If you have been wafting around AUT Millennium (or anywhere that‘s not under a rock, really), chances are you will have seen an athlete or even your average Joe Blogs sporting some brightly coloured tape somewhere on their person. This is called kinesiotape – or k-tape for short – and it has become quite a common intervention used within the physio, health, and sporting world.

K-tape popped on to the scene in the 80’s, invented by a chiropractor. It became a lot more mainstream over the last 10 years and has been adopted and adapted into different sports for a plethora of different injuries.

So what is it doing and does it really work?

K-tape is a stretchy adhesive fabric that is applied to the skin with a gentle stretch applied. It is suggested that the tape retracts and lifts the skin gently which improves blood and lymphatic flow beneath. Some research has supported this theory and with certain conditions, that may well be happening. Many people, however, believe that the application of tape to the skin provides the brain with a greater awareness of the position of that part of the body which improves our posture, control and strength. The sensation of the tape on the skin can also reduce our sensation of pain, much like rubbing your hand when you whack the doorframe with it in the middle of the night.

So does it work? I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked whether it is really doing anything or if it is just a placebo effect. What I can tell you is that by a decent majority, most of my patients find it very beneficial! The research tends to support this, showing improvement in patient signs and symptoms for a variety of conditions:

– Improve calf strength with hopping
– Reduce pain in patients with shoulder injuries, enough for them to lift their arms without symptoms
– Swelling reduction in the arms of patients with breast cancer, and is far more comfortable and easy for them to wear than normal bandages
– Improve neck and back pain in a group of surgeons while working their shifts
– Improved pain and range of motion in the ankles of Duathletes recovering from injury
– May reduce muscle fatigue in patients with lower back pain
– Improved pain in patients who have sustained whiplash injuries
– Beneficial in patients with painful knee conditions including osteoarthritis and patello-femoral syndrome
– Personally, I like to use it for most injuries; although, a stand-out would be headaches, neck and/or shoulder pain. We normally see a very quick improvement in symptoms with the use of K-tape for these patients.

The good news is if it doesn’t make you feel better, it doesn’t seem to make you feel worse. The only side effect is that some people experience skin irritation, so if you feel any itchiness or sensitivity, it is wise to take it off. As I tell my patients, it’s inexpensive to try and easy to remove. It’s not as rigid as the old fashioned sports tape so it’s much more comfortable and can be worn for up to five days.

If you think you might like to try k-tape for an injury or would like to learn more about how it could be used to help you, come in and see one of the team at Healthzone Physio for a consultation.

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Rebecca graduated from AUT in 2008 with her Bachelor of Health Science in Physiotherapy and started working in a West Auckland private practice. She quickly gained an interest in sports physiotherapy including injury prevention and management. Rebecca worked for four years with premier and reserve club rugby teams including Waitemata and Kumeu / Helensville. She was the physio for the Western Pioneers team in 2012 when they won the North Harbour competition. Rebecca also practiced as a community physiotherapist administering the Otago Exercise Programme which focused on falls prevention for the independent elderly. Through these clients, she developed a curiosity in chronic pain conditions. While she has had plenty of experience in standard post surgical rehabilitation, she took a particular interest in Functional Reactivation Programmes, which work with people suffering persistent pain and complex recoveries post surgery or injury. Rebecca takes an interest in working with clients who have exhausted their channels within the health profession for the management of their pain and enjoys the challenge of helping these patients manage their conditions and return to activities of daily living. To aid in this work, she went on to get her Postgraduate Certificate in Rehabilitation from AUT. Rebecca’s passions include travel, yoga, food, comedy and film – don’t get her started on the topic of movies if you don’t have the time and energy to discuss them with her. She lives in central Auckland and is fiercely local – preferring to commute every day across the bridge than to live any distance away from friends and family!