The Olympics have never looked so vibrantly striped, thanks to the candy-colored Kinesio tape criss-crossing the skin of athletes from countries across the globe.

 

What is it, what does it do and does it work?

 

The tape was created in the 1970s by a Japanese chiropractor and acupuncturist by the name of Kenzo Kase. Rather than the stiff athletic tapes of the past, Kase wanted to develop a product that mimicked the elastic quality of human skin.

 

Made from medical-grade adhesive and cotton, the stretchy waterproof tape creates gentle pressure along the skin and is said to improve circulation and help ease injuries, according to the company that makes it. Athletes and physical therapists say the tape reduces inflammation and pain, and improves performance. But scientific studies have been unable to back up the accolades.

 

"No one's claiming this is a cure," said Michael Good, international director for the company. "It's an adjunct therapy."

 

While the science hasn’t confirmed the benefits, Good said Kinesio's following speaks for itself.

 

"These are not random athletes getting taped," Good said. "The trainers using it at the Olympics are probably the best in their country, using it on best athletes in the world."

 

But scientific proof of physiological benefit or not, the tape provides a mental boost to be sure. Its presence reminds athletes to be cautious with problem areas and it’s said to provide confidence that something is being done to help with healing.

 

"I have been using it ... with virtually every athlete I work with, and eight or nine out of 10 get improvement," Jim Wallis, a certified athletic trainer told Discovery News. "From a clinical-application sense, I believe in it very much. From a research basis, I can't completely tell you I'm completely convinced that I understand exactly what it's doing."

 

Either way, it looks pretty cool and adds a splash of visual candy for the Olympics’ millions of viewers.

 

Related Olympics story on MNN: Photos of medal-worthy Olympic expressions