Over the last year or so I have seen KT Tape popping up everywhere; Athletes in the gym, swimmers at the pool, climbers at the bouldering cave, and runners on the trail. Its flashy appearance catches my eye and intrigues me to know more. Who exactly should be using it, what for and how often?
As a kinesiologist I have tapped many of ankles, and as a climber many tendons, but what exactly makes KT Tape superior to traditional athletic tape?
What is it? KT Tape or Kinesio Tape is stretchable athletic tape made out of 100% reinforced cotton sheath. It also comes in a professional variety which is made out of synthetic fibres. Both products allow for unidirectional elasticity. In contrast regular white athletic tape has minimal or no elasticity.
How does it work? The product is applied along muscles, ligaments, and tendons with a partial degree of stretch allowing for a “recoil” once released which will pull on skin/muscle it is applied to. It enhances neuromuscular feedback (called proprioception) that inhibits (relaxes) or facilitates stronger firing of muscles and tendons. Regular white athletic tape works by providing support around a joint to increase the loading capacity of the joint without causing injury.
Who is it designed for? KT Tape is designed for any one suffering from musculoskeletal injuries such as lower back pain, knee pain, shin splints, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow etc… While white athletic tape is designed for the same general set of uses it has significantly more limitations in its application.
When should it be used? KT Tape will provides 24 hour relief per application and can be worn in while sweating, or working out in water without issue. It can be used to facilitate rehabilitation, or to provide support during training or peak performance. White athletic tape has no use for rehabilitation but will prevent injury during training or performance.
Overall KT Tape Pro’s and Con’s
Pro’s: Full Joint Movement, lymphatic flow, joint support, muscle facilitation (decreases fatigue) and inhibition (decreases cramping), increasing proprioceptive input, decreasing pain. If nothing else a significant placebo effect!
Con’s: Limited scientific evidence.
Overall White Athletic Tape Pro’s and Con’s:
Pro’s: Improved loading tolerance, change and control posture or small deformities, inhibiting muscle activity, reducing pain by unloading structures, enhancing proprioception.
Cons: Skin irritation, limited function, no rehabilitative benefit