Kinesio Tape: Can It Help Your Athletic Performance?

Kinesio Tape, or K-Tape is a stretchy adhesive tape used to enhance the function of the muscles. It is used by physical therapists and athletes for a various restorative purposes. K-Tape became more popular following its widespread use in the 2012 Olympic Games. The unmistakable flashy tape on athletes’ bodies could be seen everywhere in those London Olympic Games, and has continued to be seen since then.  

Kinesiology Tape has many different effects, from correcting the muscles to reducing pain and inflammation. It is applied strategically on the skin to affect the muscle beneath that part of the skin. There are many different patterns for application, each with distinct effects.

Patterns of Applying Kinesio Tape

According to professional physical therapists and chiropractors, applying Kinesio Tape in different patterns causes various positive effects. Listed below are the different patterns:

  • The ‘I’ Pattern

This is probably the most commonly used Kinesio Tape pattern . K-Tape is ‘I’ pattern is one of the more easily replicated patterns. Other patterns like the ‘Y’ and fan patterns are slightly more complicated, but can be obtained from this pattern. 

Physical therapists usually use the ‘I’ pattern to support the tendons, muscles, and ligaments. It is also used to help athletes maintain proper posture by applying it on the back. Support for quadriceps and the Achilles tendons is also enhanced through this pattern. 

  • The ‘X’ Pattern

The ‘X’ pattern is derived from the ‘I’ pattern. It is made by cutting the ‘I’ strip vertically from both ends, leaving about two inches untouched in the middle of the strip. 

When there is a large area on the body that should be treated with the Kinesio Tape or many joints that should be treated, the ‘X’ pattern is the best option. The primary parts of the body athletes use K-Tape are the inside part of the elbows and or the back of the knees. The ‘X’ pattern, as per its name, treats joints in a crossed manner.

  • The ‘Y’ Pattern

As mentioned earlier, this pattern is also derived from the ‘I’ pattern. The pattern is obtained by cutting the ‘I’ strip vertically, only leaving about 2 inches at the end. Alternatively, it can be made by cutting the ‘X’ pattern in half. The ‘Y’ pattern is relatively shorter than other patterns.

This pattern is commonly used by athletes, especially runners and cyclists, to regulate the position of the knee cap. Additionally, it can be used to treat patients with a subluxing patella. 

  • The Band-Aid Pattern

The Band-Aid pattern, also called the ‘lift’ pattern, is usually used for tissue injuries of the tissues. It can be made by cutting a small strip and expanding it to about 80% – 100%. The tape is applied after stretching on the wounded part of the body. 

The Band-Aid pattern is generally used to give the skin and the tissues a kind of ‘lift.’ This lifting process relieves the injured muscles and trigger points on the body. The muscles that have been painfully knotted can be relieved and healed. 

  • The Fan Pattern

The fan pattern is made by cutting the ‘I’ strip vertically in three to four places to let the strips spread over the skin. This pattern is typically used for decreasing swelling and, consequently, the pain that comes with it. It is applied by spreading the strips over the swollen part of the body. The tape reduces the swelling by regulating the flow of lymphatic fluid in the skin.

Uses of Kinesio Tape for Athletes

Kinesio Tape is most widely used by athletes, primarily for its restorative purposes. Listed below are some of the most common uses for K-Tape:

  • Pain Relief

Many athletes use Kinesio Tape for pain relief.  The tape can be used to lift the skin, reducing the pressure on the muscles. When the muscle pressure is significantly reduced, the pain signals received by the brain are altered. Similarly, the change in the signal sent to the brain reduces reactive muscle spasms. There is no denying that muscle spasms, especially for athletes, can be excruciating. When Kinesiology Athletic Tape is used on sore muscles, it brings relief from those spasms.

  • Improvement of Posture

The flexibility of K-Tape allows athletes to improve their posture by making it easier for them to correct their posture. When Kinesio Tape is applied to the body, athletes tend to be more aware of that part of the body, allowing them to make the necessary posture corrections 

In the case of overstretching a muscle, the sensation caused by the tape placed over that area will make the athlete quickly change their posture. Unlike athletic tape that makes the taped area inflexible, Kinesio Tape allows a form of flexibility that makes it easy for athletes to change their posture.

  • Decrease in Swelling

Kinesio Tape helps to reduce swelling caused by an injury. The tape does this by improving fluid flow throughout the body. As fluid flow increases, the swelling gradually reduces. 

In technical terms, K-tape regulates the lymphatic system, which is responsible for fluid secretion. The tape eradicates the accumulation of fluid by managing the flow. This, in turn, can help manage swelling and heal bruises.

  • Easier Stretch

The lifting effect caused by using Kinesio Tape makes the muscles and tendons more flexible. When the skin is lifted, there is a lesser burden on the tendons, ligaments, and muscles. This reduced pressure can facilitate increased flexibility.

  • A Form of Support

Kinesio Tape is not only helpful in improving the condition of sore muscles. It can also be a form of support for weak muscles or tendons. K-Tape prevents overstretching of the tendons by acting similarly to a brace. more aware of the taped area, they tend to take extra caution when moving the taped area.

Other forms of athletic tape often limit the movement of the area altogether. K-Tape supports the area through its flexibility and stretchy adhesive.

Does Kinesio Tape Work?

What Therapists and Athletes Say

The positive effects of Kinesio Tape mentioned above are  witnessed by physical therapists and the athletes that use it. Different types of Kinesio Tape are used for varying ranges of treatments. The projected results determine the type of tape and pattern to be used.

According to chiropractors and physical therapists, Physical Therapy Tape effectively relieves pain, reduces swelling, re-educates the muscles, and supports weak muscles.

The makeup of the tape makes it as flexible as the skin itself. The fact that Kinesio Tape mimics the skin’s flexibility makes it a subtle and effective way of lifting the skin layers. It also creates more space between the joints which consequently reduces joint irritation.

Many physical therapists attest to the reduction in recovery time after applying Kinesio Tape on athletes. This is why K-Tape is so widely utilized in the athletic community, and why many athletes themselves are advocates for the use of Kinesio Tape.

What Studies Show

There have been different research studies to examine the effects of Kinesio Tape on the performance of athletes. However, these studies have not been so comprehensive. Most of the studies carried out were sponsored by kinesiology tape brands that wanted to promote their brands.

The few independent studies revealed that Kinesio Tape gives more than a placebo effect. However, most of these studies claim that there is not sufficient evidence to prove that Kinesio Tape enhances performance. Further studies are still in progress to ascertain the exact effects of Kinesio Tape on the performance of athletes.

Who Should Not Use Kinesio Tape

Kinesio tape is not for everyone. There are some conditions under which Kinesio Tape might be harmful to one’s health. In such cases, alternative forms of physical therapy should be considered. 

People in the following categories should not use Kinesio Tape without first discussing it with their physical therapist or doctor:

  • Pregnant women
  • People who have active cancer
  • People who have had an organ transplant
  • People who have open wounds
  • People allergic to adhesive

Overall, K-Tape has many benefits for athletes and non-athletes alike. Unlike regular athletic tape, it provides a degree of flexibility and stretchiness that provides additional support to muscles, increased pain relief, and more stretch. Brands like Hampton Adams are the perfect choice to benefit your body and muscles as you pursue your recovery journey.