When people repeatedly push themselves to the limit, the body eventually breaks down, leading to injury and pain. And unsurprisingly, many of these patients take either prescribed or over-the-counter (OTC) medication on a regular basis to control pain and inflammation. But if medications should not be used over extended periods, what can be done instead? One safe alternative is using kinesiology tape (k-tape) over the site of pain. In individuals with chronic low-back pain, a study found that k-tape in conjunction with usual care resulted in a better pattern of abdominal muscle recruitment compared with pre-treatment measures. Another study found that regardless of the technique of application, k-tape was helpful in reducing pain and disability in individuals with chronic lo-back pain.

In a recent unpublished study in the U.S., researchers used ultrasound ¬†imaging to show that k-tape has a lifting effect on subcutaneous tissue layers. This preliminary finding is in line with the long-held belief that k-tape’s mechanism of action is partially achieved through decompression of local tissues.

Clinically, this may be the reason for dramatic changes in the reduction of swelling and hematomas with k-tape application. This lifting effect creates convolutions on the skin that potentially decompress lymphatic vessels and facilitates the removal of exudates from the treated area.

The lifting effect is also thought to improve circulation locally, allowing ecchymoses to be cleared more efficiently. Finally, the lifting effect may simultaneously decrease pressure on superficial nociceptors and stilmulate mechanoreceptors, leading to less perception of pain in the underlying tissue.