Taping joints is a common past time as an athlete and an outdoor educator/guide. In a frontcountry setting, where what seems to be an endless supply of tape in the athletic training room, making mistakes was no big deal. In the backcountry, however, a mistake might mean having to forgo the tape job altogether. Over the years, I developed good technique for taping an ankle, but frustrations still existed. The organizations I work for do not invest in high quality tape. Instead, the cheapest on the market is included in the issued first aid kit; tape that barely stuck to itself. A few years ago I solved my woes by coming across kineseo tape. It is now a staple that gets used on the majority of my trips and has been worth every penny I spend out of my own pocket to add this to my issued first aid kits.
Just like athletic tape there are different brands out there. No two are the same. I came across KT Tape before it was popular and found that it lasted longer than other brands I tried. It has become a backcountry game changer!
A Little Goes A Long Way
I wind up taping at least one ankle on 98% of my land based trips. Rolling an ankle is a common happenstance hiking on uneven terrain. Achilles tendonitis is also very common. Rather than going through several rolls of tape, I can get away with using 4-9 strips of KT Tape for a single student on a month long expedition. I have yet to wish I brought more than 20 strips on a 28 day course.
Can Stay On For 10-14 Days
An ankle taping job using athletic tape can only be left on for a couple days before the skin starts to become highly aggravated. This is not the case most of the time with KT Tape . It can be worn and will stay on up to 14 days when treated with care. Don’t go grinding sand into it. It is worth noting that I have yet to come across someone who had a sensitivity to the adhesive. I use this A LOT on outdoor education and guided trips as well as on wilderness medicine courses where students are getting hands on practice.
Allows Room For Swelling
Taping up a joint using kineseo tape allows room for swelling unlike athletic tape, which is more rigid. While some compression is good, it becomes a problem when the swelling builds up and is trapped inside the tape. It creates an ischemia issue where adequate blood flow cannot get to the area. Think starving tissue. Starving tissue can lead to complications such as prolonged healing, sores, and even tissue death. KT Tape is flexible and thus, can expand and accommodate swelling. There is also no need to circumferential wrap up the joint to provide support.
Allows For More Mobility
Stable musculoskeletal injuries should not be immobilized. It is important to allow it to move. We are not creating a splint. Instead, the purpose of the tape is to provide support. In the case of an ankle we want to prevent it from inverting. An athletic tape job tends to create less mobility vs KT Tape .
Athletic tape is just not comfortable. One must have a lot of practice honing the technique. It is really easy to wrinkle and it doesn’t dry very fast. It feels bulky and often forms pressure points inside the boot. A similar case can be made for using an ace bandage. Neither is ideal. KT Tape , on the other hand, is barely noticeable after a few minutes. It doesn’t take up much space, it dries quickly, and its flexibility allows for good range of motion.
Support Stable Musculoskeletal Injuries
I have been able to keep students and clients in the field that may otherwise need to leave. For example, in summer 2019 I had a student on a 28 day backpacking course that started experiencing intense upper back/neck pain stemming from an overuse injury from rowing and poor posture. I applied KT Tape to the neck and upper back (not pictured). It not only supported the overused muscles, but acted as a reminder to correct her posture. Each time she hunched over the tape would tug at her shoulders reminding her to stand up straight and keep the shoulders back. This overall reduced her pain levels significantly (from a 6-7 to 2-3 on the 1-10 pain scale) and she was able to stay on the trip.
KT Tape has been a helpful addition to my foot and hand blister care kits. Even before KT Tape came out with Blister Prevention Tape, I was using KT Tape Pro to cover hot spots and other blister care applications. It sticks well and offers a smooth surface that prevents friction.
Ever get sun bumps (known as polymorphous light eruption)? It commonly pops up on the backs of hands and on cheeks. Once a person presents with it, the only way to prevent it from getting worse is completely covering it up for days. I’ve tried making athletic tape face shields/gloves much to my dismay as it falls off shortly after. Remember, the tape I get issued is low quality. Could we use liner gloves and bandanas or buffs? Yes, BUT students have a tendency to remove them and even just a little exposure to the sun keeps the sun bumps around. I have never been able to get rid of them in the field. That is, until I tried KT Tape. In summer 2017, while instructing a mountaineering course in Alaska, I applied it to a student’s cheeks and left it on for 5 days….and GONE!
Learning To Use Is Easy
I have found that utilizing kineseo tape has an easier learning curve compared to taping an ankle with athletic tape. I have a few go to methods for taping an ankle having learned from physical therapists as well as through online resources. Various physical therapists have posted demonstration videos and KT Tape has their own video series. In addition, they have instructional PDFs that one can download. I bring a Kindle in the field loaded with my teaching resources. I added the KT Tape instructional cards so I can reference how to manage an injury I am less familiar with.
More Cost Effective
Athletic tape that actually sticks (Euro Tape) and works well runs about $4-$5 a roll. A minimal tape job can use up half the roll or more! Moreover, it can only be left on for a couple days because it doesn’t breathe. Doing the math, I would need 2-3 rolls for one person per week minimum. That’s $8-$15 per week for one person. I often purchase a roll of KT Tape Pro for as little as $12/roll on Amazon. One roll = 20 strips. I have yet to need more than one roll for a 28-day expedition that has 15 participants (12 students, 3 instructors).
Knowledge is empowering! Want to know what else I carry in my first aid kit? Stay tuned for a blog covering expedition first aid kits! Consider joining us on one of our wilderness medicine courses. Our students get hands on practice with ankle taping and blister care using KT Tape among a variety of other great skills.