Enough with the cupping….what’s with that ugly tape?Dave Schenkel
Does KT Tape Work?
With the 2016 RIO Olympic Games just around the corner, viewers will be showered with a plethora of fun, colourful taping jobs displayed on many athletes. So what is this tape and does it even work?
What is kinesio-taping (KT)?
Kinesio-Taping or KT tape is an elastic, breathable tape that aims to stimulate or inhibit muscles, increase space between the muscle and fascia, increase local blood flow and lymphatic circulation and decrease pain.
How does it work?
The thought is that an injured area has decreased space between the muscle and fascia secondary to swelling or inflammatory byproducts. This compression activates pain receptors, which then sends a pain signal to the brain. KT tape distracts the muscle and fascia and therefore alters these messages causing a less reactive response in the body.
What are its’ advantages over non-elastic tape such as athletic tape/ McConnell tape?
While non-elastic tape is a durable and more resilient solution, many athletes prefer KT tape for its waterproof, ventilative and elastic properties. They feel “less restricted, but still supported”. They also note that it is easier to use, easily accessible and there is less skin irritation compared to non-elastic tape.
What’s the evidence?
There is currently very little evidence to support the use of KT tape for muscle pain, strength, performance or proprioception. A 2015 systematic review concluded that KT taping was not superior to other treatment approaches to reduce pain and disability for individuals with chronic musculoskeletal pain (Lim et al., 2015). Furthermore, a meta-analysis on the effectiveness of KT taping for treatment and prevention of sports injuries concluded that the evidence for pain relief was trivial given there were no clinically important results. Ultimately there was little quality evidence to support the use of KT tape over other types of taping for prevention (Williams et al., 2012).
While there is still inconclusive evidence to support the use of KT tape, you will still see it displayed on both recreational and professional athletes. So why are they still wearing it? Does it offer some proprioceptive feedback, inhibit or activate muscles, improve lymphatic flow, decrease pain? The jury is still out on it, but it sure isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Lim, Edwin Choon Wyn, and Mathew Guo Xiang Tay. “Kinesio taping in musculoskeletal pain and disability that lasts for more than 4 weeks: is it time to peel off the tape and throw it out with the sweat? A systematic review with meta-analysis focused on pain and also methods of tape application.” British journal of sports medicine (2015): bjsports-2014.
Williams, S., Whatman, C., Hume, P.A. et al. Sports Med (2012) 42: 153. doi:10.2165/11594960-000000000-00000