When you’re training for a big race or that tennis tournament at the club, using this brightly colored sports tape can be a tempting way to deal with pain. Read this first.

What is KT Tape?

KT is short for Kinesio Tape. It was created by Kenzo Kase, a Japanese chiropractor, in the 1970s. According to the KT Tape website, it is designed to ease muscle, ligament and tendon pain, which allow you to remain active while recovering from an injury.

How do you use it?

KT Tape comes in two varieties, one made of reinforced cotton, the other a synthetic fabric that claims to stretch in length, but not in width. The site claims KT Tape offers “stable support without restricting motion.” You apply the tape along your muscle, ligament or tendon before your workout or event.

Does it work?

Despite the endorsement of several well-known Olympic athletes, (KT Tape is a licensee of Team U.S.A.), the evidence is not there to support its use. In a study published in Sports Medicine, researchers found:

  • There was some evidence that KT tape improved strength
  • There was no evidence to support the claim of pain relief
  • Results relating to range of motion were inconsistent
  • It had substantial effects on muscle activity, but it was unclear if these changes were good — or bad
  • Other types of elastic taping to ease or prevent injury may be just as effective

So are all those amazingly fit Olympic athlete wrong? Not necessarily. Despite the lack of hard evidence, Gavin Daglish, a physiotherapist at Mike Varney Physiotherapy in the United Kingdom said that he’s a fan of KT Tape.

“It helps with the movement of blood and lactic acid,” Daglish said. “It takes the tension off certain muscles.”

There also may be a placebo effect. The ritual of applying the brightly colored tape and the belief that it works can be powerful.

John Brewer, head of sport and exercise sciences and director of sport at the University of Bedfordshire in the United Kingdom said, “The actual putting on of the tape sometimes is almost part of that ritual. It’s almost part of their uniform for the sport that they’re doing, part of their kit. It makes them feel ready for action.”

Thinking about trying it for yourself? Speak to your primary care physician first. Some injuries may require professional treatment and you’ll want to rule that out before continuing to exercise and making it worse.

If you do need more extensive treatment, the USC Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Keck Medicine of USC in Los Angeles treats a wide range of issues and offers expertise in sports medicine, joint preservation and replacement, and more. Find out what to expect when you see a shoulder and elbow surgeon for the first time.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and are looking for a new primary care physician, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting http://www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/.

By: Anne Fritz