What Is Therapeutic Tape?

Maggie J. Hall
Maggie J. Hall
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Therapeutic tape is an elastic, non-latex product used by therapists to treat neuromuscular conditions. Japanese physician, Dr. Kenzo Kase developed the treatment method in the 1970s. Therapists believe the tape treatments gently correct circulation and mechanical function and that the taping process aids in injury prevention and helps current injuries to heal. Manufacturers design the tape for general use or for specific body areas.

Through his research in kinesiology, the study of body movement, Dr. Kase found that by applying elastic tape to the origin and insertion sites of affected muscles, movement improved while pain and inflammation decreased. He believed the therapeutic treatments inhibit the pain response because the sensation caused by taping keeps neurons from sending signals to the brain. He also claims that the tape microscopically lifts the skin, providing space for swollen tissues and improving blood and lymph drainage and circulation while reducing inflammation and swelling.

Using the therapeutic tape, therapists often place single strips along muscle pathways in X or Y shaped patterns. The configurations used in the different types of therapeutic tape treatments number in the hundreds. Therapists use the technique for acute and chronic injuries and during rehabilitative exercise. As the treatment does not inhibit or restrain physical movement, patients typically wear the tape continuously for two to five days, regardless of physical activity or moisture exposure.

Prior to therapeutic tape application, therapists perform a thorough physical and verbal assessment of the patient. Physical examination reveals the extent of the injury and the type of treatment required. The verbal evaluation supplies vital information concerning how the injury occurred and whether underlying conditions caused the event. The goal of therapeutic taping is to reprogram the neuromuscular system so that normal function returns.

Tape manufacturers typically offer classes for therapists interested in learning the therapeutic taping methods. The Kinesio TapingĀ® International Association is the only organization providing training and certification in the method. The organization has affiliates worldwide and offers courses at three levels.

The tape generally consists of around 97% cotton and 3% nylon. Manufacturers produce different types of tape, however, which vary in width and length. Individuals may purchase the tape in continuous rolls or in rolls with precut, serrated strips. Some packages contain preconfigured designs. There is also a special type of tape, with a milder adhesive, for fragile or sensitive skin.

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