The facts about kinesio taping By Danny Wray of Physio Effect
KINESIO taping is a commonly used form of support taping applied to the muscles and joints of the body. There’s a good chance you will have seen this brightly-coloured tape on a friend or colleague or through its wide use across many sports including football, tennis and swimming. Tape is normally applied by a trained health and fitness professional and can stay in place anything from 24 hours up to one week. The tape can stay in place after bathing or swimming and its breathable elastic properties mean it is generally well tolerated by the skin.
The theory behind kinesio taping suggests that it works via its unique elastic properties lifting the skin to improve fluid movement and alleviate pain. A suggested mechanism of how this works is the alleviation of pressure on pain receptors interrupting the normal transmission of pain signals to the spinal cord. Other popular notions suggest that application of kinesio tape can help stimulate and strengthen a weakened muscle or relax and release a stiff or tightened muscle, depending on the level of tension applied to the tape. It may also offer support and restriction of movement when this is required as part of treating injured tissues or joints.
What’s the evidence?
As physiotherapists and health professionals it is central to good practice that we seek out solid evidence to support the use of any therapy or treatment. Kinesio taping falls almost entirely into a category of little to no hard scientific evidence supporting its use. There have been numerous studies and systematic reviews of the evidence that conclude that kinesio taping offers little to no clinically significant benefit. It appears most of the evidence and positive reviews from patients and health professionals to support kinesio taping are anecdotal or based on single case reports or small samples.
Should I use kinesio taping?
Despite the lack of evidence for its use the spread of kinesio taping throughout health and sport practices does not appear to be waning. As a physiotherapist with more than 10 years in clinical practice I have been officially trained and certified as a kinesio tape practitioner and while I recognise the lack of hard clinical evidence, I do still have a place for using kinesio taping in my practice.
There is no clear evidence that there is any clinical risk in using kinesio taping and anecdotally I have had many patients report a sense of support or relief associated with the tape application. There may well be an element of placebo effect here but as long as that effect is positive and the potential benefits or lack thereof have been openly and realistically explained to patients, then I see no issue with kinesio tape use as part of a bigger clinical picture.
The use of kinesio taping should not be considered as a complete treatment for any injury or condition. Kinesio taping should be considered as one aspect of treatment and any practitioner using it should be able to provide a rationale for doing so, even if this comes down to personal clinical experience over specific evidence. Kinesio taping should be an adjunct to support a full treatment and rehabilitation plan based on careful, evidence-based clinical assessment.
Kinesio taping application for shoulder support