Lots of athletes swear by the colorful tape from Japan when it comes to treating pain and muscle tension. They're meant to not only relieve pain, but also encourage healing of injuries. But how does that work?
Back, knee, thigh, calf, neck - they show up on practically every part of the body. Brightly colored Kinesiology tape, highly elastic and self-adhesive, can even be purchased in supermarkets. It’s becoming increasingly popular, in part because it’s the treatment of choice for injuries among famous sports figures.
Japanese chiropractor Kenzo Kase developed the special tape some thirty years ago. It’s stuck directly to the body, like a second skin, and it’s meant to support muscles and fasciae without hindering movement. Their heat-activated acrylic adhesive sticks to the skin well, and they can easily be worn for several days, even in the shower.
The technique used for taping is determined by the patient's complaints. But it should only be done by a trained professional, since correct taping is impossible without anatomical knowledge of muscle function and the origin and insertion points – at least according to the Association of German Physical Therapists. But other experts disagree, saying that it's perfectly acceptable for laypeople to apply the tape to the lower extremities.
Practitioners are, however, agreed on the usefulness of Kinesio taping. Doctors and physical therapists have had good results with it and appreciate its wide variety of possible applications. Even though studies have yet to prove its efficacy, experts say its purported mechanism of action is plausible: the tape lifts the outer layer of skin, improving the flow of blood and lymphatic fluid to the injured tissue, and facilitating the removal of inflammatory substances.
So why not try it? There are no side effects, and in the worst case, the tape won't give you any relief. It can, however, irritate sensitive skin, so people with allergies should be careful. And one thing is important to remember: a Kinesio taping treatment should not be used in place of a visit to the doctor!