When is it used? How does it work?
I bet you have seen athletes of all sorts wearing coloured tape on their shoulders, knees, ankles or back. Swimmers, runners, tennis players… What is it for? How does it work? Today I will answer these questions.
K Tape is purported to produce a number of benefits including:
- Improved range of motion
- Improved proprioception
- Improved neuromuscular control
- Improved muscular strength
- Reduced swelling
- Reduced pain following injury
- Improved tissue healing
However, the research on these claimed benefit is inconclusive and it lacks definitive agreement based on limited scientific investigation; most notably around methodology, tape application (trained practitioner vs self-application) and manufacturer brand variations.
The truth is that we still do not know exactly how kinesiology tape works. No study agrees on a single reason why it works. However, there are some hypothesis based on the research and anecdotal evidence from using the tape in clinical practice.
We know that when tape is placed on the skin there is a mechanical effect both superficially and on the deeper tissues. One of the studies that you can read in the next section shows randomised changes in the tissue underneath the tape itself as if the first time we have proof of fascial changes as a result of K Taping.
The current working theory is that the tape can help lift the skin (and the tissues underneath) to straighten the fascia and reticular fibers, allowing less restriction to lymphatic drainage and reduced pressure on skin pain receptors.
It is also theorised that the wave pattern on the tape helps to create areas of high and low pressure, which also aids in circulation and lymphatic flow underneath the tape.
Muscle function can also be either activated or inhibited based on the needs of each individual, and the same taping application can have different effects depending on who, and how, we are taping.
There is also something to be said for the proprioceptive element of Taping and the enhanced motor control that can come with a new sensory response or up-regulation of a muscle group.
Finally, we must also consider the placebo effect that taping can have, especially in the athletic population. It can increase confidence in returning to sport and also increase adherence to rehab programs.
Edoardo Elisei DC
Alive Chiropractic LTD
1C Crown Gate Square