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Kinesiology Taping
by Hilary Whitaker Registered Osteopath

You may have seen the brightly coloured sports tape that has filtered its way down to us mere mortals from professional sports and elite athletics.

If you have been any sport on telly you'll have noted the shocking pink and turquoise strips poking out from under the athletes’ kits. But it’s not just for the elites these days. Small twinges can turn into niggles that can turn into full scale biomechanical Armageddon on the exercising body.

When I did my training, sports tape was little more than industrial strength hybrid of gaffer tape and Elastoplast, the classic “tape me up coach, I’m going back on” stuff that pretty much immobilised the joints and tore your skin off. It seemed to spot weld itself to the skin and needed solvent to remove. When Kinesio Tape first made an appearance, I admit I was sceptical. 

But the wheel really has been reinvented with the new tape which is supple and allows natural movement and the skin to breathe. The tape is hypoallergenic for a start, so if you're allergic to Elastoplast or that zinc oxide stuff that came out of the Ark, you should be okay with this.   It has a 3D weft to it so that it moves and shapes to the body's contours. It can be used in a variety of ways to minutely adapt muscle and joint function, improve proprioception (that's the neurological feedback to the spinal cord), relieve trigger point activity, improve drainage from sprained or bruised areas, or supported correct joint positioning.   You don’t have to be an Olympic high diver to benefit, and you may be interested in getting taped to help you rehabilitate an injury, protect an existing one, or help maintain the benefits of your osteopathic treatment. Additionally the tape can help support postural re-alignment, and the pregnant ‘bump’.

You can buy the tape yourself, but avoid going on YouTube to teach yourself as incorrectly applied tape won’t help you much.  I know, I know I would say that wouldn’t I…but a good therapist can teach you how to tape yourself up correctly before training or an event, and it is money well spent. You can buy pre-packaged pre-cut tape but this is a really expensive way to do it, and if you are going to be taped regularly, save yourself some money and buy yourself a roll of tape online.  For most jobs the 5cm width is enough unless you are particularly big fella and a danger to shipping. Although there are several makes out there now, as I am trained (to level 3 Advanced Sports Taping) by the Kinesio Taping Association, www.kinesiotaping.co.uk I only use KinesioTex Gold tape.

Are there any downsides?  Some people do still find they are allergic to it, usually it happens to those who tend to have reactive skin even to most other hypoallergenic things. If you are a particularly hairy person you will need to shave the area to be taped. Always leave the area free of moisturisers, massage oil, talc or fake tan for a few days prior.  The tape stays on for an average 3 days although the corner edges start to peel up and catch on clothing and bed linen which is annoying; this can be avoided by wearing leggings and long-sleeved tops especially in bed.  The makers say that it is water resistant but not waterproof, which means it will survive a shower and pat dry, but not a bath, jacuzzi, or long pool session.  Very sweaty exercisers say that it comes off pretty quick if it isn’t covered over with wick away clothing.

Ideally you get taped a few hours or the evening before a big event or training session.  You can ice pack over it but be careful to use only gentle heat as the tape is heat activated by your body warmth. Do not try to reattach peeling wet tape by blasting it with a hairdryer (you know who you are)!  

If you are worried about the colours, as well as pink and turquoise there are black (good for hot weather) white, and delightful hospital beige colours available.  Funnily enough, some people don't want to draw attention to their injuries (or clash with their fashion sense) and do opt for the less garish colours.

© Hilary Whitaker BSc (Hons) Ost. PgDip Med Acu
Registered Osteopath & Medical Acupuncturist

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