K Tape (also called kinesiology tape) has been growing in use among physical therapists and chiropractors for the past 20 years. Originally invented in the 1970s by a Japanese chiropractor called Dr. Kenzo Kase, it is now in demand by elite athletes and sports medicine specialists all over the world.
K tape can be purchased in two general formats. You can buy the tape in the form of pre cut rolls designed for application to specific body parts. Pre cuts normally come with application guides that explain how to use each cut for the particular purpose for which it was designed.
K tape in pre cut form is primarily for use by those who do not have specialized training but are using the tape to manage an injury they have experienced.
Alternatively, you can buy k tape in the form of a roll that you then cut to your specifications and apply depending on the specific injury you are treating. Tape rolls are primarily for application by trained therapists who understand precisely the effect they are trying to achieve and how to achieve it.
Differences Between K Tape & Traditional Athletic Tape
Traditional athletic tape is designed to restrict the range of motion of joints or muscles in order to give them a chance to recover from an injury. By restricting their movement, the ligaments, tendons and muscles of the joint will be under less stress and will be able to heal naturally.
By contrast, K tape is designed to not restrict the movement of the joints or soft tissues to which it is applied. Instead, it utilizes the movements of these joints and muscles to lift the skin over the injured area. This leaves a microscopic space between the skin and the underlying tissues.
The space between the raised skin and the tissues underneath allows for enhanced blood flow through the injured tissues. It also permits enhanced lymphatic drainage as well as improved intake of lymphatic fluids.
Improved blood circulation allows for a more ready supply of fresh blood to the injured tissues. This blood, with its fresh supply of oxygen and nutrients, will promote more rapid healing of the injury.
Lymphatic fluid (or lymph) drainage carries (among other things) damaged cells away from the injury site. Incoming lymphatic fluid carries infection fighting white blood cells that will help the injjury to continue healing with less risk of interruption.
General Properties Of K Tape
To function as described above, k tape is designed with a number of unique properties:
It is highly elastic and can stretch to as much as 80% (or more) of its original length. This allows it to mimic the properties of the human skin and to “lift” the skin over injured tissues as the joints and muscles perform their regular movements;
It is 100% hypoallergenic and latex free as it must stay in contact with the skin for as long as 4-5 days without causing adverse reactions.
K tape usually has a heat activated adhesive. As a result, you usually need to rub the tape immediately after application in order to activate the adhesive.
Benefits Of K Tape
The applications of k tape in physical therapy include the following:
Treatment of soft tissue injuries of athletes (both serious and casual) as well as others. By increasing blood flow, it helps to reduce swelling and pain as well as accelerate the healing process;
Providing additional support to weak or unstable joints or muscles;
Rehabilitating muscles and joints as they recover from injury and try to regain lost function.
In addition to the physical therapy uses listed above, k tape is widely regarded by elite athletes as enhancing their proprioception.
In doing this, it helps these athletes perform complex physical movements more instinctively and with less conscious effort. As a result, it is a vital accessory for performance improvement as well as injury management. This is one benefit of using k tape for which traditional athletic tape does not offer an equivalent.
Application Of K Tape
To achieve the stated benefits, there are certain procedures that you must follow before tape application. We outline some of these below:
If you are applying a pre cut portion of tape, remember to read the instruction guide thoroughly before you begin;
Ensure that the area to which you will apply the k tape is clean of oils, lotions or perspiration. If you have body hair in that area, shave it before the tape is applied;
Do not apply k tape to any region of your skin with an open wound or with any type of skin damage (scrapes, burns, etc.). Also avoid application to any portion of skin that has a rash or irritation;
Once the tape is in place, remember to activate the adhesive by gently rubbing it along its surface.
While you are applying the tape, remember to:
Round off all sharp edges of the tape to avoid it peeling prematurely;
Avoid touching the adhesive directly. If you do this, you may compromise the strength of the adhesive.
If you are applying the tape from a roll, measure and cut with care, i.e. “measure twice and cut once”.
Be careful to avoid using too much tension when applying the tape (as you might for traditional athletic tape, for example). Remember that k tape is supposed to allow full and normal movement of joints and muscles while being worn. It actually depends on this full and normal joint movement for its effectiveness.
After applying the tape, remember to:
Wait for approximately one hour after applying the tape before you engage in any activity that may cause you to perspire;
Also wait for one hour after tape application before swimming, bathing or showering;
After swimming, bathing or showering, pat the tape dry (preferably using a towel).