CAUTION: Back pain can be a serious health issue. This Instructable only provides temporary relief from minor back pain due to poor posture or overexertion. Seek proper medical advice if you are experiencing more severe symptoms or if the pain persists for more than a day or two.
If you walk on two legs you probably experience occasional back pain - it's what we (homo sapiens) do. For temporary relief of minor back pain, many of us turn to pills (Advil), potions (Tiger Balm), and patches (Salonpas).
Not wanting to be exposed to chemicals whenever possible, I used to wear a neoprene waist belt to support my lower back, but my waist would soon get sweaty and uncomfortable, limiting how long I could wear it.
A few years ago I came across kinesiology tape while researching a sports medicine project and have been using it ever since for my occasional lower back pain. Read on if you feel that this drug-free, chemical-free remedy is worth considering for your lower back pain.
Step 1: What Is Kinesiology Tape and How Does It Work?
Kinesiology tape is a stretchable fabric tape with a patterned (wavy) adhesive backing. It was developed in Asia in the 1970's, but became increasingly popular in the US after athletes such as the beach volleyball players were seen wearing it at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
There are 3 main theories as to how kinesiology tape works to relieve pain and swelling:
1) The tape gently lifts the skin, promoting circulation and toxin removal.
2) The gentle tugging of the tape continually stimulates the nerves and eventually "fatigues" the pain signal.
3) It's all in your head (placebo effect).
As long as you get temporary relief from your back pain, does it really matter which theory is correct?
Step 2: Materials
1. Kinesiology Tape (roll or precut lengths)*
3. Washcloth or Baby Wipes (to clean the skin as needed)
4. (Optional) Chip Clips to assist with application
* My personal preference is Rock Tape or Dynamic Tape because they have good adhesion (they were designed for athletes) and are available in wider 3-4" widths.
Step 3: How to Get Started
SAFETY TIP: Do NOT substitute any other type of tape or bandage for kinesiology tape. They don't have the stretchiness and breathability of kinesiology tape and can irritate or even blister your skin (I have some traction blister scars to prove that a DIY hack is not the way to go for this application).
Research various videos and taping guides on the internet. Reputable and widely available brands include Kinesio Tape, Rock Tape, and KT Tape. They cost a bit more, but the fabric is much more durable and the adhesive is less likely to irritate your skin.
This Instructable focuses on a simple technique that I use that does not require another person to help apply the tape.
Technique Tip: If possible, apply the tape as a preventive measure. For me, that means applying it before a long flight, road trip, or an afternoon of yardwork.
Step 4: Wash and Dry the Skin
Make sure that your skin is dry. Lotion will affect the adhesion of the tape, but if you must use it, let it absorb into your skin and then wipe off any excess.
Step 5: Prepare the Tape
Cut a piece of tape approximately 6-8" long and round the corners. Some brands offer precut strips with rounded corners, but they cost more and may be too long. If you cannot find the wider version, you can use 2 narrower strips, but apply them separately.
Tear the paper backing in the middle and peel back, but leave the ends covered.
Technique Tip: If you are using a wider tape, I highly recommend a set of chip clips to help avoid wrinkles and for applying even tension across the tape. Only use the type of clip that gently clamps the material and avoid the type that folds/creases the material.
Step 6: Apply the Tape
1. Bend at the waist, stretch the tape to remove any wrinkles, and apply to the skin.
2. Rub the tape to adhere it to the skin.
3. Remove the paper backing from the ends and apply remaining tape to the skin WITHOUT tension.
4. Rub the ends to adhere them to the skin.
5. (Optional) Repeat with a 2nd strip of tape if you are using a narrower 2" wide roll.
6. Get on with your life. Kinesiology tape is designed to last 3-5 days and can be worn during exercising and showering.
Technique Tip: The Tape will be slightly wrinkled when you stand up. This avoids excessive tension on the skin when you bend or sit.
Step 7: Consider the Posibilities
As you may already know, kinesiology tape can be used for more than just your back pain, so consider it for other aches and pains.
Technique Tip: If you want more support for your joints, consider Dynamic Tape. Whereas kinesiology tape works on the skin level, Dynamic Tape works as a biomechanical tape. It is highly elastic and acts as a "bungee cord" to take the load off weakened joints.
Kinesiology tape doesn't work for everyone, but when it does, it provides a drug-free, chemical-free remedy for occasional pain.