If you have watched 2008 Beijing Olympics beach volley games, you probably have noticed one of the US female players, Kerri Wash’s right shoulder. She was having something looks like a body art or tattoo on her right shoulder. The color changes from game to game, from black to light blue with pink occasionally. So, was she covering up a tattoo? Or that black tape is a tribute to someone?
No, it is not a tattoo. Kerri was not covering anything up either. It is Kinesio Tape which was reportedly placed there to help her stabilize her right shoulder and reduce chances of having shoulder pain during the games. She underwent shoulder surgery in fall 2007 due to injury caused by long hours of setting and spiking volley ball.
Kinesio Tape is actually not a new invention. For years, the tape and taping methods were mainly used by sports medicine doctors, physical therapists and chiropractors. It was first developed 25 years ago by Dr. Kenzo Kase, a Japanese chiropractor who trained in the US. In layman term, chiropractor is doctor who specializes in treating diseases by adjusting a person’s joints, especially those in the back. Dr. Kenzo has also came out with the taping method called Kinesio Taping which is the way to apply the tapes correctly.
Benefits of Kinesio Tape (As Claimed by the Company)
According to the manufacturer, Kinesio Tape provides the following benefits:
- Corrects muscle function by strengthening weakened muscles
- Improves circulation of blood and lymph by eliminating tissue fluid or bleeding beneath the skin by moving the muscle
- Reduce pain and inflammation through neurological suppression
- Stabilize joints
- Relax overused tired muscles
The company also mentioned that Kinesio Tape is effective in relieving:
- Carpel tunnel (median nerve is compressed at the wrist, leading to pain and muscle weakness in the forearm and hand)
- Plantar fasciitis (painful foot condition caused by inflammation of the tissue along the bottom of foot that connects heel bone to toes)
- Shoulder pain
Whether those claims are true or not, I will elaborate later.
How Kinesio Tape Works (As Claimed by the Company)
According to the company, when taped over the edges of a particular muscle, tendon, or ligament, “the tape alleviates pain and facilitates lymphatic drainage by microscopically lifting the skin. The taped portion forms convolutions in the skin, thus increasing interstitial space. The result is that pressure and irritation are taken off the neural and sensory receptors, alleviating pain. Pressure is gradually taken off the lymphatic system, allowing it to channel more freely.”
To me, those words sound so complicated for medically uneducated folks, including me.
Few Other Important Facts About Kinesio Tape and Kinesio Taping:
- The super thin tape itself is an elastic tape that comes in different widths, colors and types.
- It is cut into different shapes and applied to slightly stretched skin from one end of the muscle to the other. The effective of Kinesio Tape highly depends on the placement and technique. So, do not expect you will see the result if you just simply stuck the tape to your muscles
- It is non-restrictive taping method as compared to heavy strapping. This taping technique allows free range of motion and therefore allow the body’s own muscular system to heal itself bio-mechanically. From the theoretical stand point, this point makes sense. When your sore muscles are supported, you will heal faster.
- This elastic tape has an elasticity of 130 to 140 percent of its original length so that the muscles still can have free range of motion.
- The tape can stay on the skin for 3 to 5 days before it needs to be replaced. In other words, you can having shower or dipping into swimming pool with it. The tape is made of a porous cotton fabric that allows the kin under the tape to breathe and be cleaned while showering.
- The variety of colors actually designed for fashion purpose and not any indication of the quality of the tape.
- The tape does not contain latex which can be used for people with latex allergies.
In addition to beach volley ball player Kerri Wash, other top athletes such as Lance Armstrong (cycling), Serena Williams (tennis), David Beckham (soccer), Tiger Woods (golf) and Robby Ginepri (tennis) were seen using Kinesio Tape. In fact, in Lance Armstrong’s book “Every Second Counts”, he refers to Kinesio as “Something better than any laser, wrap, or electric massager.
Now, is Kinesio Tape really that effective as claimed by the company? Is it just another gimmick to sell Kinesio as a legitimate therapeutic product?
I have found two studies, both published in year 2008. The first study, done by Dr Mark Thelen mentioned that Kinesio Tape does help to alleviate pain and improving muscle strength, though the improvement is at minimal level. Patients with shoulder injuries have experienced the effect immediately after the application of the tape. However, the other research conducted by Dr Tieh-Cheng Fu, revealed that the tape had no effect on muscle strength when it is applied to the thigh. Source
In short, one study showed that Kinesio tape has small effect whereas the other does not think so. While studies like those are good, but we should not over interprete the result. We need more quality research being done on Kinesio tape to give a solid conclusion about its effectiveness. At this time, research using Kinesio tape does not support the many claims made by its advocates.
So, should you or shouldn’t you use Kinesio tape then?
We all are very susceptible to placebo effect, including top athletes. If we think this tape work, we will believe that it actually does. Sometimes, performance is improved significantly with this belief. This is the placebo effect, even though in real life the tape may not provide any scientific advantages.
By sponsoring Kerri Walsh’s Kinesio tapes in Beijing Summer Olympics 2008, the Kinesio company has started to see the result. The company has more than 1,600 online orders compared to the usual 250 orders it usually receives monthly. It is indeed a very good strategy. Previously, athletics made up only 10 percent of its business. Its largest market was pediatrics used for children suffering from neurological disorders. Now, it has successfully maximized an untapped market for its tape by targeting athletes. Clearly a good case study of Blue Ocean strategy.
I guess I will see more beach volley players spotting the black spider web look alike Kinesio tape in near future. If you want to give Kinesio Tape a try, check it out at Amazon.
For those who want to learn how to use the correct way of applying Kinesio Taping, get a copy of the manual too.
Category: Fitness Gadget/Equipment
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