Monday, June 1, 2015

KT Sports Tape

(Editor's Note: Firehand has contributed so many guest articles to this blog that I decided to give him his own byline. While I would love to get him into regular rotation, he doesn't have the time for it. When he does have an article ready, it will appear here.)

Being that half my joints are beat half to death by wear and damage over time, and also suffering the general aches and pains that come, I sometimes have problems. In this case, that problem is a case of tennis elbow -- in my right arm, of course -- even though I don't play the damn game.

I had tried a brace and some of the other usual stuff with little-to-no result, and was about to go to the doctor, when I mentioned this to my daughter. She told of a friend who'd had a serious problem with one arm that was at the point of requiring surgery, and she'd tried KT Tape out of desperation. Tt worked, quite well, with no further need for surgery. I'm in favor of just about anything that keeps me out of the docs' office in general, so decided to try it.

From their website:
KT TAPE is lightweight, comfortable to wear, and can be used for hundreds of common injuries such as lower back pain, knee pain, shin splints, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tennis elbow, just to name a few.
KT TAPE is applied along muscles, ligaments, and tendons (soft tissue) to provide a lightweight, external support that helps you remain active while recovering from injuries. KT Tape creates neuromuscular feedback (called proprioception) that inhibits (relaxes) or facilitates stronger firing of muscles and tendons. This feedback creates support elements without the bulk and restriction commonly associated with wraps and heavy bracing.
They've got videos of how to apply it, and tips for keeping it on. I watched some of these, and hit Amazon to order some. They've got regular and Pro grades, and several reviews said the Pro sticks better, so I ordered a pack of twenty 10" strips. (Be advised that, like a number of other things on Amazon, if you're not picky on color you can save some money.)

One of the "How to keep it on" tips is to clean the skin of sweat, oils, conditioners and such before applying, and to "trim excessive hair". Well, I'm a fairly hairy guy, so I held the strips in place, marked around them, used clippers to trim the hair short/off, and then got to it.

Here's what I learned:
  1. You take the backing paper off by pulling/twisting the tape a bit in the appropriate spot. Don't even try to separate it at the end.
  2. When you have a few inches of the tape exposed, do not let the stuff touch itself; that adhesive grabs instantly.
  3. Get it right the first time; pulling the stuff off your skin when it's fresh isn't fun, and can damage the adhesive.
  4. Once it's on, smooth out the tape and rub it. The heat from the friction is supposed to help it grab. I have to say it didn't take much, just a light, quick rubbing.
That said putting the stuff on my own elbow was a pain, so for some spots on the body you'll likely need help. What I did was:
  1. Clear the backing paper off one end, figure out where it needed to be, and stuck it down. 
  2. Pulled the paper far enough back to clear all but the last inch or a little over, stretched the tape, and applied. 
  3. After it stuck, I peeled the cover off the last bit and put it in place.
    The first time I put this on was a Sunday. By an hour or so, the elbow had actually improved, with "improved" being defined as '"it wasn't hurting like it had been". I wore this set for a full week, doing all the usual stuff, working out (stuff I hadn't done for a while because of the problem), showering and all. By the last day the tape was starting to come off the skin at the edges in places, but was otherwise still well-stuck in place. And it had made a real difference; no, the joint was not 100% or just like new, but it was a LOT better than it had been.

    Pulling it off (do it slowly!) showed the majority of the adhesive was still holding quite well. I hadn't gotten horribly sweaty (the weather's been mostly cool), but it was still impressive performance. I could probably have left it on at least another couple of days. And the skin looked normal; the stuff breathes well, and it dries well after getting wet.

    The improvement continued for the first two days after I took it off, and that includes doing some yard work that involved pruning, cutting up, carrying and sweating. Again, my elbow didn't feel wonderful, but a hell of a lot better than it had been.

    By Wednesday -- going on three days after I took the first tape off -- the elbow was starting to bother me again, so I put new strips on.

    It's now Friday. After everything from more pruning, to mowing, to some workout stuff, and it being warm and humid enough to generate a fair amount of sweat while doing all the above, there are no signs of irritation on the skin from either the adhesive or the strips. Again, the stuff seems to breathe quite well, so there are no problems from moisture (sweat, showers) not being able to evaporate.

    Of course, your results may vary

    KT Tape is not a cure-all by any means. It does give some serious relief from some conditions, and can help you continue working/working out/generally annoying people while reducing pain. A pack of twenty 10" strips, with two strips per use on the elbow, equals ten weeks' use if used constantly. That's a lot cheaper than the copay at the doctor's office, and no drugs involved either.

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