fueled by relief and recovery

Compression sleeves and K-tape are two new petroleum-based innovations that are fueling athletes to go harder — and recover faster — than ever before.

Compression sleeves and K-tape are two new petroleum-based innovations that are fueling athletes to go harder — and recover faster — than ever before.

Americans are living notably active lifestyles. Adults are playing in intramural sports leagues, signing up for gym memberships and engaging in all kinds of hybrid workout programs, not to mention swimming, biking and hiking. It’s not some fad. Attention to health and well-being is a cultural shift.

The one downside of this uptick in activity is an increase in injuries. However, physical therapists are well-equipped with more knowledge and tools than they’ve ever been. Because of the work they do, we can get back to getting sweaty as soon as possible.

Two recent advancements in petroleum-based technology have led to massively popular wearable products aimed at keeping our muscles flexible, warm and powerful. We’re talking about compression sleeves and kinesiology tape. All kinds of athletes are wearing them.

But what are they and what do they do?

Kinesiology Tape

Called k-tape for short, you can find this acrylic adhesive tape on the bodies of world-class athletes and everyday people. It’s used to treat musculoskeletal pain and disability. How does it work? Some trainers and physical therapists say that due to the synthetic tape’s natural recoiling qualities, it helps correct the alignment of weak muscles and assist joint motion. Others claim it slightly lifts the skin, increasing blood flow and reducing swelling. K-tape is durable and stretchable. It stretches up to 140% of its original length and sticks to the skin for a pretty impressive amount of time. The k-tape market is booming. Experts say that in 2014, it grossed $136 million. In 2017, that number jumped to $420 million. Now, analysts predict more than $1 billion of k-tape will be sold by the year 2022.

Compression Sleeves

For many athletes, the elasticity of materials they wear is of the utmost importance. That’s why spandex is used in so many different ways for so many different sports. Beyond flexibility, however, the benefits of spandex technology continue to be discovered and utilized. Most recently, we’ve seen this in the rising popularity of compression sleeves. You see these formfitting sleeves worn on the arms and legs of athletes who are looking for a competitive edge. At first, they were worn as a way to help prevent chafing and rashes. But then athletes started reporting a noted drop in muscle fatigue and an increase in flexibility. Scientifically, the jury is still out on how, if at all, these sleeves are helping athletes function better. But just turn on a pro basketball game, look at the players on the court, and decide for yourself.