Last month, in Part 1 of Tale of the Tape, I discussed the product explosion of kinesiology tape following the 2008 Olympics. Currently, there are well over 50 brands of tapes available. If you want to start your own line of kinesiology tape, you need not look further than a popular global trade site like alibaba.com to find manufactures willing to produce your personal brand of tape. This is where the quality I mentioned last month can be significantly impacted and many brands fall short in producing the same outcomes compared to the major players. In order to cut costs, some brands will skimp on essentials such as quality of cotton and adhesive. I have used a dozen or so brands over the years. Finding the right brand for you comes down to trial and error. Take the time to figure what brand best suits your needs. I will reserve any recommendations or personal preference that I have for another article.
So lets discuss the basic properties of kinesiology tape. First off, the two most important qualities that make any kinesiology tape effective are its ability to stretch and stick. Next month we will discuss the principle theory behind the tapes effectiveness, but suffice to say if a tape is assumed to support movements and remain adhered for 3-5 days, it had best do so. Other common taping methods, such as McConnell or Leuko taping are very rigid kinds of taping methods that limit any movement and are typically worn for short durations. The ability for the tape to allow support and mobility as well as last a few days makes for an excellent treatment tool. When manufactured properly, the following properties make for an effective tape.
- Stretches up to 40-60% of original length: Kinesiology tape is designed to mimic the movement of our skin. This means that once it is applied correctly, the patient should be able to move freely without any restrictions. There are certain advanced applications that are applied that may call for some more intensity on the amount of stretch applied, but for the most part, taping applications should be very light on the skin.
- Most brands are 100% Cotton. Some others contain a small percentage of lycra, spandex or rayon. Your personal preference and experience will determine what you prefer. I have found tape that contains components such as spandex or rayon to be a bit lighter in weight, but I have yet to find any data that considers this a significant attribute when it comes to overall effectiveness.
- Most have a wave like pattern of adhesive (think fingerprint): This makes the tape both breathable and flexible. Some brands have tampered with different patterns a bit, but I have seen no significant difference in effectiveness.
- Water Resistant. Notice I did not say “water proof”. Similar to a watch that is water resistant, it can get wet, but will continue to function just fine. It is the adhesive that makes a tape water resistant, which allows for a better adherence when performing. Most adhesives are acrylic based, but like any other kind of tape, we can all quickly tell the cheap adhesive from the high quality kinds. I have read in places that certain brands of tape treat the cotton fibers with a “water resistant coating”, but no one has ever declared what this coating is, so I won’t speculate here either.
- Latex free and hypoallergenic: This is another area where you will quickly determine if the kinesiology brand you choose is right for you. Of course it is important to use a kinesiology tape that has appropriate stretch capabilities and an effective adhesive. However, if the tape creates skin irritations, it’s kind of pointless. Once again, this comes back to the quality in the overall manufacturing of the kinesiology tape.
- Colors: Kinesiology tape is most known for the variety of colors and patterns we see. The colors are merely a brands preference. Originally when the tape was created back in the early 1970’s in Japan, colors were instituted to provide an additional component in the healing process. Chromo therapy also known as color therapy has been suggested to “balance energy” and impact a person’s body on a physical, emotional, spiritual and mental level. Additionally, depending upon where a color falls upon the light spectrum, it is thought to either reflect or absorb light therefore dissipating or generating heat to an area. Hence the original belief that the use of blue tape was to calm and deflect light or pink was to stimulate and absorb light. Ultimately, if the pink tape is deemed by the therapist to be the most appropriate application (based upon the Chromo therapy theory) but the patient feels self-conscious wearing pink at his rugby game, I think it is best to err on the side of the patients needs vs. some pseudo-science, but I’ll leave that up to you.
Next month, we will start to dig into the nuts and bolts of the application and theory behind the use of kinesiology taping. Thanks for reading.