Lymphascial kinesiotaping has been specifically developed to speed and enhance any kind of post-surgical healing-from the initial inflammatory phase to long-term rehabilitation. There are lymphascial techniques to address complications such as haematomas, seromas, oedema, keloid and hypertrophic scarring. The techniques can be applied to recovery from any type of surgery-from orthopaedic, cosmetic/reconstructive, oncology to caesarian section, laparoscopy etc.
What is Kinesio Tape?
Kinesio tapes are elastic, therapeutic tapes, which were originally invented in the 1970’s by Korean chiropractor, Kenzo Kase. He found the non-elastic tapes that were available, did not allow injuries and joints to mobilise. This led to muscular wastage and longer healing times. Kinesio tape is probably best known in the UK for its use in sports therapy, where the colourful tapes are worn by athletes to support musculoskeletal injuries. While this is the most recognised use, kinesio taping has a multitude of therapeutic applications.
The tapes are medical grade. They are made from 100% cotton with elasticity similar to that of human muscles (130–140% self-stretching). Their hypo-allergenic, wave formation adhesive backing, reduces the risk of skin irritation and allows the skin to breathe. The adhesive is activated by body heat. Although the tapes are air and water-permeable, they are also water resistant. This allows for daily showering and swimming. It is very rare for a patient to be allergic to the tape. If they are, it is usually due to poor quality tape with cheap glue, the incompetence of the person applying the tape or too much stretch has been applied.
Taping can be applied after physiotherapy, massage, myofascial release or manual lymphatic drainage to reduce swelling, bruising & inflammation, repair, correct and realign muscles, reduce pain and promote recovery from injury or surgery. The tape works by delivering altered messages to the brain. It also lifts the skin away from underlying structures, reducing pressure and enhancing blood flow and lymphatic uptake. The elasticity of the tapes enable full range of muscular movement, while completely supporting injuries. They maximise the body’s own anti-inflammatory healing process. The hypoallergenic, porous, skin friendly properties of the tape make it possible to wear the tape for many days, delivering 24 hour a day treatment.
How Kinesio taping affects the Neuro-muscular system
The tape is truly remarkable. It was developed to be the same elasticity as human muscles and the same weight and thickness as human skin, so when it is applied, the brain quickly thinks it is part of the body's own feedback system that tells the brain where the muscles, tendons and ligaments are positioned in gravity. This constant feedback loop, known as the proprioceptive system, allows the brain to tighten, loosen, adjust and correct as it responds to daily movement and exercise. It is known as the neuro (nerves and brain) muscular system. With the tape in place to support joints and muscles, the brain releases the localised tension under the tape and recruits other muscles to compensate for the temporary weakness, so the damaged area can heal. The relaxation in tension soothes nerves and pain signals from the muscles. Taping increases blood flow to damaged tissues, bringing healing nutrients and reducing recovery times. In a specific application taping can also reduce blood pressure.
Kinesio Taping for Muscles
Tapes can be applied with stretch to microscopically pull the ends of muscles together, relieving strains and sprains. They can be stretched to mimic the tensile strength of tendons to support large joints. Hips and shoulders can be 3 dimensionally repositioned to relieve complicated pain patterns. Tone can be added to weakened muscles. Plantar Fasciitis can be addressed, gait can be lengthened, shortened or corrected and arches in the foot can be supported. Compensation patterns because of replacement joints can be corrected. Biomechanics can be altered. Relaxation or contraction can be stimulated and manipulated. Spasticity in muscles can be relaxed....and pain can be relieved because of these neuromuscular corrections. Pain can be relieved from neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis.
Kinesio Taping for Inflammation & Inflammatory Conditions
Taping speeds the body's initial inflammatory reaction to any injury or surgery by increasing blood flow and stimulating the lymphatic system to clear the area of cellular debris. The tape is applied in fine strips rather than in whole pieces, as it is for muscles and tendons. Taping is also very useful for longer term conditions and autoimmune disorders, where the inflammatory reaction seems to get stuck in a loop, or the body loses its sense of 'self' and begins to attack its own tissues and organs.
Inflammation is now becoming recognised as an underlying factor in many conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, Crohn's disease, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia and many more. The role of the Vagus nerve and the 'fight, flight & freeze' responses are becoming much more understood in inflammatory illnesses. The freeze response plays a massive part in many anxiety, post-traumatic and stress related inflammation.
Taping can be applied for localised swollen joints & bloating. It can be applied to work on a deeper level to stimulate Vagus nerve tone or to reduce anxiety by retraining breathing patterns by supporting the diaphragm and ribs. Taping can also be applied to relax body-wide contraction of the myofascia or interstitium.
As well as influencing the neuromuscular system, kinesio taping also influences the myofascial and lymphatic systems (together forming the name lymphascial). The myofascia or interstitium, is the area between the skin and the organs. It is like a fatty, fluidy yellow onesie, which maintains a watery environment between the cells so that the exchange of nutrients and waste products can take place. It weighs 10-15kgs by volume. It houses nerve endings, artery and vein capillaries. It also houses the entrance to the lymphatic system, which is responsible for draining toxins and cellular waste from the interstitium and returning it to the bloodstream. The level of fluid in the interstitium is kept constant by oxygenated blood coming in to feed cells and deoxygenated blood and lymphatic waste draining out from the cells. This can be centrally controlled by blood pressure and flow, hormones and feedback systems. It can also be affected if the lymphatic system does not drain correctly or is overpowered by higher levels of blood coming in or veins not working properly and lower flow pulling back into the bloodstream. The myofascial system can dehydrate and change consistency from liquid to gel, when it is subject to stress. This is called Thixotropy. Stress can be the trauma associated with illness, injury or surgery. Not all stressors are physical. Mental stress and anguish can also be perceived as trauma to the nervous system and the whole myofascia can contract, which can send pain signals all over the body, in such conditions as Fibromyalgia.
Lymphascial Taping for Speeding Surgical Recovery
Injury and surgery cause wounds and damage blood, vessels, veins and nerves. To recover from the trauma, the body goes through a natural healing process. including an inflammatory phase, which causes swelling, redness, pain and heat. Lymphascial taping lifts the pressure from the area and increases blood flow. This increases fluid uptake into the lymphatic system. This, in turn, speeds the whole inflammatory phase to renew tissues more quickly. Pain is reduced due to the reduction in pressure, bruising is reabsorbed much more quickly and scar formation is encouraged, which lessens the incidence of infections. Taping is excellent for intra-muscular bruising, haematomas and seromas, swiftly draining the pockets of serous fluid without the need for aspiration, (which can also run the risk of introducing infection).
If tissue has been removed, as with facelift, breast reduction or abdominoplasty, the network of nerves, blood vessels and lymphatic vessels must build new networks. Taping redirects existing pathways and encourages new networks to grow by increasing blood flow across the scars and promoting tissue regeneration.
Healing wounds leave scarring, which can distort the myofascia and stick to other internal parts, stopping free movement. These adhesions can be eased with taping. So can the postural restrictions they cause. Burns can destroy lymphatic network under the skin, leaving large areas unable to drain. Lymphascial taping can redirect lymphatic networks to drain from uninjured areas that are draining normally.
Taping for Lymphoedema
Lymphoedema is a progressive condition where areas of the body (often hands and arms or feet and legs but can be anywhere including breast and genitals) become swollen due to a failure of lymphatic drainage. There are two types of lymphoedema, primary and secondary. People are born with primary lymphoedema. They can have genetic mutations which mean their lymphatic systems are not correctly formed or do not function correctly. Symptoms can develop throughout a lifetime, they are not necessarily present at birth.
Secondary lymphoedema is caused by an external factor damaging the lymphatic system and making it overload. This can be an injury, broken bones, surgery or burns. Most often in the UK, it is caused by node biopsies, surgeries, radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatments for cancer. Swelling may not develop until some time after treatments are over.
Lymphascial Taping can substantially reduce facial, genital and trunkal oedema, where compression garments cannot reach. Taping can be used alongside or instead of compression therapy. It is applied to redirect lymphatic drainage from areas that cannot drain to areas where drainage is normal. It draws lymph through the system more effectively and enhances the function of both lymphatic and myofascial systems.
Does Kinesio & Lymphascial Taping Really Work?
Absolutely, yes it does! I have used it for over 5 years and wouldn't be without it. It supports and retrains the body and nervous system to find a new, more balanced 'neutral' position. It prolongs the beneficial effects of other bodywork and MLD treatments. How it works is debateable. There has been much scepticism from the medical profession about how (and if) the tapes actually work. There are many educated theories based on the anatomy and physiology we know about to date. However, from my experience, the tape works with the parasympathetic nervous system, the proprioceptive system, the vagus nerve, the myofascial and lymphatic systems and the interstitium.
In truth, we are only just becoming aware of the intricate inter-relations between these body systems. Over the past decade, more has been learned about the lymphatic system than in the past 80 years. New mapping techniques have enabled the lymphatic system to be studied in real time, for the first time ever. In 2017, it was discovered that the brain had its own lymphatic drainage system. How the brain drained had, until that point, evaded us.....except that in the early 1800's, Italian anatomists Paulo Mascagni and Clementi Susini had made wax models of the human lymphatic system (still in La Specola Museum, Florence), complete with perfectly replicated brain lymphatics! These were subsequently discounted, to the point where this was written in the Lancet in 2003, in an article about 18th century science: “Mascagni was probably so impressed with the lymphatic system that he saw lymph vessels even where they did not exist — in the brain.”
The same thing happened with the myofascial system, which was 'rediscovered' over fifty years ago by bodyworkers and anatomists. It seemed to hold the key to so many of the modern illnesses and conditions that baffled Western medicine; the so called 'yuppy flu' type burnout syndromes, stress and trauma related pain conditions like fibromyalgia and the spectrum of depressive and anxiety related illnesses that ruin the lives of millions of people daily. Strangely, the myofascia has just been renamed again as the 'interstitium' by the medical profession and has been hailed as the largest sensory organ in the body, with implications for understanding how cancer spreads from place to place.
Every advance is wonderful. It gives a theoretical basis to how the mind and body work together and against each other sometimes, reacting to stressors and perceived threats that change body chemistry and unsettle intricate hormonal balances, disrupt sleep patterns and deplete our immune systems. It also gives credence to the therapists like myself, who have worked with disorders of the lymphatic and immune system for 14 years. Over those years, I have kept up with new research and integrated it into my own understanding.
Lymphascial & Kinesio taping are examples of treatments that work with the limited knowledge we already have. I am sure that in the future, when there is enough solid evidence to show that taping works in the ways I have suggested above, its use will be banned from professional sporting events, because it can enhance performance and endurance. Until that time, I enjoy developing new ways to use taping and applying them to enhance the new found understanding of what has always been, our incredible, innate ability to heal.