If you watch or play sports, you've likely seen athletes wearing kinesiology tape for injuries. This flexible, elastic tape allows for dynamic support to an injured joint or muscle while allowing for a full range of movement. Unlike the tight wrapping of traditional athletic or strapping tape, kinesiology tape only requires application directly over or around the injured area.
Functions of Kinesiology Tape
The mechanics of kinesiology tape are still being reviewed and understood, but athletes, physical trainers, and many others have used it for a variety of purposes. Among them are:
- Acute soft tissue injuries: increased healing rate in bruising, muscle strains, or ligament sprains.
- Muscle strengthening: reducing muscle fatigue and increasing muscle tone.
- Post-fracture support.
- Reducing joint swelling.
- Reducing swelling in tendonpathies and fasciopathies: tendonitis, plantar fascitis.
- Pain relief and reducing swelling in systemic conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia.
- Reduced need for re-application: Kinesiology tape can be worn for up to 4 or 5 days, and even while showering, bathing, and swimming!
Benefits of Kinesiology Tape
So what does kinesiology tape do? Its effects are still being studied, but it reputedly has three major benefits:
1. Pain Relief
By supporting weak or injured muscle groups or joints, kinesiology tape reduces pain while still allowing an injured part to function and move with a dynamic range of motion. In this way it helps build muscle strength while helping to keep muscles protected from injury.
Beyond this, by relieving pressure in an injured area and its nerve receptors, kinesiology tape is thought to slow or diminish the pain signals sent to the brain. By relieving this pressure, it may also reduce painful muscle spasms.
2. Reduced Swelling
The elastic properties of the tape are thought to have a vacuum effect, lifting skin away from swollen tissue and allowing for easier drainage of excess fluid in a bruised area as well as increased blood flow. Due to this, its usefulness has even been investigated in managing scar tissue.
3. Muscle Support
Kinesiology tape provides injured joints and muscles with support that doesn't require limiting their movement. Its vacuum effect is thought to increase the space for muscle contraction, increasing blood flow and reducing muscle fatigue.
In addition, many athletes use it to increase their proprioception, or their awareness of their own body's movement. It's thought that by acting on the sensory nervous system's awareness of your skin and the underlying muscles and joints, it increases your body's awareness of its own movements and allows for intuitive correction of poor form or posture. After injuries, this may help realign joints or correct muscle imbalances stemming from muscle loss during inactivity.
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