| Alexandra Buelow |
KEMPTEN, Germany (dpa) – Many professional athletes are plastered these days. Not surprisingly, run-of-the-mill joggers and fitness buffs have followed suit and kinesiology tapes are a common sight in European parks.
Here an arm or leg, there a foot or shoulder, or perhaps on the neck, back, buttocks or abdomen, they plaster themselves with the brightly coloured bandages, which are known as kinesio tapes for short. Kinesiology is the study of human movement.
“They’re strips of cotton with an admixture of elastic polymer and an adhesive that’s kind to the skin and activated by heat,” explained John Langendoen, a sports physiotherapist in the German city of Kempten.
Allowing full freedom of movement, they’re also a far cry from traditional white athletic tape wrapped around gauze to form a stiff bandage.
Said to reduce pain and swelling, promote healing and provide support to injured muscles and joints, the tape was first developed in the 1970s by Japanese chiropractor Kenzo Kase and came to prominence during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Several companies now make it.
“The tape is often used in cases of restricted mobility and muscle weakness,” said Sascha Seifert, head instructor at the International Taping Association in the German city of Kassel.
How it works isn’t fully understood. According to one theory, the tape inhibits pain receptors in the skin. “It’s like pressing the spot where you’ve bumped yourself,” Seifert said. “The pressure relieves the pain.”
If a muscle or joint is to be relieved or supported, the tape is applied with tension. It’s stretched and then stuck to the skin, for example along the length of a muscle. “This puts the skin under tension, which stimulates the muscle,” said Ulrike Stocks-Sanio, a physiotherapist in the German town of Kaarst.
When meant to facilitate lymphatic drainage, the tape is applied unstretched. “The lymph vessels lie in the skin, and the tape acts like a (compression) bandage for lymph drainage,” said Seifert, adding that there were eight different taping techniques.
The effect is generally felt quickly: pain subsides, muscles relax, mobility increases.
“It’s no substitute for therapy, though,” Langendoen remarked, pointing out that taping could be combined with manual therapy, acupressure or physiotherapy. He said that exercising muscles was easier when taping had relaxed them first.
Tape should be removed if the wearer feels a burning sensation or unpleasant pulling in the muscle. No harm is done, though, and the trouble clears up once the tape is off. If the wearer doesn’t feel it and only notices a lessening of pain or
stiffness, then the tape has been applied correctly.