Just a reminder that there will be a reduced class schedule this week, August 15th-August 19th.  Check the CFF App or log onto Mindbody for more details.

by Geoff Rand

Each year as the CrossFit Games progress, you will see athletes with all sorts of tape on their bodies.  As the competition goes on, it seems more and more tape gets applied.  Some of them look like they’re wearing a Rock Tape shirt by the end of the week.

I’ve used Kinesio tape, specifically the KT Tape brand, but I wanted to find out how and why it works.  My search for knowledge turned into an anatomy lesson of sorts.

What is it?

Kinesio tape is a latex-free elastic tape used to relieve pain, provide support, and assist with recovery and injury prevention.  The tape can come in continuous length rolls, like Rock Tape, or precut lengths as KT Tape does.  The tape only stretches along its length, and is designed to breathe.  A tape application can last for several days and you can even shower or swim with it.  Rock Tape comes in all sorts of colors and imprinted designs.  KT Tape offers several colors and some tape with reflective stripes on it.

The Kinesio taping method was developed by Dr. Kenso Kase, an American chiropractor working in Japan, in 1979.  The method was not introduced to the U.S. however, until 1995.  Kinesio tape drew international attention during the 2008 Olympics when American athlete, Kerri Walsh, wore it during the beach volleyball event.

How does it work?

Kinesio tape is applied as sort of a first aid for an injury as a temporary fix or as a supplement to other treatments like manual manipulation.  Studies have shown that application of Kinesio tape between physical therapy visits helps prolong the therapy’s effects and makes the treatment more effective.

To understand how Kinesio tape works, you need to understand the make up of the body.  Our fascia tissue lies under the skin and is a honeycomb of intertwined fibrous cellular structures that act as protection for bones and organs and make up connective tissues like ligaments and tendons and also make up our muscles.

When we talk about knots in our muscles, we are really referring to the fascia tissue fibers becoming sticky, clumped together, and inflamed as they are stressed like they are in a WOD or after an injury.  If these knots aren’t released they can cause pain as the skin is stretched tightly over the affected areas and when the muscles are contracted.

When properly applied, Kinesio tape helps to relieve some of the pressure by creating a microscopic space between the muscle and dermis layers, allowing smooth muscle movement and draining of fluids while promoting healing blood flow.  With the pain lessened or completely relieved by the application of the tape, we are able to perform movements without the distraction of the painful sensation.  Instead of tightly wrapping up an injured area as is done in the traditional application of athletic tape, Kinesio tape allows and promotes freedom of movement.  The accepted practice for recovery is movement beats restriction for most injuries.

Kinesio tape can also provide a degree of support while still allowing range of motion that static athletic tape and braces cannot offer.  

How do I apply it?

Both KT Tape and Rock Tape have instructional videos on their sites explaining where to tape, how much stretch/tension to apply, and any modifications to the tape you might need to make before applying, such as cutting it into thinner strips or rounding the edges.  Most applications you can do yourself, but you might need an assistant for back applications.  You can also seek out professionals certified to apply Kinesio tape for more technical applications, or even attend taping seminars and official training programs to become tape certified yourself.

A couple years ago, I strained an ankle, and after watching a video, I was able to properly tape it up and continue the competition I was in.  I had no Kinesio tape experience prior to this usage.  I always keep a roll in my gym bag now.

Most Kinesio tape applications aren’t overly difficult, and you really can’t mess it up.  You will find that with practice, your taping will become more effective, hitting the correct areas more consistently, but if your tape job is a little off target, it won’t hurt you more, it just won’t be as effective.

You can even experiment with your own applications for Kinesio tape.  Recently, I fell and caught my full weight with one hand.  That jacked up my wrist for several weeks.  I found that a wrist wrap helped ease the pain, but I’d look silly wearing one all day, especially out of the gym.  I applied KT Tape as a light compression wrap on my wrist and it kept me from having to call out from work, and I was able to do general everyday movements with diminished pain.  It worked great!

The technique and placement varies depending on the body part you are taping, but generally, taping starts by sticking an anchor point.  You then apply varying degrees of stretch to the tape from 25%-100%, as per instructions.  Some applications may involve two or more tape strips.  The taping is usually finished by applying an end point with zero stretch.  This keeps the tape from pulling away.

The applications for Kinesio tape appear to have stretched beyond the realm of sports medicine.  I recently saw KT Tape being offered in a first aid trauma kit as a compression bandage.  And, while researching this article, I found Kinesio tape even works on our four-legged friends.  The uses seem endless.

A word of caution on Kinesio tape.  For one-time or occasional injuries or pain, go ahead and tape it up.  If you find you have a chronic pain make sure you don’t have something more serious going on.  It’s always best to seek a professional opinion for persistent pain.

Like any tool, there is a time and place to use Kinesio tape.  For a few bucks, it’s my insurance policy that has shown itself to be the difference in being able to work out or make it into work, and having to stay home.

Sources:

http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/kinesio-tape-what-is-it-and-what-s-the-hype

http://www.kt-tape.ee/eng/

http://running.competitor.com/2014/03/injury-prevention/tape-it-up-does-kinesiology-tape-really-work_51973

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