What is Kinesio Tape?

By Jenn Adams. Reviewed by Josh Evans DC.

During the 2008 Summer Olympics, U.S. Women’s Beach Volleyball player, Kerri Walsh Jennings played the tournament with colorful tape streaked across her shoulder, and many spectators, even the announcers, wondered what it was. In this moment, kinesiology tape was just starting to make its way into the mainstream market.

What is kinesiology tape?

Originally invented in the 1970’s by a chiropractor named Dr. Kenso Kase, DC., kinesiology tape is a water-resistant cotton and synthetic strip with a powerful adhesive that allows the tape to last multiple days. Unlike regular athletic tape, kinesiology tape does not restrict movement, mimicking the thickness and elasticity of human skin. It is used to reduce swelling, increase circulation, and relieve pain, while providing support to the injured area.

There are several theories to explain how kinesiology tape works.

It is thought that kinesiology tape works by pulling and lifting the skin, which increases blood flow and allows built up lymphatic fluids to start clearing out of the injured area. Another theory on how the tape works states that it interrupts the pain pathways to the brain, decreasing the pain felt at the injury site. In addition, it supports muscles and helps prevent over-extension an over-contraction.

How can it help me?

You don’t have to be an Olympic level athlete, or even an athlete at all, to get benefits from using kinesiology tape. It can help alleviate pain experienced in day to day life. For example, kinesiology tape can help give you lower back support, while still allowing you a free range of motion. If you are careful dressing, undressing, and showering, the tape can last multiple days.

How do I apply it?

It is best to be instructed first by your physician. Typically, the tape is applied by laying down about two inches of an anchor point, where there is no stretch on the tape. After the anchor is in place, the tape is often required to be used at a 50% stretch. This means you stretch the tape out to its’ maximum stretch, and then come back to the halfway point. Next, adhere the stretched portion to the skin, leaving two inches at the end for another anchor point. KT Tape, a brand of kinesiology tape, has a great archive of instructional videos on their website.

Josh Evans