Kinesiology Tape: Help or Hype?

Kinesiology tape has exploded over the last few years. It first received mainstream attention during the 2012 Olympics when several athletes—namely beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh, sported the flashy tape. More recently, NBA players like Derek Rose and James Harden have been displaying it on their neck and shoulder, respectively. 

But what is kinesiology tape and what does it do?

Its main purpose is to treat injuries, according to Jayson Goo, a certified athletic trainer at the University of Hawai‘i. The tape interacts with the body’s skin and nerves to promote healing through increased blood flow, better lymphatic drainage, and pain reduction.

Goo has been using it on UH student-athletes for nearly two decades and is an internationally-sought speaker on its use, advising the likes of the English Premier League and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).

Yet, you don’t need to be a world-class athlete to use it. Weekend warriors can use it for tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis, shoulder strains, back pain, and knee and ankle injuries, among other things. My 73-year-old dad picked some up at the drug store for his arthritic knee.

Basically the tape can be used by a wide range of people for a number of injuries, from the acute to rehab stages of injury. So what’s up with non-injured folks using it?

Goo makes one thing clear: “It’s not a performance enhancer,” he said.

The tape doesn’t have any medicinal properties. He did say however, that it can prevent injuries by enhancing proprioception, your body’s awareness of how your joints and muscles are functioning.

“Users like it because it allows for better range of motion as opposed to standard athletic tape, bandages, or braces,” he said. So if someone isn’t injured and is wearing it, well, it’s not just for style points.

You can find different types of brands at the local drug store, but Kinesio Tex Tape is the most widely used by experts and the most scientifically tested. While it can be self-applied, Goo advises that when possible, have a health professional (doctor, trainer, therapist, etc.) apply it. There are different ways to apply it during the varying stages of an injury to maximize its effects.