As any athlete knows, some of the most devastating roadblocks to proper training happen when we let injuries – pains and sprains – get the best of us. Aches and pains stand in the way of regular, intense training – and often, until we’ve healed, exercise is too painful to pull off. In addition to pain, exercising with an injury can lead quickly to more acute trauma, or even injuries in other parts of the body.

Yet as athletes, we are conditioned to fight through the pain and keep going no matter what - not every shin splint or sore knee requires professional medical care. Sometimes, a simple ice pack works great. But what about during a run? There are, in fact, products out there designed for the runner, cyclist, and swimmer, during training or race day that can reduce pain caused by exercise.

Kinesiology tape, sometimes called Kinesio Tape or Kinetic Tape, is a fascinating way to decrease pain and increase endurance and performance. It is not a new method – in fact, physical therapists have been recommending the use of Kinesiology Tape since the 1980’s. Kinesiology Tape is made of elastic, breathable cotton with a special adhesive on one side. High-quality brands will stay in place on the skin for several says, provided that the skin is free of any soap residue or lotion.

The effectiveness of Kinesiology Tape is based in the elastic qualities of the tape. Because most Kinesiology Tape stretches up to 140% of its length, but does not stretch in width, it causes the skin over the muscle to also contract. This serves many functions for sore muscles – primarily, this pulling property removes pressure from the body’s pain detectors and increases fluidity of joint motion. Kinesiology Tape also is thought to realign weak or displaced muscles due to the tape’s recoiling effect. One of Kinetic Tape’s other primary functions is increasing blood circulation and reducing inflammation by opening up space for liquid to flow.

Traditionally, Kinesiology Tape is applied in two ways – I-Bands, and Y-Bands. I-Bands are pieces that cover one section of muscle, while Y-Bands wrap around either side of a muscle. The tape is applied directly onto the skin over a sore muscle, typically following the direction of the sore muscle in question. This provides chemical-free localized relief tailored to the shape of your body – something that an over-the-counter pain killer can never compete with.

With any injury, it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations on how long to rest and how to ease back into training. But for minor aches and pains, with your doctor’s approval, you can use Kinesiology Tape to keep going longer and stronger for training on race day.