Kinesiology Tape, or kinesio tape, was developed in the 1970s and is an elastic therapeutic tape used for treating sports injuries. It wasn't until 50,000 rolls were donated to 58 countries for use on their athletes during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics that use of this tape became popular in the United States. That year United States beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh, who was recovering from rotator cuff surgery, was photographed extensively wearing the tape while playing.
By the 2012 Summer Olympics in London the use of kinesio tape had become even more prevalent and could be seen on athletes from almost every country. Additional endorsements for the use of kinesio tape have come from the likes of Lance Armstrong, who used it to treat sore muscles during his seven Tour de France victories, and Serena Williams, who has used it during several tennis championships.
In theory, kinesio tape supports injured muscles and joints while maintaining range of motion during the healing process. It is suggested that kinesio tape affects several systems within the body including the circulatory/lymphatic, neural, muscular, and fascial systems. When applied to an injured area on the body, kinesio tape pulls the upper layers of the skin, known as the dermis, away from the inflamed and swollen area. The subsequent extra space created between the dermis and the injured tissue allows for greater lymphatic drainage and improved neural function which in turn expedites the body’s natural healing process. It has also been postulated that this increase in space between the skin and muscle improves the contractile properties of skeletal tissue resulting in increased performance. Some practitioners advocate the use of kinesio tape for preventive maintenance as well as for rehabilitation.
According to the scientific literature available in the National Institute of Health database there is little evidence to support the efficacy of kinesio taping in the treatment or prevention of injuries. Kinesio tape has been found to provide trivial results in the area of pain relief and equivocal results when measuring improved range of motion. It has been found that kinesio tape may improve proprioception of an injured joint and may play a small role in improving strength.
While there may be a lack of scientific data to support kinesio tape there is no lack of anecdotal support. Athletes from Olympians to CrossFitters to weekend warriors have espoused the relief and improved performance felt from the application of this therapeutic tape.
It would appear that the paradigm in injury treatment is beginning to shift away from Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (R.I.C.E.). Kelly Starrett, DPT and owner of CrossFit San Francisco, advocates Move safely when you can, Compress lymphatics and soft tissues, and Elevate when you can (M.C.E.). By potentially improving lymphatic drainage and providing support, ala compression to joints, it would appear that kinesio tape may be a worthy of inclusion in a comprehensive therapy program. At a minimum, it may provide the necessary proprioceptive feedback to keep the body in proper alignment which will always yield an improved performance.