Tape is a cotton tape which comes in various widths, the most common being 5cm (2 inches). It comes in a variety of colours, Beige, Pink, Blue and Black. Some practitioners’ believe the choice in colour has added benefit to patients and certain colours work better with certain types of conditions e.g. a hot injured congested area responds more with blue tape as this ‘cool’ colour takes away the red hot feeling, however this is not been researched at this stage. There is evidence in other fields of medicine that the patients beliefs and choice do contribute positively to a better recovery, so with Kinesio® Tex Tape you should be given a choice of colour if you so wish.
Dr Kenzo Kase
Is there any research to say Kinesio® Taping works?
Yes, there is some research available which supports the benefits of using the tape and its technique, however this is still very limited. As a relatively new technique, research is still in its infancy, but studies are being carried out in the UK and other parts of the world and this evidence base is beginning to increase. Anecdotal evidence is more readily available, although scientific evidence is minimal, practitioners (CKTP’s) who use the technique do so confidently knowing that it gives benefit and ethically couldn’t not use.
How long can I wear Kinesio® Tex Tape for?
It is recommended that it stays on for 3-5 days. This is because this is the length of time it takes for your body to renew your top level of skin cells.
Can I bath and shower in Kinesio® Tex Tape?
Kinesio® Tex Tape is only available as a water-resistant product. It is not recommended to soak in water for long periods as this encourages the ends to loosen, however it should stay in place for the recommended length of time. It is a cotton tape so won’t dry as quickly a skin once it has become wet. It is not advisable to dry the tape with a hairdryer as this will fix the adhesive properties making removal very difficult.
What is the best way to remove the Kinesio® Tex Tape?
Removal of the tape should be done in the direction of the hair growth. There are two different ways to remove the Kinesio® Tex Tape – by removing the tape from the skin or removing the skin from the tape. The first method is to roll the tape off using the base of the hand. The other method is pulling the skin gently from the tape with the fingers. Kinesio® Tex Tape may be removed while soaked in water, soap, hand lotion or oil may be used to ease the removal.