They are blue, pink or green and are increasingly adorning tight calves, tense necks or damaged backs. Kinesiology tapes are considered a silver bullet against all kinds of muscle problems. But what can the colorful tapes really do? The most important questions and answers.
Many millions of Germans do sports regularly – and that’s a good thing. Many professional athletes, but also amateur athletes, know from their own experience that there is occasionally a pinch here and there, that the calf “closes” or that a muscle is overstrained and goes on strike. As an option for getting tension, muscle pain or swelling under control quickly, elastic, colored cotton bands that are glued to the appropriate areas have become established in recent years. kinesiology tape. In many physiotherapy practices, but also privately, what the rolls give is now glued. But what exactly is glued to the calves, the back or the neck and does it really do anything?
Together with Kristina Jago, physiotherapist and Master of Science in clinical sports physiology and sports therapy, we provide an overview of kinesiotape in the following article and clarify the most important questions.
What is kinesio tape?
Kinesiotapes are stretchable cotton tapes coated with acrylic adhesive that are wound onto rolls. The tapes are typically five centimeters wide, each five meters long and are cut to the desired length before sticking. They are available in different colors, but also printed with patterns. More on the meaning of the colors later. The tapes are usually waterproof, so they can also be worn when bathing and showering. Kinesiotape came to Germany in the late 1990s. They were developed in Japan back in the 1970s, presumably inspired by kinesiology.
What is kinesiology tape used for?
Kinesio tapes are mainly used in sports, but also in everyday life. Athletes use the colorful tapes as pain tape – for example for strains. “The tapes are also stuck on so that the muscles tire less quickly,” explains Kristina Jago. Another goal is that certain muscles are better supplied with blood. For these two reasons, marathon runners like to use kinesiology tape and place it along the calf muscles. In addition, the tapes are supposed to alleviate the notorious sore muscles afterwards. In everyday life, kinesio tapes are mainly used as a miracle weapon against muscular tension or injuries and are often stuck on the back, in the lumbar region and in the neck.
What can kinesiology tape do?
First of all: There is currently no scientific evidence that kinesiotape relieves muscle tension, relieves pain or has a positive effect on blood circulation in certain muscles. In comparative studies, sports scientists have not yet been able to prove that the colored tapes achieve a significantly better effect than other structural tapes, plasters or the like. Exciting: The subjective impression is often different. This is one of the reasons why kinesio tapes have been enjoying increasing popularity in amateur sports, but also in everyday life for several years. But where does the gap between science and subjective perception come from?
The secret of Kinesiotape’s success has a psychological component. And regardless of the reason why it is glued in the first place. An example: A runner feels pain in a certain area and wants to use kinesiotape as pain tape. In this case, the tape should be stuck on the pain point as a cross, where it has exactly two tasks. First: relieve the structure of the muscles at this point; And secondly: direct the focus and concentration to exactly this point. And that is the crucial point.
What does kinesiology tape really do?
Kinesio tapes cause the “patient’s” focus and concentration to be directed to the taped pain point or muscle, thereby influencing behavior. This can lead to the symptoms improving. In other words: It’s not the tape itself that makes a difference. It’s just a reminder to focus on the pain point, to actively relax the muscle, or to use it more.
Example 1: Thoracic or lumbar spine
Kinesio tape applied correctly here is reminiscent of the upright posture that is often forgotten in everyday life. The increased muscle activity can relieve back pain under certain circumstances. The warmth that develops under the cotton band also relaxes you.
Example 2: knees
In people who have different degrees of leg muscles on the inside and outside or front and back of the thigh, the kneecap sometimes does not slide smoothly. Over time, this leads to pain in the knee joint. If you now stick a kinesiotape around the kneecap, it reminds you to use the weaker muscle more. In addition, you can feel on the skin that the pull of the tape goes a little inwards and, for example, activates the inner muscles a little better. Again, success is probably more related to focusing on it.
Example 3: Neck
A kinesiotape glued to the tense neck muscles is a constant reminder to relax this muscle in a targeted and active manner. Basically, it acts as a kind of reminder patch.
Example 4: Severe swelling (e.g. lymphedema)
Here the kinesiotape is cut into five narrow strips, which are glued at a distance of one centimeter in the direction of the lymphatic drainage. The drainage works demonstrably better at the taped areas. Whether the same effect can also be achieved with normal adhesive tape is an open question.
Kinesiotape: What do the colors mean?
Kinesio tapes are now available in many different colors. In addition to the classic rolls in blue and pink, tapes are available in black, green and orange. Even patterns such as camouflage or tapes in a dot design are available. There are also many assumptions and half-truths circulating. Do tapes in a certain color only work on a certain part of the body? Does blue have a cooling effect, while red has a warming effect? There is currently no scientific evidence for this. “As far as I know, the structure of the tapes is all the same,” says physiotherapist Kristina Jago. “I still wouldn’t say that it makes no difference when sticking it on. The body reacts to colors, you can believe that or not, and color psychology certainly plays a role when it comes to kinesiology tape.” But that has nothing to do with the tape itself, Jago continues. In other words: Whether yellow, red, dotted or striped: the ribbons are made of elastic cotton and are coated with acrylic adhesive.
Can you apply kinesiology tape yourself?
In principle, you cannot make any mistakes when sticking kinesio tapes and certainly not break anything. However, caution is advised in the case of diagnosed muscle injuries, such as strains. “In such a case, it is important to know the muscle structures,” explains Kristina Jago. The muscle should first be taped along its length and then also across it to give it meaningful support. “If you simply stick the tape on the pain point, the focus is not on the entire muscle, but only on this area where the pain may not have originated. A calf strain can also be caused in the thigh, for example,” explains the physiotherapist and ambitious runner. Important: If you want to use kinesiology tape as pain tape, you should seek professional advice if in doubt. When it comes to relieving muscle tension, it is often sufficient to study the supplied adhesive instructions and follow them accordingly.
Tipp: Before sticking, the skin under the tape should be shaved and not creamed.
Removing Kinesiotape: This is important
One philosophy of kinesiology tape is: as long as it sticks, you need it. “If the tape is still sticking, don’t just tear it off,” advises Kristina Jago. That can leave painful wounds. If you still want to get rid of it sooner, it is best to moisten the kinesiotape with a little warm water and slowly remove it from the skin. Kinesiotape can last up to three weeks, others dissolve again after an hour. Tipp: In order to make the detachment as painless as possible, the affected area should be shaved before gluing.
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