GLOVERSVILLE - Watching the 2012 Olympics in London, many fans have questioned the use of the brightly colored pieces of tape worn by several athletes.
It has been speculated they were covering tattoos or just making a fashion statement.
Turns out it is neither.
Master of Physical Therapy David Kang, left, applies Kinesio Tex tape to a shoulder during therapy Friday at Nathan Littauer Hospital.
The brightly colored tape is Kinesio tape.
"Of all the stories, this has generated the most watercooler talk and people are very curious. The Olympics have brought it to the foreground," said Bill Oates, director of Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation at Nathan Littauer Hospital. "It has been around [the Olympics] since about 2008 and has been gaining increasing popularity over the years. It is a uniquely designed elastic tape that enables several different things to be done. It can allow muscles to contract correctly or you can inhibit them from contracting if they are inflamed or in spasm or you can use it for preventive techniques to stabilize a joint."
Nathan Littauer Hospital also has been at the forefront in the use of Kinesio taping are a part of the services offered in its physical therapy department.
"Actually I came across it back in 2008 with the Beijing Olympics," said Master of Physical Therapy David Kang, a level three certified Kinesio taper. "I saw some athletes wearing the colorful tape on their shoulders. I started being interested and found out there were courses on the taping taking place from the Kinesio Taping Association. I started looking into taking the courses. I participated in two of the courses two years ago and recently finished my third course earlier this year."
Kang explained the difference between white athletic tape commonly used by athletes and Kinesio tape.
"The main difference between athletic tape and Kinesio tape, is when [athletes] wear it during a game, by the end of the game, they can see a difference where it becomes stiffer and less mobile, with some irritation and discomfort," he said. "With Kinesio tape, you can you can wear it before the sports performance, during the sports performance and after the sports performance. It doesn't really adhere to the skin so you will not really feel it on the skin but will feel it pulling or blocking the motion."
According to the Kinesio Taping website, the product, Kinesio Tex and the Kinesio Taping Method, was developed by Dr. Kenzo Kase, a Japanese chiropractor and acupuncturist, in 1979. The tape has a texture and elasticity that allows it to stretch in length but not in width, and channels run on the underside so the adhesive is not continuous and allows sweat to escape instead of being trapped under the tape.
Although the taping is widely known for its use in athletics, Oates said its use in physical therapy and rehabilitation is significant.
"It has kind of created its own interest and when a treatment is effective, which this has proven to be through our experience, it naturally grows itself," Oates said. "One of the best features of Kinesio taping is that you can wear it for three to five days. It is waterproof, sweatproof; it is fantastic in terms of bridging the gap between a Monday physical therapy treatment and your next treatment."
Oates pointed out that Kinesio tape is not intended to replace athletic tape.
"Athletic taping like around an ankle, this is not to replace that. It [athletic tape] is more to completely stabilize and limit the motion in a joint," he said. "Kinesio Taping doesn't limit motion. It enables free use the extremity of the joint. It can be used in different phases of the rehabilitative process. When the person is acutely injured and there in inflammation, it can be serve to increase the blood flow and reduce that inflammation. It can be used in chronic patients who have constant difficulty with certain activities and it can be used in the rehabilitative process."
Oates also said Kinesio taping also can be used on children and older adults for whatever problem they may have.
Kang said that though it looks simple, there are techniques that are used to properly help the muscles during therapy and rehabilitation.
"There are some over the counter pre-cut tapes with instructions so you can do some of it yourself," he said. "But there are certain tensions and techniques and skills. It is not just one technique, say for a shoulder, all the time. It depends on the type of injury or pain. It needs to be checked out so the right technique and pressure can be applied. It is recommended to go to someone who is certified in Kinesio taping and someone who is a physical therapist who knows anatomy and physicality."
Kang has given presentations on Kinesio taping at Nathan Littauer's HealthLink that were well attended by members of the community.
With the 2012 Olympics winding down, Kang has been watching with interest, not only in the sports.
"I find myself looking at the tape and I can get a pretty good idea [who did it]," he said with a laugh. "There are different kinds of techniques and each therapist and individuals kind of have their own style but the basic concept is the same."
Although the Olympics will end today, Kang said he does not see the interest waning.
"There are a lot of people out there who have doubts wondering if it is really working or if it is effective," he said. "People have a lot of questions. People who try the tape on, some have an immediate response and feel the difference. It's hard to believe one piece of tape can make a difference. I think it is going to be more acceptable in the future and people will find it more common and not just for athletes. No matter what the circumstances are, you are going to see a lot more of it."