Kinesio Tape – Help or Hype?
Taping has historically been used for the prevention and treatment of sports injuries to provide protection and support to the joint or muscle during movement. Taping can improve proprioception, which is believed to play a role in preventing acute injury and in the evolution of chronic injury. Kinesio tape (KT) is an elastic therapeutic tape used for treating sports injuries and a variety of other disorders. Developed in the 1970s by Japanese chiropractor, Dr. Kenso Kase, it is claimed that Kinesio Tape supports injured muscles and joints and helps relieve pain by lifting the skin and allowing improved blood and lymph flow.
Williams et al., (2012) performed a meta-analysis of the research to date to assess the amount of high-quality research that would support the claims of Kinesio tape practitioners. In conclusion, there was little high quality evidence to support the use of Kinesio tape over other types of elastic taping in the management or prevention of sports injuries as an isolated treatment technique.
Clinically, there is a significant amount of anecdotal and case study evidence that would support the use of Kinesio Tape as an effective adjunctive treatment to physiotherapy. Kinesio Tape is becoming more widely recognized as a valuable tool in physiotherapy treatment and is best used as an adjunct to manual therapy and exercise. It appears to help speed the rehabilitation process by lessening pain and improving tolerance to exercise and movement.
Theoretically, the taping method uses the principles of the Gate Control theory to provide pain relief by working with the natural mechanism the body uses to regulate pain. Unlike other more restrictive athletic tapes, it is very elastic and was designed to facilitate healing without impeding body movement or interfering with range of motion. Because is uses an acrylic based adhesive in wavelike patterns, it is much gentler on skin than conventional tape and allows moisture to flow through quickly and can be worn comfortably through swimming, showering and sweating and can be worn for several days at a time. Due to the nature of its application, it tends to pull the skin away from the underlying tissues for a vascular/lifting effect. This allows improved blood flow and improves lymphatic drainage for swelling and removal of fluid. It also has a stabilizing effect on the underlying musculature giving a proprioceptive signal to improve its function.
There are two basic taping techniques the Kinesio Taping method uses. The first is taping along the muscle from insertion to origin, this allows for inhibition of muscle spasm and inflammation and addresses acute injuries and trauma caused by overuse. The second technique is applied from origin to insertion along the muscle to facilitate and increase muscle function.
Kinesio Tape, by itself, is not well supported by research as a stand-alone treatment. However, when used in conjunction with other treatment methods (i.e. stretching/strengthening activities, manual therapy and soft tissue techniques, heat/ice, modalities, patient education, activity modification) clinical evidence would support its use as an effective adjunctive treatment in the rehabilitation process. The successful use of Kinesio Tape during physiotherapy is dependent on clinician knowledge and a thorough evaluation to determine which taping techniques are most appropriate for the particular condition.
At Corona Station Physical Therapy, we believe that the use of Kinesio Tape can be an effective adjunctive treatment in the rehabilitation of certain musculoskeletal injuries. For further information, please call or email us to speak to one of our physiotherapists.
Kase K, Wallis J. The latest kinesio taping method. Ski-J 2002
Williams, S., Whatman, C., Hume, P., and Sheerin, K. (2012). Sports Med: 42 (2).