Kinesiology tape has become increasingly popular in the world of sports rehabilitation, but the colourful elastic athletic tape that 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 Kinesiology 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
Kinesiology tape is different from regular white athletic tape because it is flexible and allows for a full range of motion, (and it looks a lot cooler). It is designed to provide support to affected muscles and tissues. Below are other proposed functions of Kinesiology tape:
- Decrease pain;
- Improve range of motion;
- Increase proprioception;
- Posture alignment;
- Improve swelling and lymphatic drainage;
- Facilitate or inhibit muscles
What does the research say?
- Overall, most studies show that Kinesiology 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 the reduction of pain in individuals with musculoskeletal injuries, (Montalvo et al., 2014)
- Some support that it may improve pain-free 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 Kinesiology 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 kinesiology tape
Take home message:
Application of Kinesiology tape
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.
There are basic application tips that must be followed when using Kinesiology tape effectively. Read on to find out what they are:
1. Preparing the skin: Begin by cleaning the area where the tape is to be applied and removing any excess hair.
2. Cut the tape: Cut the tape according to the size of the application area and round the edges. If you are using the tape to create tension, cut the tape shorter than the length of the injury/application area. Remove the backing with 2 to 4 centimeters on each side for the anchors to be placed.
3. Anchors: Remove the back from the first anchor and place it at one end of the tape. Activate the adhesive by slowly rubbing the tape. Be careful to not touch the adhesive.
4. Application: if you are looking to create tension, use a TheraBand Xact Stretch Indicator.
5. Adhesive: Once again, activate the adhesive along the length of the tape by rubbing it gently.
Main types of Kinesiology tape cuts
When applying the Kinesiology tape, there are three main ways to cut it before application.
1. The I-Cut: This is the most commonly used cut when using Kinesiology tape and is suitable for muscle inhibition and facilitation. It is common for the support of ligaments, muscles, and tendons.
2. The X-Cut: This type of cut is suitable for larger injury areas that involve multiple joints. The X shape can easily cover areas such as elbows or the back of the knees. This cut is mainly used for the facilitation of the hamstrings.
3. The Y-Cut: Those suffering from subluxing patella or patellofemoral stress syndrome can benefit from the Y-Cut Kinesiology tape. It is not as long as the X-Cut and is perfect to tape sensitive or hard-to-reach areas of the body.
4. The Fan: The Fan Cut is most commonly used to control swelling in the arms and legs. It can be created by cutting three lengthwise cuts on an I-Cut. The strips can be flexed out like a fan over the swelling.
5. The Lift: Similar to a Band-Aid, the Lift is used for the treatment of trigger points, superficial bruises, and muscle knots.
Take home message:
Kinesiology tape is inexpensive, noninvasive, and has little to no side effects (there is a potential for skin irritation). Therefore, it is a safe and effective treatment option to aid in postural control, proprioception and facilitating range of motion. Future research may show other benefits such as decreased swelling and lymphatic drainage.
For more information on Kinesiology tapes, their effectiveness, and application in sports rehab, contact sports physiotherapists at Sheddon Physio Oakville today!