Kinesiology Taping to Improve Athletic Performance
By Abby Kramer
Placing adhesive tape on the skin provides direct stimulation to our nervous system. By changing the skin via kinesiology tape, we are changing the brain, which in turn can change our physiology…pretty cool huh? Taping uses our skin as a “handle” and increases space between our skin and the rest of our tissues (muscle, fascia, bone, circulation, etc.) By using tape in different ways we can aide with things like pain relief, swelling and circulation control, facilitating or inhibiting muscles, improve range of motion in joints, and help with posture. Who hasn’t had problems in any of those areas, especially in athletes?
In recent years, many different companies have developed their own tape, each with it’s own qualities. I have used several different brands and by far my favorite has been Rocktape. I love Rocktape not only for its exceptional quality but also it’s philosophy on taping. As compared to most kinesiology tapes out there, Rocktape boasts 180% stretch in their tape, while most other brands average 130%. More stretch means a higher “snap back” on the tape, increasing that neurologic feedback we discussed earlier, and resulting in a better physiologic response.
Rocktape has the best adhesive I have seen in a tape, it truly stays on for 5-7 days, making both the provider and client happier. However, my favorite aspect of Rocktape is how they teach taping. Instead of taping individual muscles, they take a functional approach, taping the client in the movement they want to be in. For example, if taping a runner I’d tape them in a running stance to help correct their motion rather than statically taping their leg. Of course, we can also provide general taping for common complaints such as tennis elbow, IT band pain, and sprained ankles, which you will see some of shortly!
I have selected 4 different taping techniques for this article to show how taping can be so beneficial. All 4 of these I felt could be especially helpful for triathletes, as all of these have been common complaints of triathletes I have worked with in the past.
1. This is one of my favorite tape applications! It is so common in runners to have lateral knee pain. One of the most frustrating things is finding exactly what causes it. It could be caused anywhere from the foot up to the hips! This functional taping application addresses the whole chain and I have seen great results from it. As you can see the tape starts at the foot, supporting the arch, and goes all the way up the leg and around the gluteal muscles for stability.
2. Next, a common tape application to help with IT band pain. This application is designed more for pain relief, perfect to apply on race day if you’ve got that typical superior lateral knee discomfort we all know and love. A stabilizing strip is applied all along the IT band, with a compression strip (plenty of stretch) right along where pain is felt.
3. Shoulder pain is probably the most common complaint of swimmers. This is another application to reduce pain in the area. A strip is applied below the deltoid muscle and split around the joint for stability. Again a compression strip is applied across the painful area. Great to increase range of motion and decrease pain.
4. This was probably my favorite taping technique I learned at my certification seminar and I knew I had to share it with you guys! This is a technique for taping the diaphragm. We’ve all heard that it’s much better to “belly breathe” than “chest breathe.” However, that can definitely be a difficult transition to make when most of us have been breathing incorrectly for years. This technique serves as a great “reminder” to activate the abdominal muscles and aide in diaphragmatic breathing, making it uncomfortable to chest breathe. It’s so important to work on our breathing for everyone, but especially in triathletes trying to develop their aerobic fitness. This would be a GREAT technique to tape during training as well as competition.
I hope a background in kinesiology taping and a few examples have been helpful! It can be a great tool for anyone. Whether it be taping to improve posture at your desk job or for athletic performance for a professional athlete it can help get the job done. It is important to mention though, that taping does not fix the problem! Far too many people tend to slap tape on and ignore their problems, which leads to injury. It can be a wonderful tool in training and competition, but it is crucial to address what is causing the muscle and joint imbalances and fix that. While tape can be applied at home, without assistance I highly recommend seeking a certified tape provider. They are qualified to assess weaknesses, apply the tape correctly to insure it isn’t affecting other muscles and tissues negatively, and get you feeling better faster! I hope this has inspired you to give taping a try, and feel free to contact me with any questions!
BIO: Abby Kramer is currently in the Chiropractic program at National University of Health Sciences in Lombard, IL and resides in Park Ridge, IL. She is a certified personal trainer, holds an advanced level certification with Rocktape, and has a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. She decided to take her passion for fitness and a healthy lifestyle a step further and become a doctor. She was a competitive swimmer in high school and college, and now a runner. She has done 2 sprint triathlons and had a blast! If she’s not studying or running, she’s enjoying time with her husband, 2 dogs, and her favorite city, Chicago.
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