When I began racing marathons and Ironman triathlons, I noticed many athletes with strange-looking tape woven intricately across shoulders, knees, quad muscles, calves, and necks. Some patterns were so elaborate they looked like neon spiderwebs or the swirling Scandinavian designs found in the Disney movie Frozen.
Of course, as an athlete always looking for the latest products to help me perform better, I wondered what this tape did and why so many athletes were draped in it.
But what is Kinesiology tape?
Claim your FREE Sample Pack
I learned it was kinesiology tape – a lightweight, therapeutic adhesive tape designed to mimic the skin’s elasticity and range of motion. It’s applied strategically to areas around joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons to provide support, lessen pain, reduce swelling, and improve performance. The taping method was developed in 1973 by a chiropractor named Dr. Kenzo Kase, who was searching for a way to aid the body’s natural healing process and prolong the benefits of his treatment after his patients left his clinic.
Benefits of Kinesiology Tape
- Lifts the skin to create a small space between the muscle and connective tissue, increasing blood flow and lymphatic drainage.
- Structural support helps free congested fluids, effectively reducing inflammation and oxidative stress
- Flexes with muscles to offer support while maintaining full range of motion
- Reinforces and rehabilitates muscles for quicker recovery
I asked some of the athletes why they wore kinesiology tape and what it did for them. Many of them used it to provide structural support to muscles or areas that had become sore from many miles of running. Kinesiology tape, they said, gave them some pain relief and took some pressure off trouble spots around their legs, knees, and feet.
Using Kinesiology Tape Can Help With Training!
Training for an Ironman takes a toll on ligaments and muscles as you pound out hundreds of miles during training. Feet get swollen and knees get sore. Injuries, such as sprained ankles, IT band syndrome, or plantar fasciitis, can become recurring issues.
Then there’s the hundreds of miles spent in an aero position on the bike. After hours tucked into that streamlined pose, my neck and shoulders are screaming for relief. Even swimming requires repetitive movements of the shoulders and neck that can cause problems. Every time I train for a race, my muscles, ligaments, and organs endure inflammation, injury, and fatigue from the extended use and intense exertion required. So, I decided I needed to try this tape that other athletes said supported their muscles, reduced pain, and helped them perform better at races.
Around the same time I was about to test the benefits of kinesiology tape, I discovered that many runners and endurance athletes were also adding CBD to their workout routines to help speed recovery.
CBD & the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
CBD, or Cannabidiol, is one of over 100 cannabinoids (a group of compounds) extracted from the flowers and leaves of the hemp plant. It’s known for its powerful, all-natural, therapeutic effects, many athletes take it for both wellness and recovery.
Every person has an Endocannabinoid System (ECS). This system exists within our bodies and produces enzymes (endocannabinoids) that interact with a large network of receptors that run throughout our central and peripheral nervous systems.
These enzymes send messages to cells, working together to regulate stress, inflammation responses, cognitive functions, and even eating and sleeping patterns. A little-known fact is the Endocannabinoid System is responsible for creating the euphoric “runner’s high” associated with exercise. It gives you the power to keep going when you need it the most.
CBD supports these processes by supplementing the body’s own endocannabinoids to help our internal systems achieve homeostasis, or balance.
The Benefits of CBD
- Helps reduce inflammation
- Helps reduce oxidative stress
- Helps relieve aches & pains
- Has healing properties
- Can accelerate recovery
CBD is known to help reduce the inflammation that occurs when we fatigue our muscles, helping repair muscles, joints and tissues and reducing chronic or acute inflammation and oxidative stress. As every distance runner knows, strenuous exercise also produces lactate in the muscles. Excess lactate leads to soreness and cramps.
CBD helps neurotransmitters calm the mind and body. By reducing certain neurotransmitters, CBD can relax muscles and alleviate cramps and muscle spasms. It provides a natural alternative to a range of opioid painkillers and NSAIDS which carry potential side effects ranging from gastrointestinal issues and headaches to drowsiness and dizziness.
CBD can also improve overall wellness by working in tandem with the body’s internal systems – such as the endocannabinoid and nervous systems – to restore balance and reduce anxiety. It can protect myelin sheaths in the nervous system and support healthy neural signaling. Because of this process, CBD can help your nervous system recover from intense workouts.
Finally, CBD may improve the quality of your sleep by lowering stress hormones and alleviating anxiety. Sleep is one of the most important tools – and one of the most overlooked – to recharge and refresh and recover from physical activity and mental stress. This is invaluable in a world where athletic activities can be highly stressful endeavors.
CBD & KINESIOLOGY TAPE for Athletic Performance & Recovery
In a fortuitous development, a new health and performance company, SummaForte, saw the benefits of both CBD and kinesiology tape and decided to combine them into the newest innovation in sports performance and recovery: SummaTape™.
Unlike other kinesiology tapes, SummaTape also delivers CBD and menthol through the skin, providing a soothing cooling sensation and producing a triple anti-inflammatory effect. The menthol stimulates blood flow in inflamed areas and works with the CBD to accelerate muscle repair and improve circulation to help support and aid in the healing of injuries. CBD helps reduce inflammation, speed recovery, and contributes to a calming energy.
Inflammation (swelling), which is part of the body’s natural healing system, helps fight injury and infection. Chronic inflammation, however, can have damaging consequences over the long term, from harm to arteries, organs, and joints, to – if left unchecked – chronic diseases, such as heart disease, blood vessel disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions.
Believe me, I know the damage inflammation can cause. An Ironman race is a torture chamber where in the up to seventeen hours it takes to complete it, an athlete’s body goes through a potpourri of exciting physiological wonders—dehydration, fuel supply shortages, muscle damage, brain fatigue, and overheating among them.
At the molecular level, oxygen radicals rip unapologetically through muscle cell membranes, mitochondria burn up glucose and triglyceride molecules, and blood rushes through veins and arteries like the Millennium Falcon going into hyperdrive.
And in addition to your standard overheating and dehydration issues, your muscle tissues will go through a day-long MMA cage match, muscle cells being pulled, torn, and broken in a constant tug of war. This damage is from the mechanical stress of your muscles taking a brutal pounding, especially during the run.
Armed with this knowledge, and keen on doing everything I could to limit this inflammation annihilation and protect my joints, ligaments, and muscles, I wore SummaTape during my training for Ironman Lake Placid and during the race itself. It helped…a lot. Especially in relieving some of the tension in my neck during long bike rides.
Kinesiology Tape with CBD for Injuries
There are five common running injuries – IT band syndrome, hamstring strains, shin splints, runner’s knee, and plantar fasciitis. I’ve suffered from all of them at one point or another during my training runs and strenuous workouts to prepare for races. SummaTape, along with a renewed focus on stretching and exercises that strengthen core muscles and correct muscle imbalances, has helped me reduce inflammation, protect muscles and joints, recover more quickly, and prevent further injury.
These days I’ve been playing in multiple competitive men’s soccer leagues. I’ve sprained my ankles a few times and tweaked my hamstring. I’ve found if I keep them taped, it provides enough support that I’m able to continue playing. One disclaimer – if you get an injury, it’s always best to seek out the opinion of a doctor, physical therapist, or chiropractor. I certainly spend a great deal of time at my chiropractor, who, by the way, also uses SummaTape as a key part of recovery for his clients.
I will say that it took me a little while to figure out exactly how and where to tape to best support my muscles. It can be confusing, and it is important to apply the tape properly.
How to Use SummaTape for Athletic Recovery & Inflammation
SummaForte has helpful videos on its website to demonstrate proper taping, but here’s a quick primer:
SummaTape can be applied in many ways, and with different degrees of stretching (and hence lifting of the skin after application). For example, a single strip may be applied in a straight line over the subject area of the skin, or a different shape such as an “X”, “Y” over the specific area may be advisable.
Typically, it is recommended that the ends of the tape should not be stretched, but rather just applied with firm pressure. The middle section may be stretched to achieve the desired “skin lifting” effect. If unsure, consult your doctor or physical therapist for advice on how best to apply the tape to reduce pain and inflammation, prevent injury, and promote good circulation and recovery.
What’s great about SummaTape is its stretch mimics the skin and doesn’t restrain movement while it’s reinforcing and rehabilitating the muscle. So, I’m still able to run like Ronaldo while dreaming of dribbling like Messi.
SummaTape has helped me perform better and play longer. It’s another great tool in my recovery toolbox that I will continue to use. I’m not getting any younger. But SummaTape, the perfect marriage of kinesiology tape and CBD, can help me pretend, and continue to hang with the twenty-somethings on the soccer field and keep pace on the triathlon circuit.