Taping is a relatively new phenomenon in athletics, but one that has started to gain mainstream popularity in recent years. In essence, taping is used to provide support or relief to injured athletes, although some also use it preventatively. Taping can be used in different ways for different issues and can achieve a variety of results. To truly understand what taping is and how it is used, it is best to first look at the history of how it was developed.
Taping was popularised by Dr. Kenzo Kase, who officially developed the Kinesio Taping Method in 1979. While taping was used at that point already, Dr. Kase developed several new types of tape to better aid with different issues. After finding that sports tapes at the time were too rigid, he created a new type of tape that bears far more resemblance to the texture and elasticity of human skin and muscle. This allowed users of the tape to have realistic freedom of movement and not to be constrained by their tapes.
As tapes are left on for extended periods of time, it was vital that they not only mimic human skin, but also that they stay on while still allowing the skin underneath to breathe. This was accomplished after years of development, and now the tape can be applied in many different ways and stay on for days at a time.
What Does It Do?
Kinesio tape was originally developed to speed-up the recovery-time for athletes with injured or overused muscles. Muscles lose their elasticity when they are injured or overused, and this is what can result in such long recovery times for seemingly small issues. Many treatments for injuries focus on returning the muscle to its natural shape and position, but this can restrict the movement of the injured body part, which leads to stiffness and slows down recovery time. By mimicking our muscles’ elasticity, taping can have the opposite effect and actually encourage our muscles to heal faster. It does this in a number of ways:
- Support: Taping can be used to give support to muscles that have been injured or overused, not only relieving some of the immediate pain, but also taking stress off that muscle and allowing for faster recovery.
- Adhesive: The adhesive for these tapes is far more complicated than the kind you would find on an everyday plaster. In order for these tapes to work as effectively as possible, it is crucial that they stay in one place. The glue used on these tapes will ensure that they do not move, will stay completely firmly on the body for days, and actually lifts up the skin underneath for breathability.
- Healing: Other than taking stress off and relieving the pain of an injured muscle, taping is designed to encourage lymphatic flow. The lymph system is the system through which a clear liquid (lymph) flows around the body. Lymph carries white blood cells, which fight infection, but also takes care of any waste, dead cells, etc that may be found in the body. By encouraging lymphatic flow, recovery time is greatly reduced.
- Encouraging better movement: The way we use our bodies is not always the best way to use them. For example, poor sleeping posture can lead to chronic pain. Similarly, if we learn or train to use certain body parts in certain ways, this can become constricting. Taping our bodies in a certain way can retrain them to move in ways that are more natural, easier, or safer.
- Training/Prevention: With the popularity of taping on the rise, many athletes have realised the potential of using tape to train. All the above benefits remain applicable, only in a way that prevents an injury rather than treating it.
It is clear that taping provides a whole host of benefits to tackle a variety of issues faced by all athletes, so whether you're training for a marathon or recovering from an injury, taping is definitely something to consider.