The skin without and with tape applied. - Courtesy of RockTapeDelving more into the structural effect, there are several layers we have to keep in mind. Beginning from the exterior surface you have your skin (epidermis and dermis), fascia (which is a layer of fibrous, connective tissue), then a space containing nerves and your circulatory system followed by muscle below. Putting a stretch on the tape will lift the skin depending on how much tension is placed. In response, this lifts the fascia which decompresses the vessels underneath. This is beneficial in that it reduces swelling to a region. With the amount of fluid leakage to injured tissue, there is often a backup compounded by adhesions and scar tissue. Because of this, this is why people find it difficult to move an injured area because it is restricted from all this excess buildup of fluid and tissue (In addition to pain, etc…). Swelling has its own unique application in the kinesiotape world. You may have seen what appeared to be a spider web pattern on an athlete with an acute injury. The idea behind this is to create a vacuum effect by alternating areas of high and low pressure. This taping pattern combined with the amount the patient is able to contract the muscle underneath will aid in pumping fluid out of the region. One of the main reasons I use kinesiotape is for support. Think along the lines of a brace only that it is more flexible and has very little restriction. More often than not an injury will involve a certain degree of tearing in the muscle, supporting ligaments, tendons or a combination of them all. With that comes a loss of function and coordination to the area. For example, lets say a sprinter strains his hamstring at the end of the race. The next day he has a slight limp and has restrictions with straightening his knee and flexing his hip due to pain. Applying kinesiotape to the affected hamstring and into those movement patterns will decrease the demand on the muscle since the tape is mimicking the motion through stretch and recoil. It serves a role similar to what a spotter is to a weightlifter. If you’ve ever worn a compression shirt, shorts or socks, you may have an idea of what this feels like. Of course there are factors that influence this effect such as location (upper vs lower extremity), injury severity, and so forth. Even though kinesiotape has been in existence since the early 1980’s, it still lies in its infancy stage. There remains questions such as conditions it has a greater or lesser effect on, what application works best for a given condition and further explanation of the neurophysiological effect. Personally, it is an area that I have a research interest in and hope to have a study published in the near future. - Dr. Jeffrey Chan, DC, CSCS, ART
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