What Is Kinesio Tape and How Can It Help?

What Is Kinesio Tape and How Can It Help?

January 28, 2021

If you have watched the Summer Olympics, you have likely seen this thing called kinesio tape on athletes.  Coming in various colors, you will have seen it on a person’s shoulder, knee, and more.  It looks cool, but what does it do?  How does it help?  And if it is stretchy, is it even doing anything??

This weird tape made its way into the mainstream of sports medicine after I left PT school.  So at first, I was definitely skeptical about how it could be useful to my patients or to myself.  But as I saw colleagues use it or a patient come in with a body part taped from another provider saying that they really liked it, I began to become curious.  It didn’t seem to be fad as it’s popularity was only growing over the first few years.

As an amateur runner years ago, I found myself with a running injury in my foot that prevented me from getting the miles I needed in as a part of a half marathon training program.  I was having to stop after 2 miles when I needed to run 6.  I was desperate and happy to see if using kinesio tape on the painful tendon would help.

I used it as instructed and wouldn’t you know… with just a simple technique and 3 pieces of kinesio tape, I was able to run 6 miles before I felt the ache in my foot!  And it wasn’t a fluke when I found that it helped again and again.  I would even use the tape while not running just to not feel the ache when walking around until it resolved.

With positive personal experience and more faith in the possibilities of this tape, I began using it on patients for multiple issues. From back pain to knee pain, plantar fasciitis to neck pain.  With every single patient, I always ask them to be curious and skeptical.  Never promising that it will work.  Only that it’s worth trying.

I have found that most patients DO find this tape to be helpful with their pain.  Especially foot, knee, and back pain.  There will be the occasional person that kinesio tape is not helpful for if they have highly sensitive skin and they cannot tolerate any adhesive.  Very often, I will finish a patient session with applying this tape and they will return asking for it again because it really was so helpful.

And guess who else really benefits from tape?  Pregnant women.  Yup!  Very often, there will be back and abdominal pain towards the later stages of pregnancy.  I have found this tape to be helpful with creating some support to the belly to reduce that round ligament or abdominal pain.  Also, many women just do not tolerate a lumbar support brace because of the compression it applies to the belly.  Tape for the win!  It’s definitely worth a shot.

Pregnant bellies with an abdominal muscle gap called a diastasis recti also benefit from this taping during and after pregnancy for short periods of time.

So HOW does this tape work??

Firstly, this tape is NOT holding things in place the way that traditional athletic tape tries to do.  It has a LOT of stretch to it.  What this tape is really doing is 

  • tapping into our body’s lymphatic system by creating a stretch to the top skin layers to allow for improved lymphatic drainage and circulation while we move around

  • Tapping into our highly underestimated skin and joint receptors to help with proprioception (improved sense of where the body is in space and how we are holding it) 

  • Improving stability and joint support somewhat with the stretch that is applied with the tape

I am sure there are more theories of how this works, but I would say this covers what I have read and seen for myself.  It’s not magic, but it does help many.

At Pinnacle, we may initially see our patients primarily for back, core, and pelvic health concerns, but we really do treat the WHOLE BODY.  If someone comes to see us that is experiencing knee pain all of the sudden or shoulder pain while we are seeing them, we will address that as well!  Kinesio tape is just one more thing we can use to help them on their healing journey.

So have YOU ever had this tape used on you?  Curious if it could help?  I would definitely give it a try if you have an ache or pain and you may be pleasantly surprised.

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