If you've watched high-level sporting events, you've likely seen athletes wearing KT tape with various designs and patterns. While it may be apparent that KT tape is applied for more than aesthetic reasons, you may be curious about KT tape’s benefits. One of the uses of KT tape is relieving lower back pain.
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People suffering from lower back pain often describe dull and aching pain between their pelvis and rib cage. Additionally, people can also experience a range of other symptoms, including:
Burning, stinging, or sharp pain
Mild to severe muscle spasms
Aches in the hips and pelvis
Sciatica is another type of lower back pain caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica symptoms include lower back pain that radiates to the buttocks, legs, and feet. Those suffering from sciatica pain describe it as a sharp, stinging, tingling, or numb sensation that usually affects only one side of the body through the hips, thighs, lower legs, and/or feet.
People experiencing lower back pain also have different triggers. For instance, some may experience increasing lower back pain after long periods of sitting, poor posture, or bending forward. For others, movement such as walking or stretching can temporarily relieve lower back pain but can return when performing these aggravating activities.
Some lower back pain conditions may increase or decrease pain depending on body position. For example, supporting your weight by leaning on a shopping cart can ease the pain when standing. Others place pillows around their body in bed to ease pressure while sleeping. Examining how changing positions relates to comfort level can help identify the underlying cause of pain.
When we see athletes wearing KT tape, we may initially think it’s just some colorful bandages just for looks. KT tape is known by several other names., such as kinesiology tape or Kinesio tape. It is a stretchy tape designed to stick to the skin for several hours or even days. Some are even waterproof and offer protection during showers or sweat.
While KT tape is somewhat elastic, it does have a limit on how far it can stretch. Its properties allow it to support the joint by limiting its flexibility and movement. However, it is still flexible enough to make sure that you feel natural during your physical activities. Common application areas are your joints, including the knees, ankles, and shoulders.
When correctly placed on specific body areas, KT tape can support a joint, improve circulation, or provide feedback to our body to prevent re-injury. KT tape increases proprioception which is our ability to judge our body position and determine how we move.
At the most basic level, there are two ways and various patterns for applying KT tape. Stretching KT tape while applying it creates tension to limit how far the injured joint or muscle can move. Alternatively, unstretched KT tape is applied to the affected muscle to provide feedback and pain relief.
Do-it-yourself application of KT tape to the lower back is possible depending on your specific needs. Although, getting help from a loved one or close friend may be easier.
KT Tape produces videos on YouTube detailing the application process for various pain relief and support situations.
The application of KT tape for general lower back pain is accomplished by standing and bending forward at the waist. If standing is difficult, try laying on one side and drawing your knees toward your chest to stretch the lower back area.
While bent forward, apply an entire strip of KT tape (that has been stretched by 80%) directly over the source of lower pain.
Afterward, apply another entire strip that has been 80% stretched directly below the first.
It's important not to touch the adhesive during application and keep the leave two inches at each end unstretched to help secure the tape in place.
Rubbing the applied KT tape with your hands will create enough heat to activate the adhesive for direct contact against the skin.
Applying KT tape to relieve sciatica pain requires cutting a KT tape strip in half and using an inverted V-shaped pattern described in another KT Tape video.
People with adhesive allergies, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and skin cancer patients should avoid using KT tape without medical supervision.
In addition, people should be careful when self-applying Kinesio tape as an improper application can limit its ability to protect the joints.
Finally, applying KT tape at 100% stretch is not recommended due to the potential for skin irritation.
Research shows that KT tape used for lower back pain is somewhat effective for short-term relief, but patients benefit most when used as part of a pain management program.¹
While self-applying KT tape poses little risk, a qualified physical therapist can help with the application and suggest different tape placements to fine-tune your pain relief.
Finally, anyone with chronic pain, worsening discomfort, allergic reactions, or skin conditions should always seek medical attention.
It is important to remember that the mainstream use of KT tape for lower back pain is relatively new. While experts agree that further research is needed to confirm the benefits of KT tape, most point to it being a safe strategy.²
Interestingly, other studies found decreasing effectiveness over time.³ Therefore, if you suffer from lower back pain, contact your doctor or consult a physical therapist to create a complete pain management plan and trial KT tape where needed.