The Roles of Kinesio Tape®
Erica D. Carlyn Stuart
California University of Pennsylvania
This paper discusses research on the
effects of Kinesio Tape® applied to various musculoskeletal injuries
as well as common pathologies. Kinesio Tape®, along with other
various taping techniques such as McConnell tape, white athletic tape, and
elastic tape, are described. In the field of sports medicine, taping techniques
play a major role in the support, protection, and prevention of athletic
Techniques of Kinesio Taping
Taping techniques are frequently used for support of athletic injuries
and musculoskeletal imbalances. The most commonly used types of tape include:
white athletic tape, McConnell tape, and some variations of elastic tape. These
taping methods are used to support joints; however, Kinesio taping can offer
much more than support. The application of Kinesio tape® is rarely
seen in an athletic training setting but more commonly used by physical
therapists and chiropractors. The purpose of this review is to educate certified
athletic trainers of the beneficial properties, techniques, and effects of
Kinesio tape®, which also may have a positive result on common
When analyzing the various choices of taping methods for a specific
injury, it is vital to determine exactly what effect is needed to benefit the
injury. White athletic tape is the most common taping technique used in injury
prevention and to support acute injuries.1 Athletic tape limits joint
movement and is not used for rehabilitative purposes because of its rigid,
supportive characteristics that do not allow the weakened or injured muscles to
heal and function properly.1, 2 The McConnell tape is an adhesive,
super-rigid tape, primarily used for its improvements in neuromuscular
taping is known more for its therapeutic effects than as a taping
technique. Kinesio tape® (KT) was developed in Japan by Dr. Kenzo
Kase in 1963 and was introduced to the United States in the 1990’s. 4,5
is a latex free, non-medicated elastic tape that acts as a form of support
without compromising a patient’s range of motion while biomechanically
allowing the body to heal itself. Kineso tape’s 100% cotton fibers are thin,
air permeable, acrylic adhesive fabric. It differs from other elastic tapes in
the sense that it can be stretched up to 140% of its original length, applying a
constant pulling force to the skin.6-8 Moisture and air flow through
KT’s porous fabric minimizes skin irritation and allows the tape to be worn
continuously for three to four days before a new application is required.6-8
This elastic quality
creates convulsions that are thought to lift the skin to relieve underlying
pressure and provide greater drainage.7 KT can be used in conjunction
with other therapies such as cryotherapy, hydrotherapy, and electrical
stimulation. The tape is manufactured in several sizes ranging from ˝ inch to 4
inches in width, 2-inch width being the most common.
application of Kinesio tape® is rather simple and is always applied
based on the treatment goals. The variables in the application include position
of the affected area, amount of pre-stretch applied to the tape, and the
treatment goals. When targeting a weak muscle it is important to apply the tape
from the specific muscles origin to its insertion with a 25-50 percent tension
to facilitate the muscles proper function.8 To relieve a muscle
spasm, the tape is applied from the muscles insertion to origin with 15-25
percent tension. 8
cut shapes of KT are designed to allow for optimal responses. An “X” strip,
“Y” strip, and ‘I” strip all seek various results. The size and shape of
the targeted muscles depict which type of KT strip will be applied. The “I”
shaped KT application is used for small areas, such as the teres minor or
rhomboid minor, whereas “Y” shaped application is used for large areas such
as pectoralis major or the deltoid. The “X” shaped application is used for
large and long areas, such as the bicep and triceps muscle.7 An alteration to the basic application techniques may be appropriate,
including combining techniques and adding multiple strips.
Theorized Effects of Kinesio tape®
is used for pain reduction due to a musculoskeletal injury and is commonly used
during competition or activity.9 The literature claims that tissue
compression present during injury stimulates subcutaneous pain receptors that
transmit discomfort signals to the brain.8 When applying the tape
directly over the area of pain, KT decreases the pressure by applying a lifting
force to the skin directly over the treatment area.4 The physical
effects of the tape may have included the activation of the Meissner’s
corpusles along with the Pacinian corpuscles due to the pressure relief from the
lifting technique of the tape.
application of KT can be used to produce increased sensory stimulation of the
mechanoceptors in ligaments and tendons to assist or limit motion while relying
on the stretched tape for corrective posture.9 A light tension KT
technique may be applied to facilitate muscle contraction of injured muscles.
Several authors report that KT may have a potential for facilitation of muscle
strengthening due to the support provided by the tape that contracts during
movements of the joints.6-8 The
elastic properties of KT allow for enhanced joint functions, support, and
re-education of weakened muscle to be strengthened while in use during exercise.10
The continuous feedback 24 hours a day, 3-5 days a week, allows for the
tape to slowly re-align and position the body in a corrective manner.10 Applying
a fan shaped technique of KT to an area of inflammation with a proximal
directional pull, along with muscle contraction and relaxation, allows for a
superficial to deep lymphatic drainage.8, 11 Also an increase in the
interstitial space between the skin and underlying connective tissues will
provide a greater flow of venous and lymphatic fluids.7, 11 KT does not restrict ROM (range of motion) but is
thought to enhance ROM with its elastic qualities, therefore acting only as
support to the injured joint.8 KT
provides support to musculoskeletal structures while enhancing the body’s
natural healing process.12
The body has several types of receptors including proprioceptors that
receive impulses from areas where body movements have occurred. The Pacinian
corpuscles and Ruffini endings are two important receptors located in the joints
and skin. They are activated by quick changes in the angle of the joint and by
pressure that compresses and distorts the capsule for a brief period of time.
Ruffini endings are also activated with mechanical deformation and signal the
nervous system when there is continuous pressure. Some researchers suggest that
taping provides immediate sensorimotor feedback through direct contact between
the skin and tape providing a sense of awareness.1, 13 KT’s elastic
properties may cause proprioceptive stimulation anticipating a facilitory effect
of cutaneous mechanoreceptors.11 Some research suggests KT as a
useful therapeutic and prophylactic assistance in rehabilitation and during
activity on the field.9
Uses of Kinesio tape® in
therapists and chiropractors frequently use KT as a long-term treatment for
patients who are experiencing pain in a localized area. Certified athletic
trainers tend to use white athletic tape to support acute injuries minimizing
the athletes ROM. In the rehabilitation process, the use of athletic tape is
heavily frowned upon because of the tape’s rigid property. The goals of the
rehab exercises are to strengthen the weakened muscles in a slow progressive
manner without support from a brace or tape. It is hypothesized that KT provides
therapeutic benefits for acute and chronic musculoskeletal injuries through the
support and non-invasive techniques without limiting ROM and allowing the body
to biomechanically heal itself. The method of Kinesio taping involves taping
around and over muscles to give support and to assist and prevent over
contraction of weakened muscles. KT may provide benefits to patients who present
with the following but not limited to torticollis, compartment syndrome,
thoracic outlet syndrome, herniated disk, calf cramps, plantar fasciitis, Bells
palsy, and headaches.
Appling Kinesio tape® to a musculoskeletal injury during
rehabilitation could result in a quicker recovery by allowing the body to
biomechanically heal itself. Educating certified athletic trainers on the
beneficial factors of Kinesio tape® may offer the profession new
protocols and positive outcomes in the rehabilitation of injured athletes.
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