Kinesiotaping: How to relieve pain with colored patches 

By | August 29, 2021

FOR THE FIRST TIME ABOUT THESE COLORED TAPES ON THE BODY, THE general public learned during the Olympics in Seoul in 1988 – then Japanese athletes entered the arena, pasted over with kinesio tapes. Then they began to be used by American athletes, and later the whole world. How to remove edema with their help, speed up recovery and maintain the body in the correct position, we figure out together with the doctors: a neurologist and chiropractor, a specialist in kinesiotaping at the “Clinic of Manual Therapy of Dr. Chechil” Yuri Kovtun, a kinesiotherapist at the mobile clinic “DOC +” Dmitry Ivanov and the head of the department rehabilitation of the Yusupov hospital by Boris Polyayev.

What is kinesio tape

Kinesio tape is a thin elastic cotton tape that is glued to the skin. It belongs to medical supplies, like bandages, dressings and adhesive plasters, but is very different from the latter. Due to its elasticity, kinesio tape does not hinder movement. Its “job” is to “pull” the skin away from the tissues underneath, facilitating the circulation of blood and lymph, which helps relieve swelling and pain. The applied tape does not create extra volume, as, for example, a bandage – it is usually difficult to put shoes on a bandaged leg.

The kinesio taping method was developed in 1973 by the Japanese doctor and sports physician Kenzo Kase for professional athletes. In case of injuries, edema, hematomas, taping helps to quickly recover without interfering with training and competing.

How teip works

During any movement, not only the muscles change their position, but also the skin located above them. In this case, the brain receives information about the position of the hand – it decodes the signals coming from the skin receptors. In case of injury or excessive stress on the muscles, edema occurs; excess fluid begins to press on the tissue, and discomfort appears. When applied to the skin, kinesio tape will irritate the mechanoreceptors in that area, reducing discomfort. Remember: when we hit, it is enough for us to rub the bruised place to numb the pain. The fact is that the signal of mechanoreceptors outstrips the impulses emanating from pain receptors and blocks them. The imposed kinesio tape acts on the injured area all the time (as if we were constantly rubbing the bruised area), that is, it constantly sends signals to the brain through mechanoreceptors, blocking the pain impulse.

On the skin, kinesio tape “works” 24 hours a day, but it is more active when moving. It does not contain medicinal substances, is not able to cool or heat the skin, there are no contraindications to it, with the exception of individual intolerance to glue, some skin and oncological diseases. The tape is breathable and wicks away sweat.

Application technique

Before applying the kinesio tape, it is important to prepare the skin. If there are hairs on it, they should be cut with a trimmer (it is better not to use a razor so that there is no irritation). Then you need to dry the skin with a towel and treat with an antiseptic. After that, you can glue the tape, after removing the protective film from it. The kinesio tape has two attachment points, two “anchors” – the beginning and the end. They are attached to the skin without tension, but the active part of the tape, that is, the middle, is pulled before gluing. The task of the tape is to bring the two “anchors” together, and hence the two areas of the skin above the muscle, with each other. This is how a signal arises that the muscle is shortened. It turns out that the effect of kinesio tape “deceives” the brain, prompting it to relax the muscle in order to quickly relieve spasms and reduce edema.

According to the kinesiotherapist Dmitry Ivanov, simple techniques of applying a kinesio tape can be mastered independently by watching training videos or taking special courses. But it happens that it is inconvenient to stick the tape to yourself – for example, on the back. In addition, more complex taping techniques require serious knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics, and incorrect application of the tape is fraught with increased discomfort and pain, so the best option would be to entrust this work to a doctor. The specialist will show and explain how to apply the tape correctly in a particular case, and in the future it will be safe to tap the “problem area” on your own.

Tension and color

Kinesio tape is stretched to a certain length. Tension can vary from 100 to 190 percent (depending on the brand), but the most commonly used belts are up to 140 percent tension. Doctor Boris Polyaev notes that kinesio tape is never glued using the maximum tension, but they stretch the taping area in advance or correct the position of the body. In case of accumulation of fluid, the area is not stretched at all (the tissues are already stretched by edema), and the tape is attached without tension.

The color palette of kinesio tapes is so diverse that it seems that there is some unique property behind this or that color. But this is a myth: in terms of the severity of the analgesic effect of kinesio tapes, they are no different from each other and you can choose any color that you like. In big sports, the color of the tapes is often matched to the color of the athlete’s uniform or the flag of the country for which he is playing.

Kinesio taping and wrinkles

Kinesio taping is popular not only in sports medicine, neurology and manual therapy. This method is increasingly used by dentists (to relieve swelling after tooth extraction), ENT doctors (in the treatment of sinusitis), ophthalmologists (to improve blood supply to the eye area) and cosmetologists. Thanks to the lymphatic drainage effect, kinesio tapes allow you to smooth out wrinkles on the forehead, around the lips and at the outer corners of the eyes, as well as to make a slight face lift: smooth the nasolabial fold, reduce swelling around the eyes, remove the double chin.

Most of the wrinkles are formed on the face. There is a simple explanation for this: the facial muscles are directly connected to the skin – at one end they are attached to the periosteum of the skull, and the other to the subcutaneous tissue. When the muscles in the face contract, wrinkles form. Kinesio tape applied to these muscles helps to relax them – and smooth the skin. If the task is to remove edema, for example, after thread plasty or injections, kinesiotaping will also be relevant (in this case, the elastic tape is glued without strong tension).

Posture Correction Tapes

Unlike rigid corsets, kinesio tapes do not constrain movement. Postural (that is, related to body position) taping serves as a kind of reminder not to slouch. The specialist helps to build the anatomically correct position of the spine, and then glues the tapes on the back crosswise, so that if you start to slouch, there is a slight tension that forces you to straighten your shoulders. A new muscle stereotype is gradually formed, and keeping your back evenly over time becomes a habit.

At first, unpleasant sensations may arise: the muscles need time to adapt to a new position, but each time the discomfort should decrease. According to Yuri Kovtun, even with a strong stoop there is a chance to noticeably improve posture in six months. He recommends applying kinesio tapes once a week for a couple of days. Of course, it is very important to strengthen your back muscles with strength exercises, and if necessary, massage and attend manual therapy sessions.

Taping during pregnancy

Kinesio tape is a convenient alternative to a bandage in the third trimester of pregnancy. In case of back pain or to prevent discomfort, elastic bands are glued to the abdomen – after all, the abdominal muscles oppose the muscles of the lower back. When the volume of the abdomen increases, there is excessive deflection in the lower back – and the abdominal muscles are overstretched. Applying tapes allows you to tighten the muscles and fascia and at the same time stretch the loaded lower back. Tapes can be left on for up to 3-5 days to provide 24/7 support. True, in the first trimester, kinesiotaping is not recommended – but the load on the back during this period is not increased either.

Kinesio taping and trauma

Physical activity is always associated with microtraumas of muscles and ligaments. After exertion, swelling occurs: more blood begins to flow to the muscle tissue. For example, if you don’t cool down at the end of your workout, your muscles won’t have time to relax and drainage will deteriorate, which will slow your recovery. Overuse and inadequate recovery can lead to injury. But this does not mean that you need to become less active. Knowing your “sore spot”, you can use kinesio tape as prevention of injuries. For example, if the kneecap is unstable, it can be stabilized in a “case” made of elastic tape with sufficient tension.

If it is not possible to avoid injury, kinesiotaping will help you recover faster. Immediately after removing a cast or a tight bandage, it is difficult to move – you have to develop the joint for a long time. The action of the tape facilitates movement and improves tissue regeneration. According to Yuri Kovtun, even with a fracture (albeit without displacement), you can completely abandon the plaster cast – it is enough to reduce the load on the injured area and tap it. With this option, the edema will subside faster and the recovery process will start, and the muscles will have more room for movement. But in the case of serious injuries with edema and hematoma, one cannot be limited to taping only.

How to choose and wear kinesio tapes

To choose a high-quality tape, you can focus on its cost: good Japanese kinesio tapes cost about 600-1000 rubles for a five-meter roll. The tape should be packed in a packaging with a barcode, a well-readable name of the manufacturer, instructions for use. The brand logo must be printed on the protective film of the tape. In pharmacies, you can also find cheap Chinese kinesio tapes – according to Dmitry Ivanov, they often cause severe allergies, do not perform their functions and do not adhere well to the skin.

The most popular are cotton kinesio tapes, but manufacturers also produce synthetic counterparts that are more suitable for those who often swim. At the same time, you can take a shower in any kinesio tapes – just do not rub them with a washcloth or dry them with a hairdryer.

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