When Kerri Walsh competed and won gold in the 2008 Olympics, spectators took notice of an unfamiliar style of taping on her shoulder. While this product had been around well beforehand, kinesiology taping has been quickly gaining in popularity among athletes since those Olympic Games. Aside from the popularity, it has also raised eyebrows, leaving some questioning whether it works. Below are some of the questions and concerns I hear most often.
What does it do?
Kinesiology tape reduces pain and is “thought to decompress underlying structures and allow for enhanced circulation.” (Montalvo, MS, ATC, CSCS, Cara, DC, PhD, ATC, CSCS, & Myer, PhD, FACSM, CSCS*D, 2014). It can be applied to a multitude of injuries, including strains, spasms, swelling and bruising. It could also be applied for headaches, scars, anxiety, and indigestion. There are even taping applications to use on horses! While this tape comes in many colors and patterns, there are no physiological differences between them.
How do I put it on?
There is a wealth of information on the internet about how to apply it. You can even buy pre-cut tapings designed for specific body parts that come with step-by-step instructions. This does not guarantee it has been applied correctly, however. You need to ask yourself several questions.
Do you know what your specific injury is? There are many taping applications for a knee, but they all may not apply to your specific injury.
Are you sure it was applied correctly? Yes, you feel like you followed YouTube’s instructions to a T, but has anyone guided you through the application in person? Most clinicians who use this treatment method have either been taught to apply it in college or continuing education courses. Their education goes far beyond “taping” and into the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment techniques that work in tandem for your specific condition.
Where are you getting your information/instructions? Much of the information you gather on your Google or YouTube searches may be misleading, marketing, or both. (Beutel, MD & Cardone, DO, 214). Again, this leads back to speaking with a clinician who has personally been trained on its application and your specific injury.
Who shouldn’t use it?
Kinesiology tape isn’t meant for everyone. Most manufacturers of kinesiology tape advise against its use if you are pregnant, have skin allergies, infection, cancer, open wounds, congestive heart failure or DVT risk (blood clots in the calf). If these apply to you, it may be best to avoid it.
How effective is it?
There is currently a lawsuit against a manufacturer of these tapes, arguing that there is a lack of scientific evidence and unsupported claims were made. This has only added to the skepticism many people feel. There are some studies that suggest that there is a placebo effect (Montalvo, MS, ATC, CSCS, Cara, DC, PhD, ATC, CSCS, & Myer, PhD, FACSM, CSCS*D, 2014); however, there are also many patients and clinicians who will swear to its effectiveness. Regardless, more research is needed.
Treatment for your injury should be multifaceted. While taping can be used to help you recover from an injury, it generally should not be relied upon solely. See your athletic trainer, physical therapist, or physician to find the best treatment plan for you.
Beutel, MD, B. G., & Cardone, DO, D. A. (214). Kinesiology Taping and the World Wide Web: A Quality and Content Analysis of Internet-Based Information. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 665-673.
Montalvo, MS, ATC, CSCS, A. M., Cara, DC, PhD, ATC, CSCS, E. L., & Myer, PhD, FACSM, CSCS*D, D. G. (2014). Effect of Kinesiology Taping on Pain in Individuals With Musculoskeletal Injuries: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 48-57.