K-tape can be found in numerous colors and patterns.  My favorite is Rock Tape's blu/pink argyle!

K-tape can be found in numerous colors and patterns.  My favorite is Rock Tape's blu/pink argyle!

   So what do you know about kiniesiotape (K-tape)?  A little, a lot or nothing at all?  Have you even ever heard of it? Have you ever used it; at home or with a trainer/chiropractor etc.? If yes, what do you know about it?  Was the purpose explained or did they just slap it on you and send you on your way?  For those of you interested in understanding this new tape you seem to see on everyone these days, this is for you!  

     First and foremost it's important that you understand K-tape is not a cure-all.  It doesn't fix anything or replace proper assessment and corrective treatment.  It's designed to augment treatment.  If you have plantar fascitis and the tape makes the foot feel better, great! but if you thats all you're doing for the plantar fascitis you're doing yourself a disservice.  It's presence on the skin is simply making the brain aware of that body part, if nothing else.  as a result of lifestyle certain parts or muscles can be forgotten by the brain.  Applying K-tape over a patch a skin is a nuerosensory reminder or "cue" for the brain to activate that muscle.  Fortunately this isn't the limit of its power.

   Pain mitigation:  K-tape reduces nociception, a fancy word for pain, to the brain which works two fold:  A. Nobody likes being in pain and reducing pain is always a good thing. B. Pain causes altered motor patterns so by reducing pain signals movement patterns are normalized.  How you ask?  Well, theres a theory called "The Gate Control Theory of Pain" that can help.  The sensory nerves responsible for pain are of the faster transmitting nerves in the body.  Luckily the nerves for touch are faster so when you bump your elbow and start rubbing it to feel better those signals are getting to the spinal chord faster and override the pain signals.  K-tape does the same for pain anywhere its placed, being on the skin its constantly stimulating those light touch receptors which are then bombarding the brain with information that overrides the pain signals.

Notice in the image to the left the increased subcutaneous space with the rippling of the skin caused by K-tape.

Notice in the image to the left the increased subcutaneous space with the rippling of the skin caused by K-tape.

   Decompression:  K-tape provides decompression of the skin, or fascia, overlying muscle.  Many times, due to numerous reasons like dehydration or injury, the muscle and fascia can become adhesed making the normal glide during movement difficult.  The stretch of K-tape, when applied correctly, creates ripple or convolutions in the skin.  Side note: K-tape comes, on the reel before you take the paper off, with 15% stretch built in.  So when you just slap it on without tension it will naturally recoil the skin creating wrinkles in the skin.  These wrinkles are the skin being lifted up from the muscles creating a subcutaneous space allowing for better movement between the skin and muscles as they contract.  

a diagram demonstrating how s=kin is represented in the brain.   

a diagram demonstrating how s=kin is represented in the brain.   

    Neural stimulation:  The skin is the largest organ in the body, heavily innervated with sensory neurons for tactile stimulation (touch, pressure, pain, heat etc.).  The brain and the skin are from the same developmental tissue which results in a strong connection.  The sense of touch can cause numerous reactions, some good and some bad.  Ever known someone that doesn't like being touched?  Ever considered why?  Its possibly because its too much stimulation.  their brain and skin are so closely wired that just being touched sends them into sensory overload.  The application of K-tape stimulates sensory receptors and creates awareness in the brain, through touch.  This neural stimulation results in improved joint position sense, joint stability, muscle activation and body awareness.  Now as stated before, this isn't the fix, its just an intervention.

This type of taping is a good example of whats called "tactile cueing" where the tape is a constant remainder to activate muscle for increased stability.

This type of taping is a good example of whats called "tactile cueing" where the tape is a constant remainder to activate muscle for increased stability.

       To sum it all up and put all these parts together:  Proper application of K-tape improves function by decreasing fascial tension on muscles, increases sensory stimulation to the brain reducing pain sensation which results in increased muscle activity and joint stability during movement.  K-tape can be used for all these or just one.  Patients having recently experienced a traumatic event are more in need of taping than increased motion so I'll use it just to reduce pain and worry about the other stuff later.  Sporting events is where we see it utilized most often.  the important thing to understand is that what you see on the athletes is supportive in nature.  Like ankle taping, the athletes don't walk around with that tape on all the time, just for the event.  Hopefully this has been helpful in understanding the use and benefits of kiniesiotaping.  If for some reason you have any questions, comments or concerns please don't hesitate to reach out, thats what I'm here for!

Mark Aylor D.C.