Examining the Efficacy of Kinesio Tape


By Jessica Smith


If the colorful tape used at the Olympics caught your interest, then I am sure you must know about Kinesiotape. The vibrantly colored tape placed near the shoulder and legs by various athletes during their events is a form of therapeutic taping.

While an adhesive tape stuck to your skin hardly seems like an efficient remedy for aches and pains, many people claim that Kinesio tapes work miracles for athletes.

First, what is Kinesio tape?

Therapeutic taping has been in practice for many years now. Recent brands such as Kinesio popularized the culture with clever marketing strategies, which is the reason behind why we get to see athletes sporting these various colorful tapes.

Kinesio tape, made from light, thin and stretchy fabrics are often used by athletes to ease pain and enhance performance. The makers claims the tape reduces the risk of an injury by amplifying proprioception (which means you are more aware of the position of your limbs).

Many believe that by elevating the surface of the skin away from injured tissues the tape helps improve blood flow and lymphatic drainage which in turn supports faster healing. While there is no sufficient scientific evidence that backs the claims of the brand, many users and experts support that the tape is definitely amazing.

Why do athletes use the tape?

There are three major reasons for which most athletes use Kinesio tape. These are to prevent injury, treat injuries, and enhance performance.

How it prevents injury: Continuous training causes cumulative load on the tissues. By introducing an intervention such as Kinesiology tape, we add support to the tissues that will also reduce the risk of higher impact during a traumatic injury. In most cases, the tape prevents incorrect movements that might shift stress to certain areas of the body which could lead to permanent damages.

How it helps treat injury: Kinesio tape has been particularly effective against reducing chronic musculoskeletal pain. This inference is in comparison to other interventions such as ice packs, etc. The material used in the tape is both durable and comfortable to wear during an event, which means masking the pain becomes easier. Many experts claim that the tape helps reduce the pain load in the tissues and also aids in healing.

Just how effective is Kinesio tape?

Kinesio tape is most effective when used as a pain reliever. It has shown significant results as a safe alternative for pain relief in case of sports injuries. Kinesio tape has been effective against treating musculoskeletal injuries and pain where various cases reported with positive results backing its effectiveness. The affirmative input into the skin through the tape is the possible reason behind its effectiveness for pain relief.

Gavin Daglish, a physiotherapist at Mike Varney Physiotherapy in Harlow, says that the tape works well for pain relief. He says that the results are not instantly visible but are positively correlated with lower levels of pain that subsides over the next 24 -48 hours from the time of application. He also shares that the tape has been effective for lower back pain in case of a 45 year old weightlifter in combination with various other lower back pain relief products. He believes that the design runs with the contours of the skin that reduces the friction between skin tissues, thus aiding pain relief.

Jeremy Parker from Six Physio in London also claims that he has seen great results while using Kinesio tape for toning muscles down. This could be due to the elastic nature of the tape. He says that the feeling and effects are also quite different from traditional taping techniques.

Are there reasons to doubt its effectiveness?

On the more critical side of things, expecting effectiveness in fixing any dysfunctional biomechanics or attempting to correct the movement or position of any body part may not be a Kinesio tape’s job. In fact, the claim that Kinesio tape lifts the skin to enhance blood circulation has no evidence. And unlike popular theories, there are no particular directions of application of the tape that enables activation of the muscles either.

study used Kinesio tape to treat athletes suffering from ankle sprains. Even after three days of application, there were no significant changes in the swelling. A recent review even confirmed that claims of performance enhancement by Kinesio tape is merely superficial.

Many say that the effect of the tape is a simple placebo effect. Confidence is the key to better performance for athletes in the arena. The fact that the tape promises to enhance performance and cause pain relief causes a psychological stimulation and comfort that improves their performance.

A particularly interesting experiment attempted to prove the placebo effect of Kinesio tape. A group of blindfolded volunteers believed that they have Kinesio tape on their legs, although during many sessions, the tape was substituted with a simple sticky fabric. The performance of the volunteers in fact remained the same whether or not they had the tape on. This supports the claim that the effectiveness of the tape would mostly be due to the placebo effect.

An honest opinion about Kinesio tape would be that there is more hype than the actual middle ground where its true benefits lie. The evidence that supports pain relief by the tape encourages various athletes to use this tape given that there are no side effects to reconsider it for. Also, like various other therapies, Kinesio tape may or may not be effective on an individual. Individual response to Kinesio tapes has been different even in case of pain relief.

A combined use of Kinesio tape with other therapeutic healing methods such as exercises like foam rolling and mobility workoutor massage can be an effective way to achieve pain relief and healing.

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