Bright coloured tape continues to adorn athletes at major sporting events and local league village sports tournaments. I suspect even your grandparents have been using it recently and did you really see some on a horse the other day? – Yes you probably did!
The tape is officially called kinesiology tape, with RockTape and KT tape being the most popular brands. Having originally been invented in the 1970s and highly popular in the West for over a decade now it has passed the ‘fad test’ and continues to be used in both private and national healthcare settings in the UK and around the world.
Does Kinesiology, RockTape, K-Tape work?
Yes it does, an increasing volume of research indicates that tape can reduce pain from a range of causes, including common problems like; lower back pain, osteoarthritis, and runners knee. Separate from the research many patients and ‘self-applicators’ continue to experience pain relief and pass on their positive experiences.
Others, myself included, have seen and felt its unique effects to reduce pain and recover lost movement. Every day in clinic I see patients delighted and amazed when I tape them. Every time I teach a taping course, I see sceptics become converts by wearing and feeling the tape work for them.
For many people, at the point they realise their pain/problem feels better when wearing tape, they stop asking questions- and just wear it. For the more inquisitive minds there exist many theories to explain how and why this ‘magic’ stuff works. Beware though of outlandish claims that occasionally get wielded about like a wizards staff.
KINESIOLOGY TAPE – WHAT WE KNOW
- The tape is made of tightly woven elasticated cotton and a few percent nylon. The quality of these raw materials is critical to how well the tape wears and how well it resists daily wear. Cheap, naff tape gives itself away by having far fewer fibres per cm2, indicating a thick, and cheap cotton fibre. Nice tape (like Rocktape) uses fine organic cotton fibres. This costs a little more but the end product lasts longer, is more comfortable and is easier to work with.
- The glue on the tape is acrylic, highly durable and waterproof so tape can be worn for up to a week while withstanding vigorous movement, sweat and total emersion in water. You will also notice the glue has a wave pattern which allows gaps to allow sweat to pass through the tape. This is a vital part of the design, without these ‘glue gaps’ the tape would not last long.
- When applied in a vaguely correct manner tape can lead to various positive changes including less pain, improved function, more power, and even better muscular endurance.
KINESIOLOGY TAPE – DOES
- Reduce Pain
- Improve Posture
- Improve Function
- Restore Movement
- Increase Confidence
KINESIOLOGY TAPE – DOES NOT
- The tape does not contain any medication or drugs.
- Different colours are cosmetic only, all colours have the same elasticity and therefore benefits.
- Tape is not a replacement for sensible injury management and thorough rehab.
KINESIOLOGY TAPE – ANY EVIDENCE?
The popularity of kinesiology tape grew and spread worldwide based on its clinical effectiveness to reduce pain and enhance performance rather than hard tangible evidence about how the effects are achieved.
A body of independent academic research now exists to support the positive effects of tape and many physical therapy students choose to conduct their research into its effects for a range of conditions. It’s all too easy to let our natural biases select the supportive studies and brush off the unsupportive ones, and then there is the research quality to consider.
Research studies have shown kinesiology tape to:
- Improve power and strength in uninjured muscles (4,6,9)
- Reduce pain and improve function in painful conditions like plantar fasciitis and Patello-femoral pain. (1,2)
- Improve pain, range of motion and function in people with shoulder impingement (5,7,8)
- Raise the anaerobic threshold of muscle during endurance activity (3)
- A recent systematic review (a research studies into a bunch of other papers on a similar topic) concluded that there was ‘moderate evidence to support the use of tape to reduce pain’ (6)
KINESIOLOGY TAPE – HOW DOES IT WORK?
Very little research has gone into the fundamental mechanics of how tape works.
Research keeps reporting that it works but not how!
The two proposed mechanisms are:
MECHANISM ONE: DECOMPRESSION
The elastic recoil of the tape causes a form of decompression by reducing the skin tension beneath the tape which often causes skin ripples, trying not to say wrinkles, but that is a word you could use and they are only temporary. Beauticians are even experimenting with tape to reduce signs of aging, but I won’t go any further off track here.
This decompression can aid fluid flow, reduce pressure on nerve endings and improve slide and glide in the soft tissue.
These wrinkles don’t always appear and aren’t necessary for tape to work. But they do make a good visual example of the mechanism by which the elastic qualities of kinesiology tape induce a decompressive effect between skin and the tissue under it.
MECHANISM TWO: NEUROLOGICAL EFFECT
Our skin is a neurologically sensitive organ, it responds acutely to touch, whether it be hands or tape, the presence of tape on the skin helps to create a non-painful stimulus. The stimulus can also enhance awareness of joint position and movement which in turn aids in the restoration of coordinated movement.
KINESIOLOGY TAPE – WHO CAN USE IT?
- Kinesiology tape can be worn by almost anyone from children to the elderly.
- Many people apply it themselves. This is easy if it’s a knee, less so for the lower back and super tricky if it’s your shoulder.
- Although the glue is tough and durable. The tape can be removed with very little discomfort and leave no residue on the skin.
- Because the glue is acrylic it contains no latex so can be used by those allergic to most other tapes. You can also get tape for sensitive skin.
KINESIOLOGY TAPE – ANY DRAWBACKS?
- Very occasionally it can cause an allergic skin reaction
- If too much tension is placed on the ends of the tape it can irritate the skin
- It’s not a miracle cure. It won’t mend broken bones or instantly fix serious injury.
- It doesn’t work like a plaster on a wound. To get maximum effect the right combination of tape and tissue stretch is vital.
KINESIOLOGY TAPE – LET ME HAVE SOME!
- Firstly, if you are in any doubt about what causes your pain make sure you see a well-qualified health professional.
- Kinesiology tape is often used by Physiotherapists, Osteopaths, Chiropractors and Sports Therapists and similar health professionals. It is a good idea to get them to show you how to apply the tape.
- Most significant problems need some other treatment alongside taping. Your health care or medical professional can advise you about this.
KINESIOLOGY TAPE – GETTING STARTED
- Stretch the body part before cutting and applying a length of (non-stretched) tape over and in line with the sore muscle or around the joint.
- Place a second piece of tape over the identified sore area and at angle to the first piece of tape.
- Rub the tape all over before you start moving about to activate the glue.
- Remove the tape immediately if you feel any itching, irritation or a worsening of your original symptoms.
If you get stuck, each roll of tape comes with a set of application instructions and we have lots of free videos on our YouTube channel.
Learn more: RockTapeUK YouTube
Buy UK: RockTape.co.uk
International: Search for your local RockTape office or sales outlet.
- Chen,W., Hong, W., Huang, T.F., & Hsu, H., (2007) Effects of kinesio taping on the timing and ratio of vastus medialis obliquus and vastus lateralis for person with patellofemoral pain.Journal of Biomechanics.40(S2), S318
- Chien-Tsung Tsai et al. (2010) Effects of Short-term Treatment with Kinesiotaping for Plantar Fasciitis. Journal of Musculoskeletal Pain, 18 (1) 71-80
- Dae-Young K, Byoung-Do S.(2012). Immediate Effect of Quadriceps Kinesio Taping on the Anaerobic Muscle Power and Anaerobic Threshold of Healthy College Students Journal of Physical Therapy Science; Vol. 24 Issue 9, p919
- Fratocchi, G et al. (2012). Influence of Kinesio Taping applied over biceps brachii on isokinetic elbow peak torque. A placebo controlled study in a population of young healthy subjects. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport July 2012
- Hsu, Y., Chen, W., Lin, H., Wang, W.T.J., & Shih, Y., (2008). The effects of taping on scapular kinematics and muscle performance in baseball players with shoulder impingement syndrome.Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology. 19, 1092-1099
- Kalron A, Bar-Sela S. (2013) A systematic review of the effectiveness of Kinesio Taping® – Fact or fashion? Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2013 Apr 5
- Thelan, Dauber & Stoneman (2008).The Clinical Efficacy of Kinesio Tape for Shoulder Pain: A Randomised, Double-Blinded Clinical Trial. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, 38 (7) 389-395.
- Simsek et al. (2013). Does Kinesio taping in addition to exercise therapy improve the outcomes in subacromial impingement syndrome? A randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial. Acta Orthop Traumatol Turc;47(2):104-110
- Wong, O. M. H., et al., Isokinetic knee function in healthy subjects with and without Kinesio taping, Physical Therapy in Sport(2012), doi:10.1016/j.ptsp.2012.01.004
- Yoshida, A.& Kahanov, L., (2007).The effect of kinesio taping on lower trunk range of motions. Research in Sports Medicine 15 103-112.