The brightly-coloured tape we often see adorning athlete's muscles in various shapes, and patterns is hard to miss. Kinesiology tape is used widely in the sporting arena but can it be of assistance to the non-athlete as well?
What is Kinesio taping?
The Kinesio taping method was developed by Japanese chiropractor, Dr Kenzo Kase in the early 1970s. The particular tape used is a flexible and elastic tape which can be stretched 120-180% of its original size. The thickness and elasticity are similar to that of the human skin. It is an alternate method to the more traditional rigid taping which has very little stretch in comparison.
What does the research say?
The little research to date has been mostly inconclusive. After examining dozens of studies on kinesio tape, Williams et al the Sports Performance Research Institute in New Zealand concluded:
“There was little quality evidence to support the use of KT [Kinesio Tape] over other types of elastic taping in the management or prevention of sports injuries. KT may have a small beneficial role in improving strength, range of motion in certain injured cohorts and force sense error compared with other tapes, but further studies are needed to confirm these findings.”
Despite the above, there is some evidence it may have a small effect on reducing pain and improving range of motion in injured athletes. Just because the evidence not here yet does not mean it does not work, as more research is conducted, I'm sure we will see what many patients and athletes confirm to us everyday in our clinics, that kinesio tape is an effective form of treatment for them.
What is it used for?
Kinesio tape is a great tool used to offload overloaded tissues; an overuse injury is a great example. As the tape is flexible, it allows some movement and load of the injured muscle which is ideal for the healing process to take place. In contrast, rigid tape restricts movement and is used to stabilise or immobilise an area in the aim of preventing injury.
In a clinical environment, your therapist may apply kinesio tape for a range of issues, including support for weak or injured muscles, reducing pain, reducing oedema (fluid retention), correcting postural imbalances and improving range of movement. Another benefit of the taping is that it can be worn for several days, can be on during showering or swimming, icing, stretching or foam rolling.
Despite the limited research to date into the overall effectiveness of kinesio tape, many therapists use it clinically as an addition to their patients' injury management. It is a cost-effective and low risk tool which may aid in increasing range of movement, decreasing pain and increasing movement awareness in the individual.
It should not be used as a primary treatment for an injury, it certainly does not address the underlying cause of an injury but may provide some relief and aid in healing.