If you're a sports fan I'm sure you would've seen some of the athletes covered in a brightly coloured tape across their body and you may have wondered what it actually is. That tape is called kinesio tape (aka K-Tape) and it's an elastic tape that is usually taped around a joint or sometimes along the muscle. It's been used to treat a number of different conditions and this article is here to briefly tell you why it's used and if it works.
WHAT DIFFERENT TYPES OF TAPES ARE THERE?
Generally speaking there are two different types of taping used in sports and athletics:
Rigid tape and K-Tape
Rigid taping is used to give more support to a joint (e.g. ankles, shoulders, wrists) when it is loose and unstable. There is minimal stretch in the tape and will restrict the movement in the joint. Its primary role is to protect the joint from over stretching and potentially damaging the ligaments.
K-Tape is an elastic sports tape designed to relieve pain while supporting muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It is usually made of cotton, spandex, and an adhesive so that it can stretch and move with the body. K-Tapes primary role is to provide increased proprioception and altering neural input (signals to the brain).
DOES IT WORK?
K-tape has increasingly become popular as more athletes at the elite level are using it in televised events. But does it actually work?
The answer is yes, but it depends on who you ask and why you're using it...
Summary of findings:
"The use of KT may provide immediate pain relief in the first 24 hours following application, but there is insufficient evidence to support sustained relief beyond that time, and other methods of reducing pain should therefore be considered."
"The application of KT to the lumbar muscles in patients with chronic low back pain leads to short-term pain relief and improvements in lumbar muscle function. Patients with acute whiplash injury who received KT exhibited short-term improvements in pain and ROM."
"Our review found no evidence that KT improves time to return to play following musculoskeletal injury. The patient or athlete may perceive that the use of KT allows him or her to return to play sooner, but there is no clear evidence to suggest that the application of the KT is correlated with improved return to play following musculoskeletal injury"
"Due to the elastic nature of K-tape, it appears that kinesiotape may not provide sufficient mechanical support to improve postural control in unstable ankles. However in saying that it's been found that K-tape can help prevent lateral ankle injuries (through its effects on postural control) and manage lateral ankle injuries due to its positive effects on proprioception, muscle endurance and activity performance."
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
A lot of "evidence based clinicians" may tell you that K-Tape is a waste of time as the evidence for it's use is inconclusive or shows no significant difference between sham taping. Some studies will show it has a good effect on pain, and the next one will show no difference.
So what's the take home message?
In my years working as a physiotherapist the most common thing I've found in treating my clients is that there is no single treatment method that can fix everyone. Even the most well researched treatments have their flaws and might not work on you.
Ultimately most rehabilitation comes down to strengthening your body to ensure it has the capacity to withstand the load and forces you place onto it. Everything else is a plus. Whether you use K-tape, ultrasound or dry needling it doesn't really matter.
Just ask yourself, "DO I FEEL BETTER". If the answer is yes... go for gold.
If you'd like more advice on injury management book in with one of our physios today!