How Kinesiology Tape Works

How can something that contains no medications or topical ingredients be so effective at relieving pain, inflammation and swelling? It’s all related to the way the tape interacts with the skin, the nerves under the skin and the circulatory system in the injured area. Following is a simplified explanation of the major mechanisms of action:

How Kinesio Tape Works

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Without Kinesiology Tape

When a muscle or joint is overused or injured, that area becomes inflamed or swollen. This swelling is composed of blood (internal bleeding from the injury) and other fluids. The excess fluid should be removed by the lymphatic vessels in the area, but if the inflammation is great enough, the lymphatic vessels get compressed and can’t do their job. This can lead to an ongoing cycle of inflammation and pain, which limits performance and slows the healing process.

How Kinesiology Tape Works

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With Kinesiology Tape

When kinesiology tape is applied to the skin over an inflamed area, the stretch in the tape gently lifts the skin, creating a space between the skin and the tissues below. This creates an area of negative pressure, allowing both blood vessels and lymphatic vessels to dilate (open), increasing the circulation of both fluids. Improved blood flow enhances delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the injured tissues, accelerating the healing process. When lymphatic vessels dilate, the fluid that has collected in the injured area can drain away. This reduces swelling, which relieves pressure on the pain receptors providing immediate pain relief.

But Wait … there’s more! Additional mechanisms that also come into play involve an intricate interplay between the body’s sensory system, neurological system and muscular system. The ongoing, low level sensory stimulation from the tape on the skin activates pain gating mechanisms that assist in the relief of chronic pain. They also allow restoration of normal muscle activation, restoring strength and mobility in muscles that may have been inhibited by pain or injury.

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Benefits Of Kinesiology Taping

In order to appreciate the benefits of kinesiology tape, it is important to understand how it differs from other types of athletic tape or medical tape. Most of these tapes are fairly thick and non-elastic. This allows them to provide rigid support to an injured area, limiting movement to protect it from further injury. Kinesiology tape, on the other hand, has unique elastic properties that allow it to provide dynamic support, protecting the muscles and/or joints, while still allowing a safe and functional range of motion. It is the only tape that actually has therapeutic benefits that include enhancing muscle function and accelerating the healing process. Following are some of the many benefits provided by kinesiology tape:

Pain Relief
Both the physical action of the tape on the skin as well as its interaction with neurosensory processes in the body allow it to provide relief of either acute or chronic pain. This is especially effective for pain from “hot” injuries, where the intensity of the pain is out of proportion to the severity of the injury.

Reduced Swelling and Inflammation
Reduced pressure on the lymphatic drainage channels enhances removal of fluids and other materials that collect in an injured area. This applies not only to sports injuries, but also to post-surgical recovery and other inflammatory conditions, including lymphedema (severe swelling of the extremities.)

Prevents and/or Relieves Spasms and Cramping
The same features that reduce inflammation can help prevent or relieve spasms and cramps in overused or injured muscles.

Speedier Recovery of Overused Muscles
Fatigued, overused muscles contain byproducts of exercise (such as lactic acid) that contribute to pain and stiffness and limit the ability to continue exercising. When kinesiology tape is used over these areas, enhanced removal of these byproducts allows for more rapid recovery. This could translate into improved performance in an endurance event or more complete recovery between repetitive, high intensity events.

Provides Support without Restricting Range of Motion
The unique elastic properties of kinesiology tape allow it to provide support to injured muscles or joints without restricting range of  motion .

Allows Athletes to Remain Active while Injured
This is one of the most important benefits of kinesiology taping for competitive athletes. When used as a therapeutic athletic tape, kinesiology tape can prevent either overstretching or over-contraction of injured muscles. Except in the case of severe injuries, this can allow athletes to continue training and/or competing as their injuries heal.

Enhances Strength and Muscle Tone in Weak or Poorly-Toned Muscles

Certain neurological or muscular disorders can make muscles so weak that it is almost impossible to do the exercises that are critical to improve daily functioning. Kinesiology tape not only provides support to these muscles, but it can also improve muscle activation, allowing therapeutic exercises to be carried out more effectively. One of the major uses in this category is with infants and young children with hypotonia, poor muscle tone that limits their ability to learn to sit up, crawl, etc.

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