Kinesio tape, that colourful elastic athletic tape, has been used for over a decade in the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries. It probably became most popular after the 2008 Olympics, where it was donated to team therapists, which resulted in almost every athlete using it. The majority of the people who have used this tape LOVE it! However, the research on the effectiveness of the tape isn’t so wonderful. There have been hundreds of research studies done on kinesio tape, so we’ll examine some of the more recent systematic reviews that outline what exactly the tape has been proven to achieve.
How the tape works
Kinesio tape is different from regular white athletic tape because it is flexible and allows for full range of motion, (and it looks a lot cooler). Below are the main functions of kinesio tape:
- Decrease pain;
- Improve range of motion;
- Increase proprioception;
- Correct joint alignment;
- Improve swelling and lymphatic drainage;
- Facilitate or inhibit muscles
In order to achieve any of the desired effects above, the tape MUST be properly applied, including the direction of pull of the tape and the amount of tension applied.
What does the research say?
- Overall, most studies show that kinesio taping for pain reduction, function and proprioception is better than no treatment, yet it is no better or worse than other traditional treatment options (Choon Wyn Lim et al., 2015)
- Good support for reduction of pain in individuals with musculoskeletal injuries, (Montalvo et al., 2014)
- Some support that it may improve painfree range of motion (Taylor et al., 2014).
- Some support that it may help correct alignment i.e., patellar tracking (Barton et al., 2013).
- Inconclusive support for improved swelling and lymphatic drainage (Kalron et al., 2013).
- No support for the facilitation of muscle strength. A review of 19 studies that examined if kinesio tape increases muscle strength or facilitates muscle contraction showed no difference compared to a control group (Csapo et al., 2015).
- A lot of the research discusses a potential placebo effect to help explain the benefits of kinesio tape
Take home message:
Kinesio tape is inexpensive, noninvasive, and has little to no side effects (there is a potential for skin irritation). Therefore,