You’ve probably seen the brightly colored strips of fabric adorning the limbs of many a pro cyclist in recent years. Or, perhaps you’ve spotted them on the appendages and torsos of several athletes at the recent Summer Olympic Games in London in such sports as varied as volleyball, swimming and rowing. Those brightly colored lines and complex patterns aren’t the latest fashion trend in body modification or adornment—they’re kinesiology tape.

Available from a variety of manufacturers, kinesiology, or “kinesio,” tape is usually made of cotton fabric with an adhesive backing that is applied to the skin in such a way as to improve blood flow and help heal or protect injured muscles. “SpiderTech brand tape has been widely used in the medical and physical therapy fields during the company’s four-year history,” says SpiderTech’s Heather Price. Like other brands that offer kinesiology tape, SpiderTech sells rolls of its product in 5-meter lengths that can be cut and customized for a specific body part. “Our ‘spiders’ are what set SpiderTech apart from other tape brands,” says Price. “They’re pre-cut designs that were developed in the physical therapy world that utilize a single piece of tape and have numbers printed on the back for a straightforward application. The product takes the guesswork out of kinesiology taping and empowers the consumer to do it right.” Best sellers for the company include the upper-knee and lower-back varieties. SpiderTech is also significant to the cycling world due to its sponsorship of the Canadian-based Pro Continental team, SpiderTech powered by C10. Other popular brands include Rocktape and KT Tape.

“Kinesio tape is said to lift the skin, allowing for more lymph and blood flow,” says RBA’s medical expert, Dr. Johnathan Edwards. SpiderTech, specifically, notes that their product “mimics the elasticity and thickness of human skin, allowing it to integrate, support and stabilize without adversely affecting healthy ranges of motion.” But can sticking material to the outermost layer of the skin really improve internal blood flow? “Few of these claims have any scientific backing,” continues Edwards. “But numerous testimonials on the subject show athletes support its use. What seems to be clear from scientific literature is that taping modifies proprioceptive feedback—the information sent from muscles and tendons to the brain. Spidertech kinesiology tape conforms to fit the exact area you need and can be bought in a variety of shapes and sizes. If you can’t find one that suits your needs, consider buying athletic tape and simply cut it to meet your needs. Utilizing sports tape can be a healthy way to improve your muscles without the need for heavy medications.

Tape acts as a reminder of sorts that tells the brain to protect the injured area. Taping works psychologically through an increased awareness and perception of stability, leading to a decreased fear of activity and decreased pain. “In my experience, taping cycling injuries can be a great tool when used properly. But, avoid the temptation to just slap some kinesio tape on an injury. First, always get your injury diagnosed by a medical professional, because taping has the potential to make an injury worse. And note that many athletes wear the tape even if they don’t have an injury, usually for preventative measures, increased attention from the cameras and/or to fake out their opponents. In summary, there are not a lot of downsides to taping an injury, but much to gain if it helps.” SpiderTech’s Price agrees: “So much about kinesiology tape usage is anecdotal. Many doctors and physical therapists feel it improves blood circulation, while athletes often feel some form of relief from minor pain.”

• Cotton fabric with adhesive backing
• Idea is to aid blood flow to speed healing
• Consult your doctor first about injuries