Dynamic Duo: CrossFit and Kinesiology Tape
Kinesiology tape has exploded in the CrossFit arena. Is it just for show, or does this tape actually provide a benefit to athletes?
The idea behind kinesiology tape is to improve length-tension relationships of muscles, improve force coupling among muscles, and improve neuromuscular efficiency. All of these benefits are achieved via stimulation on the skin. This differs from traditional athletic tape in the fact that kinesiology tape promotes movement, rather than artificial stability. By taping to improve movement and dynamic stability throughout the body, athletic performance, rehabilitation success, and recovery time improve. The skin is the largest sensory organ in the body and therefore, acts as an extension of the brain. When the tape interacts with the skin, it sends sensory signals through the nervous system which have the power to change the brain. This principle is known as neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to adapt to new information. Change in the brain does not happen instantaneously. The tape creates a kinesthetic learning environment for the body in which it learns to adapt via a constant stimulus on the skin over a few days. Although this pattern will need to be reinforced when the tape is removed, this is the first step in improving muscle coordination and movement patterns faults seen with muscle imbalance and chronic injuries.
Increased muscle coordination also yields increased proprioception. Proprioception is the ability to feel where the body is in space. By sending sensory input to the brain, the body becomes aware of where it is in space and how it is moving. Kinesiology tape allows the patient to have better static and dynamic movement control due to increased proprioception. Increased awareness of body positioning cues muscles to fire in the proper order, improving faulty movement patterns and static posture. This is especially important when reinforcing proper positioning during rehabilitation, and aids in avoiding re-injury after a rehabilitation program is completed.
Kinesiology tape can also be used to relieve acute pain and inflammation in the case of muscle, tendon, or ligament injury by using the tape as a decompression strip. When tape is applied to the skin it creates a “lifting effect” that separates the skin and superficial layer of fascia. This separation allows the two layers to glide past each other easing motion and decreasing pain. The decompression application of the tape creates pressure differentials in the small capillary beds underneath the skin, allowing capillaries and small lymphatic vessels to open up and improve circulation at site of injury. Improved circulation allows waste products to be flushed out, while fresh nutrient rich blood can reach the healing tissue to improve recovery. The tape stimulates movement receptors in the skin which initiates a response in the nervous system that causes relaxation of intrafascial smooth muscle. This fascial response generates a relaxation response in the muscle tissue that results in normalized muscle tone also serving to decrease pain and excessive inflammation while healing.
In a competition setting, kinesiology tape cues the body to be efficient and recruit muscles properly to delay the onset of muscle fatigue. Assisted dynamic stability supports smaller postural muscles that fatigue more quickly than primary movers. The added support felt via the tape helps to prevent injury and sustain athletic performance. Leaving the tape on the skin for a days after competition concludes also helps with post-competition recovery. The tape creates the same “lifting effect” discussed earlier which increases circulation and alleviates inflammation. The body is also cued by the tape to maintain proper static and dynamic position which aids in recovery time by placing less stress on recovering muscles and joints.
Kinesiology tape is an excellent tool used to accelerate healing and improve athletic performance. However, it should be used sparingly and under the correct circumstances. Seeking the care of a medical professional is essential to correct the root cause of an injury, rather than using kinesiology tape as a mask for symptoms.
Revive Balance Chiropractic