Kinesio Tape…how does that stuff work?

By July 27, 2013Kinesio Taping
Personally written by Milan Lassiter, DC, located at 1303 W. Main St, Richmond, VA, Phone:  (804) 254-5765

 

You may have seen the colorful tape on an athlete in the Olympics or while watching sports on Saturday afternoon. Kinesio Tape can be used to alleviate pain from both chronic or acute injuries.  It’s a cotton therapeutic tape that has no medicine in it, manufactured with a thickness and weight that’s very close to that of skin; that way the brain can be familiar with how it feels, creating the perception that it’s not even there. Kinesio Tape is a stretchable product (it stretches and recoils like a rubber band).

By far, the most common question that I hear regarding Kinesio Tape is: “how does that stuff work?” So here is my synopsis of the basics of how the tape works:

The skin is the body’s largest sensory organ and it’s very flexible, allowing for a good deal of motion. Try pinching and pulling up on the skin on your forearm and you’ll notice how elastic and stretchable the skin is.

A major part of how Kinesio Tape works is by way of sensors that are on and under the skin (sensory receptors). These sensors send information to the sensory part of your brain. Sensory means that it’s picking up (sensing) signals about your environment or your body (ie: the pain that’s caused from a torn muscle).

Depending on if you’re viewing this blog on a computer, tablet, or cell phone, you’ll see a picture of the brain either above or to the right:

 

•  The sensory part of your brain is the light blue area in the illustration 

•  The motor part of your brain is the red area in the illustration 

 

The sensory and motor parts of the brain are directly next to each other; they’re inter-linked and constantly in communication with each other. The motor part is the area of your brain where your body’s muscles are controlled from. There’s a constant feedback loop that’s always happening between the sensory and motor system.

Sensory information causes the brain to send out certain signals to the rest of the body about how to react to particular stimuli. The relationship between the sensory and motor parts of the brain can be illustrated by the example of putting your finger over a candle flame: The sensory receptors on the skin would pick up the burning sensation, transmitting that sensation to the sensory part of the brain. Communication between the sensory and the motor part of the brain would activate motor signals and, without even thinking about it, you’d jerk your hand away from the flame. Through different application methods, Kinesio Tape can affect these sensors that are on and under the skin.  Through manipulation of these sensors, Kinesio Tape can influence and change the healing process.

Another big part of how Kinesio Tape works is via what’s called “convolutions.” This basically means that ripples are created in the tape (and hence to the attached skin), which lowers pressure in the area and causes a decompression of the lymph channels. This allows more space beneath the skin, causing less compression to the sensory nerve receptors under the skin and substantially decreasing information that is sent to the brain regarding how painful and irritated the injured area is.  Kinesio Tape alters the information that these receptors send to the brain and causes a less reactive response in the body, allowing the body to work in a more normal manner and removing some of the roadblocks that normally slows down the healing process.

Although it’s somewhat technical, there are 2 basic application directions for the treatment of muscles:  (1) Origin to Insertion and (2) Insertion to Origin (See examples below):

 

The Insertion to Origin method is used to relax a muscle and relieve some of the tension off of it (inhibiting it). Think of this method as allowing the muscle to “slack” a little bit, thereby allowing less activity or recruitment of the muscle.

Origin to Insertion is used for increasing activation of a muscle (facilitating it). This method is used for a chronically weak muscle and to re-educate a muscle (remind the muscle of what movement it’s supposed to perform). Think of this method as adding a slight assistance to re-train and remind the motor part of the brain what that particular muscle is supposed to do.

Dr. Lassiter

Author Dr. Lassiter

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