You’ve definitely seen it. KinesioTape (KT tape) has taken the sport and therapy world by storm in the last few years. But is it a good option for riders?
What is it? KT tape (with all the brands that make it) is a lightly applied tape that aims to enhances mobility, pain relief, postural control, and even lymphatic drainage – depending on how it is applied.
It is different from typical athletic taping and bracing in that it doesn’t create a rigid brace around a joint. Rather it influences our nervous system and creates improved awareness to the area it is applied to. This can work both to stimulate or increase stability in a joint, or to relax and calm an area of injury. Trained practitioners can also apply it “spider” style, which encourages lymphatic drainage in an area, often helping with pain and decreasing swelling.
How does it work? This is something science hasn’t quite proven yet. Some of the theories are that in terms of lymphatic drainage and pain relief, it provides enough lift to the skin via the adhesive and application style, to allow for flow within the the lymphatic vessels and to decrease pressure in our pain sensors.
In terms of support styles, it works similarly to regular supportive taping except much more subtly. Instead of a tight application, KT tape is applied to the skin and pulled in the direction support is desired but not wrapped around an area. The tension on the superficial layer of skin activates the awareness to the area and the athlete notices an increase in proprioception (our ability to know where we are in space) and therefore stability. Science has found that this is exactly how old school taping works, by increasing perceived stability.
As a practitioner, this is a tool I use very frequently on a variety of my athletes and clients. In the process of retraining someone’s movement, building awareness is key. Applying KT tape allows me to stimulate their awareness and build their conscious control of an area. In times of acute injury, it can provide effective pain relief and support, without restriction, or the side effects of pharmaceuticals. Research shows that it improves healing and perceived stability in the areas it is applied to, and can be an effective tool in enhancing performance. When it comes to performance and therapy- training and enhancing the body and mind’s perception is key, and KT tape proves time and time again to be an invaluable tool in that process.
(As a bonus – it comes in cool colors, and is modeled by many Olympic athletes across all sports).