What is Kinesiotaping doing?

So what is Kinesio Taping actually doing? Does it actually work? Many of us have seen some of our favorite athletes on TV using it, or seen it out in our local drug stores or sporting good stores. There have been many claims made but what is backed by research?

We recently hosted the Rocktape Functional Movement Techniques basic and advanced courses at Perfect Stride Physical Therapy. Something that we really enjoyed about this course was they identified as a “movement company that does tape”. They looked at taping as more of an adjunct to movement and treatment, and their assessment and treatment approach more from a neurophysiological perspective. Research was presented both supporting taping but also highlighting study limitations and what tape has not been shown to be effective for.

A major point that they discussed was how the skin to brain connection is incredibly powerful, as skin is the largest organ in the body and provides a wealth of information to the brain that has to be processed and interpreted. Utilizing this as a means to provide input and decrease the threat of pain could be valuable in short-term relief, and to improve one’s movement quality and experience. Ultrasound studies conducted have shown that the skin and fascia can be gently lifted with taping, providing a “decompressive effect” on these structures. This could allow for the skin and fascia to glide easier, communicating to the brain that there is less tension and less threat to a movement pattern.

There have been some studies that have looked at Kinesio Taping for pain. Short term pain-relief has been shown to be provided to patients when combined with an exercise program, compared to minimal intervention. A study that RockTape highlighted showed Kinesio Taping was as good as steroid injections and exercise for subacromial shoulder impingement at 1 and 3 month follow ups.

Kinesiotaping has the potential to provide short term pain-relief, is a good adjunct with an comprehensive and individualized exercise program, and is an awesome tactile cue to provide feedback. For patients’ who have difficulties with upright sitting posture, we have provided taping  from the front of their shoulders to their back, giving them the sensation of “being pulled” into a more upright posture. Now, it is important to know that this is cuing. The tensile strength of the tape is not strong enough to change biomechanical alignment. However, it may be enough to give the musculature and the brain feedback, resulting in potentially more extension and decreased rounding of shoulders and “hunching” of your upper back.

We all know that pain changes movement. Many of us have experienced that. So if we had an option to give our muscles and skin input to decrease the threat of movement, why wouldn’t we do so?

Does the direction of taping matter?

No, studies have shown you do not have to concern yourself  with the direction you apply the tape.

Is the tape stabilizing my joints?

No, but you may feel more stable since the muscles stimulated by the tape are doing a better job of stabilizing.

While larger randomized controlled studies need to be conducted, individuals have found relief from the kinesiology tape when combined with exercise. There are minimal side effects (potential allergies to latex or the adhesives on the tapes) and it is easy to apply. It can be a very useful tool in tissue recovery, rehab, and can provide some great cuing to assist with improving movement!

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