Much speculation surrounds beach volleyball superstar and Olympic Gold Medalist Kerri Walsh’s shoulder “tattoo”. It's not a tattoo at all, actually. It's Kinesio Tape, reportedly placed there to help improve healing and reduce shoulder pain.

Kinesio Tape and Kinesio Taping is nothing new, but it is certainly catching on. It was developed more than 25 years ago by Dr. Kenzo Kase, a Japanese chiropractor who trained in the US.

For years, the tape and the taping methods were primarily used by sports medicine doctors, rehabilitation specialists, physical therapists and chiropractors. The effectiveness of Kinesio Taping has spread like wildfire and it is now used by medical practitioners and top athletes worldwide. The Japanese Olympic volleyball team is thought to have started the frenzy with the athletes.

I’ve read that Kinesio Taping is being used on Lance Armstrong, Serena Williams, David Beckam, Robby Ginepri and Justine Henin, not to mention the current crop of Olympiads including Martins Plavins and of course, Kerri Walsh.

In Lance Armstrong’s book “Every Second Counts”, he refers to Kinesio as "Something better than any laser, wrap, or electric massager…The Tape. It is a special hot-pink athletic tape that came from Japan and seemed to have special powers. Every morning before the stage, they would tape us all up, different parts of our bodies . . . George's back, Chechu's knees. Sometimes we'd be so wrapped up in hot-pink tape that we'd look like dolls, a bunch of broken dolls. But the next day the pain disappeared--it was gone."

Kinesio Taping is basically a technique of applying Kinesio Tape -- thin, elastic, color-coded strips of tape – on joints and muscles where support and stability is needed. It is a “non-restrictive” taping method (think the opposite of heavy strapping of ankles), used to reduce pain and inflammation, relax overused tire muscles and speed healing. It is also used for preventative maintenance, edema and pain management.

The tape itself is an elastic woven tape that comes in a variety of widths, colors and types. It is cut into different shapes and applied with a slight stretch to stretched skin. It may look like conventional athletic tape but it is fundamentally different in that it has a specific elasticity that plays a role in its effectiveness. It is thin, like skin, and is applied by professionals trained specifically for the different applications. It is placed on top of the skin, strategically, often in “waves”, and is effective for 3 to 5 days before it needs to be replaced. You can shower or swim with it. It doesn’t contain latex, which is great for those with latex allergies.

How Does Kinesio Tape Work?

When properly applied, you don’t even know the tape is there. The practitioner places it on slightly stretched skin from one end of the muscle to the other, with varying amounts of stretch to the tape. For muscle support/facilitation, the tape is applied from the muscle origin to the muscle insertion. For rehabilitation or muscular inhibition, it goes on just the opposite.

The taping technique is based on the body’s own natural healing process. Rather than “strap down” the muscle, the philosophy is to give free range of motion and allow the body’s own muscular system to heal itself bio-mechanically. Application of Kinesio Tape encourages muscles to function as they would if they didn't need the tape, which improves not only body movement but circulation of venous and lymph flows, body temperature, etc. Pretty simple, but it makes perfect sense. There is, I believe, a psychological aspect as well. If your sore muscles are supported and allowed to heal, you are not in as much pain and you relax. Your performance improves along with faster healing.

Kinesio Tape’s Uses are Seemingly Endless

Who would think that strategically placed elastic athletic tape would make any difference in the healing process, or athletic performance, for that matter? Well, it seems to work in a whole lot of ways if you ask our customers. Reviews (avg 5 out of 5 stars) of Kinesio Tape mention its effectiveness in relieving carpal tunnel, arthritis, plantar fasciitis, shoulder pain, and even ocular myasthenia. Other sources say that Kinesio Tape can be used for headaches to foot problems and everything in between. Examples include muscular facilitation or inhibition in pediatric patients, lower back strain/pain (subluxations, herniated disc), knee conditions, hamstring, groin injury, rotator cuff injury, whiplash, tennis elbow, patella tracking, pre- and post-surgical edema, ankle sprains, athletic preventative injury method, and as a support method.

One very important thing to remember is that the effectiveness of Kinesio Tape highly relies on the placement and technique. You can do it yourself, but only after you have been trained by a professional.

If you have any of the conditions mentioned above, Kinesio Taping might be worth a mention to your medical practitioner or chiropractor. For those professionals looking for a great deal on Kinesio Tape, or any other medical supplies check out