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Highlights of Kinesio Taping Page

By Ruth Coopee

By LindaLou

 

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Standard Treatment of Lymphedema--Kinesio Taping

Photo courtesy of Lymph Notes

 

Kinesio Taping

Caution: The use of this tape is not a "do-it-your-self project" based on information from any of the many books available on this topic. The taping should be done by a qualified lymphedema therapist who has had a continuing education course in how to use it.

Kinesio Taping

by Ruth Coopee of Ruth Coopee's Body Holistics.

The original Kinesio Tex Tape® and the Kinesio Taping Method® were developed by Dr. Kenzo Kase a Japanese Chiropractor who trained in the United States.  He initiated the concept in the early 1970's and began working to develop a specialized tape that could aid the body in healing itself.

Kinesio Taping® was the first method of treatment to use a special elastic sports tape specifically developed for the technique.  Currently there are many new tape products and techniques emerging based on this original method.  The affect of the tape on applied on stretched skin has been found to be very helpful in reducing localized swelling associated with surgery, orthopedic or sports injuries, and acute trauma. It has also been found to be beneficial in the treatment of lymphedema.

The combination of technique and tape can create unique effects on different body systems by supporting the elastic qualities of body tissues such as the skin and muscles. Kinesio Taping® has been used effectively in Asia for over 20 years and was introduced in the USA in 1995.

What is Kinesio Tex Tape?

  • Kinesio Tex Tape ® or Kinesio Tape was the first highly elastic adhesive tape developed.

  • Manufactured in much the same way as compressive garments, it is made of a highly elastic quality woven fabric.

  • Stretching in length only to about 30-40% of its resting length, available in a variety of widths, colors, and specialized types.   

  • The tape is designed to the same thickness of the epidermis (outer layer) of the skin.

  • This brand of tape has a medical grade heat sensitive acrylic adhesive and placed on a paper backing with a 10% stretch. The adhesive is also applied in a "wavelike" pattern. The spaces between these lines allow the skin to breathe as perspiration passes freely between the skin and air.

  • When applied correctly most people do not even know the tape is in place as it is very light and comfortable. The tape remains effective for 3-5 days before it needs to be replaced. It tolerates showering, and even swimming. The tape does absorb water; however, it dries quickly in about 20 minutes.

  • Kinesio Tex Tape does not contain latex and can be used safely by those with a latex allergy; however, some individuals may react to the adhesive used on the tape.

Please note there have been many changes to the Kinesio Tex Tape® product and many new tapes entering the market.  It is important to discuss which product you are using with your therapist.

The Kinesio Taping Method

The tape may be cut into a variety of different shapes and is applied with slight stretch to stretched skin. The skin needs to be stretched when the tape is applied to reduce sheering forces that could injure the sensitive structures of the skin. Proper application will not only lift the skin but create a gentle massage with movement to affect the receptors in the skin. It is very important to have professional training in this taping method for appropriate and effective application.

1.  The tape is applied with a minimum amount of stretch, approximately 25% to stretched skin. This is just the tension required to remove the paper backing.

2.  The tape is first attached without tension to anchor it.

3.  The tissue in the target treatment area, where the tape is to be applied, is maximally stretched through body movement such as reaching, bending, or twisting.

4.  The tape is applied moving from the anchor to the end point with "pull off paper tension"

5.  The end of the tape is secured without stretch.

When the body returns to resting position the recoil of the tape lifts the skin. Movement in daily activity and exercise moves the skin creating a massage. It is in this way that fluid or lymph can be directed from an area of high density to an area of lesser density. Taping can also support other factors that influence lymphatic flow; muscle contraction, breathing and soften fibrosis.

How Elasticity Works with the Lymphatic System

  • Skin: The elasticity of the tape can be applied on the skin in a manner that causes a massage-like skin movement that directs lymph away from an area. When placed over areas of fibrosis, the lifting action and increased movement of skin assists in softening these tissues.

  • Muscle: The motion of the tape during exercise stimulates the sensory receptors in the skin and can improve muscle contraction. Deeper lymphatic vessel function is enhanced by the nearby pumping action of muscle contraction and relaxation.

  • Circulation: As the tape affects the muscles and skin it also improves the ability of blood to flow in and out of the treated area by creating pressure changes. This improved circulation aids in healing.

  • Neurological: Swelling places pressure on sensory receptors in the skin causing pain, numbness or reduced sensitivity. When excess fluid is removed the pressure is reduced and the ability of these receptors to communicate with the brain is improved.

  • Respiratory: Thoracic pressure changes draw lymph from the extremities using a vacuum effect. A special taping for the diaphragm can improve respiratory capacity by increasing expiratory volume.

Taping and Lymphedema

  • Taping can be very helpful as an adjunct to hands-on lymphedema treatments and compressive therapy as provided by a qualified lymphedema therapist.

  • It is particularly useful in the reduction of trunk, head and neck lymphedema for which compression therapy is difficult or not appropriate.

  • The application of elastic tape on the trunk can also assist in the reduction of extremity lymphedema.

  • Taping can help to soften fibrosis and can also be used in combination with compression therapy and skilled treatment.

  • A word of caution: Although tape is available for sale online, experimenting with its use in treating lymphedema is not a do-it-yourself activity. There are specific reasons as to why, how, and where the tape is placed. You need training and supervision in the use and application of this tape by a trained lymphedema therapist.  Following this a family member or friend can continue to apply the tape at home.

Taping Precautions and Contraindications

  • Do not overstretch the tape as this can cause blistering of the skin.

  • Do not apply to an area without specific instructions from your lymphedema therapist.

  • Do not apply to fragile skin or early healing tissue.

  • Do not apply to skin that has been treated with radiation because these fragile tissues may not be able to take the stress of tape application and removal.

  • Do not apply over, or near, known cancer sites.

  • Do not apply to an area of cellulitis or infection.

  • Do not apply over an open wound.

  • Do not apply to an area where there may be a blood clot.

  • Do not apply if there has been an allergic reaction to the adhesive on this product.

The Removal of the Tape

  • There is a strong attachment of the tape to the superficial (outer) layer of the skin. To prevent injury to this delicate structure, the tape should be removed without lifting or pulling.

  • If tape is pulled off, it can cause the upper layer of the skin to separate from the lower layers. This damage creates what looks like a second degree burn. Should this happen, treat this damaged tissue as a burn.

  • When removing the tape hold the end at approximately a 45 degree angle to the skin surface. Then gently push the skin down to remove it from the adhesive.

  • An alternative is to apply oils such as those used for skin care, massage, or cooking to the cotton fabric. The cotton will absorb the oil and when gently massaged into the tape will help loosen the adhesive attachment from the skin.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will Taping replace my compressive garments?
    Unfortunately it will not replace compressive garments. However it can be worn under garments or compression wraps to soften fibrosis or reduce toe and finger edema.

  • Does Taping work for everyone?
    Everything has limitations and it is important to have a full evaluation by a qualified lymphedema therapist trained in this method as everyone is unique and for this reason each taping is also.

  • I’ve have seen books available on Kinesio Taping® and other elastic taping techniques, can I buy one and figure out for myself how to tape for my lymphedema?
    No, this is not recommended! Many of the books available address sports and orthopedic injury and the goals in treating these injuries are not the same as the goals in treating lymphedema.  Lymphedema is very complicated and often other health conditions need to be taken into consideration when taping. 

Conclusion

Incorporating the use of an elastic adhesive tape into a comprehensive program can be a valuable tool in treating lymphedema.  Like all treatment modalities, it is most effective when used under the supervision of a trained and experienced lymphedema therapist.

Reprinted by permission of Ruth Coopee of Ruth Coopee's Body Holistics.


Kinesio Taping of The Hand

By Linda Lou

1.   Do not attempt to self-apply Kinesio Tex Tape® (KT) if you have not yet been evaluated by a certified lymphedema  therapist as to the appropriateness of KT for your type lymphedema and skin condition.

2.   Do not attempt to self-apply KT until you have been professionally taped by a certified lymphedema therapist to determine its effectiveness in your type of lymphedema and you have received proper training and supervision in the application of KT.

I have been self-applying KT for over 2 years now, but I was previously taped and instructed by my CLT therapist for many months in addition to attending KT lectures by Ruth Coopee and have assisted my therapist in KT instructional presentations to other lymphedema therapists.  I am not going to go into great depth here on how KT works to reduce  lymphedema swelling or all the application details because you can read the excellent article by Ruth Coopee above.

 

KINESIO TAPING A  lymphedema HAND

Supplies Needed:

(Please click on all thumbnails for full size pictures)

You will need a roll of KT and a pair of scissors for cutting the tape. Kinesio Tape currently comes in 4 colors - Black, Blue, Pink and Beige.  It is available in standard and water resistant.  It is also available in 2inch or 3inch widths.

The roll on the far left in the picture above is the original KT packaging that was used up til Spring 2008. New packaging was introduced in early 2008 with the name Kinesio Tex GOLD which has the same adhesive wave pattern as the original KT and is the KT that should be used for LE taping. (see the 3 rolls of KT GOLD in the picture above) If you see KT sold as Kinesio Tex PLATINUM you should avoid using that tape for LE because the straight line wave pattern of the adhesive is not as effective and may cause more skin damage.

In addition to the tape you will need a good pair of scissors.  Try to find a pair of Teflon coated scissors which will cut the KT without the tape sticking to and gumming up the scissor blades.  You can find Teflon coated scissors at most craft stores.

The KT has a paper backing which is marked by lines to help you determine the lengths you need to cut.  See picture below for an example of the standard paper backing:

The length of each section between the vertical lines is 2 inches.  You will learn with practice how many sections of tape you need to cover different body parts.

The picture below shows the classic wave pattern of the adhesive of KT GOLD.  Make sure the tape you use has this type of pattern and not the straight line pattern of the Platinum version of KT.

Cutting the Tape:

When I tape my  lymphedema hand I cut 2 different shapes in the tape.  The first shape is called a "Buttonhole Cut."  The purpose of the buttonholes is to have holes you can insert your fingers into and then apply the tape to both the dorsal and palmar sides of your hand.

To make a buttonhole cut I start out by cutting a length of KT about 5 sections long.  I then fold the tape in half.

I then use the scissors to round the cut ends of the tape. (Rounded edges are less likely than a square cut edge to pull loose when pulling sleeves and gloves over top the tape)  After rounding the cut ends, I cut diagonal cuts in the folded end as shown in the picture below.

 When you open out the tape after cutting it should look similar to the picture below.

 

 I generally cut 2 identical buttonhole strips since I prefer to fully cover the dorsum and palmar surfaces of my hand with KT.  If you choose to use just one strip of KT on your hand you should insert the 2 side by side  fingers that most need reduction of swelling into the buttonholes.

Applying the Kinesio Tape:

I insert my little finger and ring finger into the first strip holes.  I work the tape down both fingers until I can apply the body of the tape to my palm and back of my hand.  When applying the tape I hyperextend or flex my wrist so that the tape is applied over my stretched hand. Again please refer to Ruth Coopee's instructions above on the amount of stretch to apply to the tape and how to leave no stretch on the ends of the tape.

Picture of first strip of tape on the dorsum surface of hand:

 Picture of first strip of tape on the palmar surface of hand:

I then apply the second strip of tape to my middle and index fingers in the same manner:

 

After applying the buttonhole strips I then cut a "Fan Cut" strip which I use to apply to my fingers.  I usually cut a length of tape about 3-4 sections long, but this should be adjusted for individual hand length and how much of your fingers you want to cover. I round the corners on one edge of the tape and then I cut the other end of the tape into 4 equal sections about 2 thirds of the way down to the rounded end. I shorten the one section that will cover my little finger and I then round each of the ends of the 4 sections.  This is what the fan cut would look like:

I apply the fan cut strip of KT by placing the lower rounded edge near my wrist on top of the KT already applied to the back of my hand. I then slightly stretch each of the cut sections to apply to each of my fingers again with a slight stretch while I flex my fingers. The finished KT application which covers the dorsum, palmar surfaces and all 4 fingers should look something like this:

The KT should never be worn as a substitute for your compression glove and sleeve, but rather is worn underneath your glove and sleeve.  The tape can remain in place for 4-5 days before it should be removed.  I prefer to use the water resistant KT because it withstands showering and getting wet better than the standard KT.

The next picture shows me wearing the KT underneath a Juzo Dream Sleeve and Gauntlet in navy color.  I do not generally wear a gauntlet because I need the full compression of a fingered glove, but I wanted to show the KT underneath the garments.

I have found that KT on my hand along with my compression glove helps to reduce swelling and fibrosis even more than just wearing my glove alone.

Linda Lou

 


Just a comment about the Kinesio tape for lymphedema use. Around the first of this year (2008) there was a manufacturing change in Kinesio Tape in which they changed the patterning and type of adhesive used on the back side of the tape. Apparently this was a result of patent negotiations and in the interim the manufacturer had to use a different adhesive process. So the new Kinesio Tape unfortunately was found to have two problems. It was not as effective in moving lymph fluid because it lacked the original "wave" pattern on the adhesive side. Even worse, when following the standard application process of using a slight stretch when applying the tape, patients were reporting skin tears, blisters and general skin irritation due to the new adhesive.

The good news is that the patent issues got resolved and the original wave pattern adhesive is again being produced. You have to look carefully for the product name however. The "new" original Kinesio Tape which is best suited for lymphedema, now goes under the name of KINESIO GOLD. They are also still making the interim version with the stronger adhesive and less effective pattern for lymphedema... it is now
called KINESIO PLATINUM.--LindaLou

Page Last Modified 02/14/2014

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