Of late, the sporting arena has turned into a colourful one, especially after the last Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
If you tune in to any sports channel or attend a sporting event, you’d have noticed athletes strapping various body parts with multi-coloured tapes.
These eye-catching pink, blue, black and yellow strips, referred to as kinesiology tape, add vibrancy to the scene and have become somewhat trendy.
For the non-sporty, it makes them “feel” athletic, and for the sporty, it may be necessary or useful.
The adhesive tape, made of a thin, stretchy fabric, was invented in 1979 by Kenzo Kase, who claims it can alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, relax muscles, enhance performance and help with rehabilitation, as well as supporting muscles during a sporting event.
The American-trained Japanese chiropractor advanced a revolutionary concept and modality of treatment based on a non-reductionist concept of how the human body works.
According to his website, he was not interested in addressing parts and pieces of the human organism and healing the individual tissues.
Kase’s idea was to use tape as a second skin to influence the sensory motor loop between the skin and the brain, creating vasomotor, neuromuscular and neurofascial changes to bring stressed tissues throughout the body back to homeostasis (or balance).
“The body would then heal itself. In simple terms, by repositioning the skin over an injured tissue, sensory feedback is transmitted to the brain, which adapts and changes all the tissues in response,” he says.
Proponents believe that the kinesiology tape speeds healing by improving blood flow and lymphatic drainage, and that it supports injured joints and muscles without impeding their range of motion.
I was introduced to this method a few years ago by an early intervention and injury prevention specialist.
Over the years, I had suffered multiple ligament tears on my ankle and the last episode left me hobbling on crutches for months.
Even after six months, I couldn’t rise on the balls of my right foot without pain. Itching to dance, I sought help.
Initially, it felt as if my mobility was restricted. I couldn’t quite point or flex my feet comfortably, but the specialist pointed out that I was limiting myself due to fear of re-injuring the ligament. He encouraged me to push my capacity further.
Indeed, I could actually rise (again!) on the balls of my feet with minimal discomfort.
Soon, I learnt to strap my ankle and was jumping a little, while slowly rehabilitating myself.
With my foot taped and muscles supported, I was able to partake in activities that I enjoyed once more.
Since then, I’ve also become a proponent of this taping method. Although the purported benefits are unsubstantiated by scientific evidence, the kinesiology tape does provide support and reduces pain.
The first few times, I did have a bit of redness and itchiness upon removing the tape, most probably due to an allergic reaction from the adhesive. It has since disappeared.
Note that the tape has to be peeled off gently to minimise skin irritation. Better yet, soak or wet it with warm water first.
Depending on the tape brand and the amount of activity you undertake, along with other factors, these tapes generally don’t last more than two days, although the packaging often says it can last at least three.
The only drawback is that these tapes are pricey and cannot be reused. If you’re an active person, one roll can be easily used up in a month.
Personally, I only use it when I’m embarking on high intensity exercises or am demonstrating jumps to my students.
Without it, I’m a lot more cautious and restrain myself.
As Kase says, “Besides aiding with proper body mechanics, the tape also helps athletes mentally.
"Because the tape doesn’t bind, an athlete can practise using the affected area to its full extent. When the area is supported, pain is often minimised, making the athlete less fearful of movement.
"In addition, the removal of pain, or fear of pain, enables the athlete to relax and engage fully in the sport.”
Before you run off to purchase the tape, do seek your doctor’s advice as taping is not recommended for those with certain medical conditions such as skin problems. Also, you cannot place the tape over open wounds or scars.
Do not attempt to tape the injured part yourself – seek help from a specialist or healthcare professional. With improper taping, you can cause more damage.
Be wary of manufacturers making all kinds of claims, touting its therapeutic benefits.