…That is the question!
I have had some inquiries lately about the effectiveness of kinesiology tape. So I figured it would be easiest to write a blog on it!
So here it goes… K tape became increasingly popular after the 1988 summer Olympics in Seoul. It was invented by Dr. Kenzo Kase in Japan in the 1970s. Kinesio tape is a thin elastic tape used for musculoskeletal injuries. A lot of the athletes in these games sported the bright and colourful what seemed to be magical tape. I mean these are Olympic level athletes, the best of the best if they are using it shouldn’t we all? There was also a lot of marketing of kinesio tape at the London 2012 Olympics as well. The problem is that although the popularity of use of the tape has grown the amount of reliable evidence is still limited.
As humans we want to believe there is an easy fix it solution but truth be told there typically is not. I mean yeah it would be great if tape really could solve everything but I think as Red Green has demonstrated in the past it does not.
The theory has been that it helps to decrease pain and recovery time. It has also been said to reduce inflammation by increasing lymphatic drainage by literally lifting up the skin and allowing drainage to happen. The other theory is it puts more pressure on the mechanoreceptors of the skin and therefore decreasing the amount of nocioceptive (pain) signals that are sent to the brain.
So what does the research say about K tape?
In a systematic review published in The Physician and Sportsmedicine in 2012 they found:
“insufficient evidence to support the use of KT following musculoskeletal injury, although a perceived benefit cannot be discounted. There are few high-quality studies examining the use of KT following musculoskeletal injury.” (Mostafavifar, Wertz & Borchers, 2012). The paper went on further to say there may be an initial decrease in pain for about 24hrs but it then subsides after that. This review found no clear evidence that suggests it can improve function. It also found no clear evidence to suggest K tape helps in return to play. The study concluded there is insufficient evidence proving the benefit of kinesio tape.
The second study published in Australian Physiotherapy Association Journal of Physiotherapy in 2014 says their conclusion right in the title “Current evidence does not support the use of kinesio tape in clinical practice: a systematic review.” (Parreira et al; 2013). In all of the scenarios this study looked at they found no evidence or no clinically significant evidence for the use of kinesio tape.
The last study I looked at published in British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2012 found that there was limited high quality evidence on which to decide whether the use of kinesio tape is beneficial or not (Williams, Whatman & Hume, 2012).
In all of the studies they noted that they were based on small and not very powerful studies so there are definitely some limitations in regards to the quality of available research.
So taking into account the above information we cannot assume that kinesio tape is going to solve all (or any) of our musculoskeletal problems. Especially because these are all fairly recent studies and kinesio tape has been being widely used for 28 years. And it’s efficacy has yet to be proven.
What is the assumed mechanism of how it works? Well when we strain a muscle or sprain a ligament all of the little sensors that tell your brain where that joint is in space get all messed up and do not send correct signals. So your proprioception is off. The idea with k tape is to use the skin sensors in the area of the injury to help your brain figure out where it is in space. There is something to be said for a bit of support to the area as well. I once had a patient describe it as a hug to the muscles. Who does not want a hug?
How do I use it in my practice?
- I use it as an additive treatment it is by no means the main player when it comes to treatment.
- I have used it to try to increase lymphatic drainage in acute situations
- I use it to support the tissues I have treated
How should you use K tape?
- You can definitely try using kinesio tape on yourself there are plenty of youtube videos on how to apply it BUT if you are injured I strongly suggest you get an assessment versus relying on kinesio tape to solve your problems!!
I hope this helps you understand the benefits (or lack of) in regards to kinesio tape. At the end of the day it is not a treatment that is going to cause any harm and if you can get some placebo effect out of it, it may be worth a try! But I would not use it as your only method of treatment if you presently have an injury.
If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is the references and links to the articles I referenced in this blog:
Mostafavifar, M., Wertz, J. & Borchers, J. (2012). A systematic review of the effectiveness of KT on injury. The Physician and Sportsmedicine. 40(4). 33-40. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23306413
Silva Parreiraa, PC., Menezes Costaa, LC., Hespanhol Juniora LC., Lopesa, AD., Pena Costaa, LO. 2013. Current evidence does not support the use of kinesio taping in clinical practice: a systematic review. Journal of Physiotherapy. 60: 31-39.
Williams, S., Whatman, C. & Hume, PA. 2012. Kinesiotape in treatment and prevention of sports injuries: A meta analysis of the evidence of it’s effectiveness. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 42: 153-164. http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/47/17/1128.extract