What’s in a Tape?

Ever since the 2008 Olympics when Kerri Walsh won Gold for the US Women’s Beach Volleyball team for the second time in a row, the concept of kinesiology tape became all the rage.  Injured patients, athletes and even people who don’t have an injury want to wear it.  My professional sprinter had it on her Achilles tendon and was asked by a gym member on the treadmill next to her where he could get it.  She countered with “Are you injured?” and his response was, “Nah, I just think it’s cool.”

But what is in the tape really? It’s got great colors: skin tone (or beige), black, turquoise blue, and red (although it is really hot pink).  Now there is even dark blue, neon green and purple, depending on the brand.  It’s 100% cotton.  It’s breathable. It’s flexible.  It’s the same weight and thickness of skin. It can facilitate a muscle (help it contract), relax a muscle (help it stretch out), pull swelling out of an area, and add support like a brace.  It does a lot all in one and it looks cool to have on. So, is there some magic stuff in it that makes it do all of this stuff? The resounding answer is, “NO!”

It is the only longitudinal tape that is on the market. All other tapes available are rigid and strapping or have elasticity in 3 dimensions. After the Olympics, the original tape, Kinesio Tape had some major competitors: SpiderTech, KT Tape, RockTape and now there is another called Strength Tape. All have their own thing eg RockTape has a multitude of designs on the tape, SpiderTech is known for their pre-cut applications whereas Kinesio Tape has solid colors.  The colors are typically picked based on personal preference and ‘superstition’ from athletes but all can accomplish the same goals.

For those of you working in the kitchen under intense pressure and high heat conditions with a lot of perspiration, it is a comfortable tape that can be used to help you stay on your feet longer and more comfortably.  Any injury from head to toe can accommodate this tape.  It’s best applied by a healthcare practitioner that is certified in the taping technique, but you can learn how to apply it yourself.  SpiderTech and KT Tape are known for the pre-cut designs and are easily available.

National Restaurant Association Show Jan 2019 728×90

My relationship with Wylie Dufresne began over his elbow and the air cast brace he wore during service. It showed that he had tennis elbow and a long history with it that the brace didn’t quite help or resolve. He discovered the beauty of this tape when I taped him in his restaurant and in the clinic. He relies more on the tape to be applied to him, but he also googled a technique for self-application that he wanted me to try and it worked. He has been a fan ever since.

My chef clients love it for the postural support it adds as you spend your entire day looking down. Applied to the neck and mid-back, it helps with neck pain. Or, it can help out the low back as this area supports your weight and is highly compressed with the long hours spent on your feet. Any injuries you have, it can be used for both the pain, as well as to help with function as you continue through your day.

Any which way you stick it, it works.

Dr. Karena Wu
Dr. Karena Wu is owner and Clinical Director of ActiveCare Physical Therapy. She has been practicing physical therapy for 16 years in New York City after she graduated from the Program In Physical Therapy at Columbia University. She received her clinical doctorate in physical therapy from Temple University. She has advanced training in manual therapies, specifically in the Maitland Australian Approach and Myofascial Release. Karena is a Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist, Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Kinesiology Tape Practitioner and Pilates Instructor. She is also LSVT BIG, FMS and SFMA Level 1 Certified. Karena is a dedicated practitioner who takes a holistic approach to her practice. She actively networks with a team of physicians, chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists. Her patient population consists of professional athletes, dancers, celebrity chefs, TV media stars, high end business professionals, and NYPD/FDNY. Karena is used as a healthcare expert on CBS, NBC, NY1, PIX11, Verizon Fios, Fox News and Dr. Oz. She is the Director of Education for SpiderTech Kinesiology Tape and is on the Medical Board of the Association of Volleyball Professionals. Visit her website at activecarephysicaltherapy.com.