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Don’t Ever Close the Door to Learning:

When I was asked several years ago about what I knew about kinesio taping I smugly chuckled to myself and replied “ We have been taping for years to immobilize joints and and soft tissue structures, so what is the big deal?” After I said that ignorant statement, I thought, “ Don’t close the door to learning. Keep an open mind and do a little research before discounting something new”. Well, I called a few human physio’s whom I respect in the field and found that they had been kinesio taping professional athletes for many years and found it very helpful. I did extensive research, and read the original books published by Kenzo Kase, D.C. founder of kinesio taping. I traveled to the physio’s office and worked with them to learn how to kinesio tape. Under their tutelage, I taped their clients who were marathon runners, tennis and football players, and injured athletes. I spent an extensive amount of time taping human athletes, and riders before I went on to taping horses. The humans were able to give me immediate feedback. Guess what? I learned kinesio taping gave an athlete an advantage and the ability to compete and perform with a slight to moderate injury. It can be used for preventative maintenance as well, though it is not the Holy Grail. On to horses!

"Kinesio Taping is Fundamentally Different from Conventional Sports Taping"

History of Kinesio Taping:

“Kinesio taping is a modality treatment based on the body’s own natural healing process. The Kinesio Taping method exhibits its efficacy through the activation of the neurological and circulatory systems. This method basically stems from the science of Kinesiology, recognizing the importance of body and muscle movement in rehabilitation and everyday life. Muscles contribute not only to the movements of the body, but also aid in the circulation of venous and lymph flows, and body temperature. Therefore, the failure of the muscles to function properly induces various kinds of health maladies.

For the first 10 years, orthopedists, chiropractors, acupuncturists and other medical practitioners were the main users of Kinesio Taping. Kinesio Taping was soon discovered by Olympic volleyball players for preventative maintenance in Japan and word spread to other athletes. Today, Kinesio Taping is accepted by medical practitioners and athletes through out the world.”

How Does it Effect Muscles:

“Muscles extend (lengthen) and contract (shorten) within a normal range; however when muscles over-extend or over-contract, such as lifting an excessive amount of weight, or overstretching (like in lengthenings in dressage), muscles may undergo microscopic tears in the tissue and recovery is slowed down and the muscles may become inflamed. When a muscle is inflamed, swollen or stiff due to fatigue, the space between the skin covering the muscle is compressed, resulting in constriction to the flow of lymphatic fluid. This compression also applies pressure to the pain receptors (part of the nervous system) beneath the skin, which in turn communicates “discomfort signals” to the brain. The person interprets these signals as Pain. It is believed when the skin is lifted by the elastic tape, the flow of blood and lymphatic fluid beneath the skin improves.”

Difference Between Conventional Sports and Kinesio Taping:

“Conventional athletic tape, which I was familiar with, was designed to constrict and immobilize movement of affected muscles and joints, by using the tape to apply significant pressure and tightness resulting in the restriction of the body part and bodily fluids. It is generally applied before the sports activity, and immediately removed after the activity. Kinesio Taping allows free range of motion to the joint or muscle allowing the body’s muscular system to heal itself bio-mechanically with a specific tape elasticity that does not restrict or allow for an overstretch. “

Some Major Functions of Kinesio Taping:

1. Supports Muscle by:

Improving muscle contraction in weakened muscle

Reducing muscle fatigue

Reducing over-extension and over-contraction of muscle

Reducing cramping and possible injury to muscle

Increasing Range of Motion and Relieving Pain

2. Removes Congestion to the flow of Body Fluids

Improves blood and lymphatic circulation

Reduces Excess Heat and Substances in Tissue

Reduces Inflammation

Reduces Abnormal Feeling and Pain in Skin and Muscle

Differences in Application of Tape:

“To Stretch or Not to Stretch:"

Depending on what results I am looking for in the application and use of the Kinesio tape, I will use the following rules of thumb:

1. For overused or acute muscle injury: Apply tape with No Tension, which normally amounts to 5-10% elastic stretch, and connect the tape from the muscle Insertion to the muscle Origin.

2. For chronic or acutely weak muscles, where support with full range of motion is needed, the tape should be applied from Origin to Insertion. The tape should be applied with Light Tension to give more stimulation and support the contraction of the muscle during its use. The tape should be applied with medium to full Stretch, maintaining a functional joint position during application to joints and ligaments for correction and assistance.” Do not tape on open skin lesions or skin with hair.

My Work with Kinesio Taping Horses:

I have found kinesio taping horses has been very useful when a horse is very tight in their muscles or has sustained a slight muscle strain. Since the tape is meant for use on skin, it may not stick that well to the horse’s hair. I have had tremendous success in restoring range of motion when I have applied the Wilson Meagher Method of Sportsmassage to the muscles of the horse, and then applied the kinesio tape when warranted. I mostly use kinesio taping when I work at top International competitions. It is at these competitions that the horses tend to go beyond their athletic barriers and respond well to the combination of sports massage therapy and kinesio taping to sustain and improve their performance. It’s use can always be used with all horses of all levels and disciplines as well.

I have also taped riders and they have reported that the taping in conjunction with the sportsmassage method has made them immediately feel better.

Explanation of the Photographs of Taped Muscles:The photographs portray examples of taping specific muscles.

This young, Off-the-Track Thoroughbred was having extreme difficulty turning his head and neck to the right. The neck muscles were very tight, but specifically the Brachiocephalicus muscle was very tight, restricting a lateral bend in the neck to the right. He was also short in the left front on a circle going to the right.

The black kinesio tape was placed from the insertion of the brachiocephalicus muscle to the origin. The insertion of this muscle is where the motion occurs. The origin is the anchor of the muscle or stabilizer. The insertion is on the humerus and on the fascia of the shoulder and arm. (near point of shoulder). The origin is near his skull, poll, and above mid neck.

I started taping at the insertion, near the point of the shoulder, with very little to no tension. I taped to the top of his neck near the origin. This immediately allowed the horse’s muscle to relax in order to bend his head and neck and resume good motion on a circle in both directions!! Taping from insertion to origin with up to 20% tension helps to release a tight muscle.

This horse was resistant to picking up the right lead at the canter. I found the right long and short heads of the triceps to be particularly tight. The triceps essentially flex the shoulder, extend the elbow, and by doing these actions, they bring the front leg back. If the triceps are tight, they do not relax enough to allow the leg to extend, or go forward, thus resisting the right lead at the canter. After applying my sportsmassage method, I taped the right long head of the tricep from the insertion marked with a light green circle, to the origin marked with a light red circle. (a longer vertical line going up toward the withers). I then taped the short head of the tricep from the insertion (light green marker) to the origin (light red marker). This muscle runs at the base of the shoulder. See photo above. After the sportsmassage application and the taping, the horse immediately and easily, picked up the right lead at the canter because I believe the taping and sportsmassage allowed the muscle to relax in order for the leg to freely move forward.

Lesson: I learned that if I closed the door to this new modality, many horses and riders I work with would not have received the tremendous benefits. In many ways, I would have been denying them a proper treatment. Life is full of lessons, just make sure the door is open. You can always dismiss the info, once you have learned about it if it doesn’t work or make sense to you!

Of course it is not the answer for everything and the taping should be done in conjunction with veterinary/ physician approval and advice. Kinesio Taping is not meant as a primary form of treatment for veterinary or medical problems without Vet or Doctor approval.

1. All quoted material is taken directly or indirectly from “Illustrated Kinesio Taping”. Fourth Edition 2005 by Kenzo Kase, D. C.; KEN’I KAI INFORMATION Publisher

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