In the first of a series of articles, Barry Spencer, a Chartered Physiotherapist and Medical Development Director for Rocktape who also has a Physiotherapy clinic in Burgess Hill, introduces us to the basics of Kinesiolgy tape or, as most of us will know it, Rocktape. Barry has recently completed the 1st CrossFit training day at CrossFit Bold.
Seen the bright coloured tape over elite athletes in the Olympics? Wondered what it is and what it does? It’s called Kinesiology Tape and it ‘s received plenty of publicity of late. Kinesiology tape was developed in Japan in the 70’s and, up until recently, it has been mainly used in the Far East. During the Beijing Olympics several high profile athlete wore Kinesiology tape and, since then, the Western World has become much more interested. When Kinesiology tape was developed, it was thought that different colours had different effects, along the lines of colour therapy. Black was to give more power, blue for cooling and pink to provide warmth. These days the various colours and patterned tape you see are just a bit of fun added to what is becoming an increasingly popular rehabilitation tool.
Kinesiology tape is a cotton/nylon weave that contains no drugs, potions or magic. The adhesive on the back of the tape is acrylic based, which means it is gentle to the skin. Most people have no problems with their skin when wearing Kinesiology tape, even those who have had prior issues with other latex-based tape products. Depending on the brand used, how well it is applied, the skin type and activity levels of the wearer, Kinesiology tape will last on average between 3-5 days.
Most active people have some familiarity with at least one variety of sports tape. The first thing most people say when they see Kinesiology tape is “Looks cool; how does it work?” To answer this, the first thing you need to understand is that, unlike traditional sports tape, it is elastic. The idea is not to limit movement; it’s about improving movement through better awareness, improving circulation and decreasing pain. Most athletes understand that, for the majority of the time, they don’t want to be restricted in what they are doing; they just want to feel better. In a nutshell, that’s what Kinesiology tape does.
The theory behind using Kinesiology tape is that the elasticity of the tape causes a lifting or wrinkling effect on the skin.
The wrinkling effect caused by Rocktape
The skin wrinkling caused by the tape causes a ‘lifting” and this is thought to provide more space between the skin and fascial tissue below the skin. This has 2 effects: firstly, it makes more room for fluid movement which means better lymphatic drainage and removal of waste products and, secondly, it lessens the pressure on free nerve endings which are a common source of myofascial pain.
The other way that Kinesiology tape helps us is with our movement awareness, or proprioception. There are nerves in our skin called cutaneous afferents, which play an important part in telling our brain how we are moving and helping the brain to co-ordinate our movement. By stimulating these cutaneous afferents with Kinesiology tape, we increase the amount of information our brain has about how we are moving; the knock on effect being better movement control and awareness. This better awareness is often described as feeling like ‘a sense of support’ or ‘better control’. CrossFitters will know more than most that ‘feeling’ what you are trying to do is key to performing well and not getting injured.
You may notice the language used in the above explanation in terms of ‘proposed’ effects. In truth there is no firm evidence that proves beyond doubt that Kinesiology tape does what we think it does. There is however a rapidly growing body of research evidence showing positive effects and lots of anecdotal evidence from practitioners demonstrating effects with their patients. For most people, ‘the proof is in the pudding’. If you try something and know it works, you don’t need someone to prove it to you.
Whilst it wasn’t developed for this purpose, many ingenious souls in the CrossFit world are using Rocktape on their hands to prevent blistering and bleeding with great effect!
Torn hands are a thing of the past!
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