If you watched any of the Olympics in 2008, you probably noticed the war-paint like athletic tape that volleyball player Kerri Walsh wore. It’s called KT tape and it’s the latest and greatest trend in injury management.
For a long time this unique tape and application process were limited to chiropractors and other sports medicine professionals (you can even become certified in the taping process). But it’s now available in more consumer-friendly forms and is definitely worth looking into if you’re struggling with injury.
What is KT Tape?
KT tape is not just athletic tape that comes in different colors. Its elastic qualities allow it to manipulate the skin and the movement and function of muscles in ways that traditional athletic tape can’t.
You can think about traditional athletic tape as limiting the range of motion at the injury site, and KT tape as assisting the range of motion. In most cases, the KT tape will be stretched and then applied to the skin. The elastic then contracts and creates a microscopic “lifting” of the skin. This allows pressure to be taken off pain receptors at the injury site, and reduces pain.
How do you use KT Tape?
KT tape is going to have different application processes depending on the injury that you’re treating. Demonstration videos for taping everything from shin splints to carpal tunnel can be found here: INSTRUCTIONS
This new consumer version of the tape comes in convenient, pre-cut strips that allow you to follow the demonstrations without any special training.
There are a few differences between the application of KT tape and regular athletic tape, however. As I mentioned, it’s often stretched to utilize the elastic properties of the tape. The adhesive is also heat-activated, so it takes some friction to get it to stick properly. The upside is that once it’s in place, it’s more or less waterproof and should stay in place for several days.
Does it work?
In a word – yes. I wish I had more of a scientific background to understand why it works. But I’ve personally used it sporadically to alleviate patella tendonitis (“runner’s knee”), and I’ve used it effectively with my athletes as well.
I would caution you that this product definitely treats the symptom, not the cause of the injury. So I would recommend it as a short-term solution to get you through the marathon that’s a few weeks away, rather than a long-term fix. Sooner or later, you’ll have to address what’s actually causing your injury. Until then, at about $13 a roll, this is certainly worth trying!