Over the past couple of years, we have seen a rise in the usage of kinesiology tape. Kinesio tape, or K tape, is an elastic therapeutic tape used to help athletes manage pain and build muscle strength.
When comparing K tape to normal athletic tape, it is thinner and more elastic. When applied to the skin, it is said to allow greater mobility and reduce pain for athletes.
In theory, the tape is applied to the target muscle in a stretched position and the therapist will determine how much tension to apply. When the tape is applied, it lifts the skin and allows for better circulation and improved proprioception. Proprioception is the process of how the brain senses the position, location, orientation, and movement of the body and its parts. If the tape is properly applied, it is supposed to be able to decrease pain, improve range of motion, and correct joint alignment.
We have seen top athletes all over the globe wearing this kinesio tape, but just how effective is this colorful elastic adhesive? Studies have not yielded the necessary evidence to support the alleged advantages of K tape, but patients and their therapists are seeing the benefits.
Researching the Effectiveness of Kinesio Tape
There are a number of studies to determine the efficacy of these elastic therapeutic tapes. In March 2014, the Journal of Physiotherapy released the results of a study about the use of kinesio taping in clinical practice. In this study, they studied effects of kinesiology tape versus no treatment at all, sham or placebo taping, and other routine interventions.
The results of the study are as follows:
- When comparing K tape to no treatment, there was no clinical significance found;
- When comparing kinesio taping to sham taping, the K tape was no more effective; and
- When comparing to other interventions, K-taping was not any more effective than the routine treatments for whiplash, anterior knee pain, and chronic lower back pain.
Another study led and authored by Alicia Montalvo conducted a study on the effect of kinesio taping on pain in individuals. The results of this study found that pain reduction from K-taping was no more effective than other traditional pain reduction methods. While researchers did find that some of the participants had a reduction of pain, it was not clinically meaningful.
In July of 2015, Robert Csapo released the results of a study in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. He and his team tested whether certain applications of kinesio taping might increase the muscle strength in healthy adults. The results of that test found that the application of K tape may have therapeutic properties, but it does not actually help to improve muscle strength.
Evaluating Expert Opinions
Aaron Norris, a Canadian physiotherapist at a sports injury clinic supports the use of kinesio tape. He explained that it helps athletes to stay mindful of their form, which in turn leads to fewer injuries. He recognizes what the studies say or don’t say regarding the effectiveness, but he gets to see this tape working every day. Norris estimates that 80 to 90 percent of his clients are happy with the use of K tape.
Lead Physician for Basketball Canada Women’s Team and Sport & Exercise Medicine Consultant at the Glen Sather Sports Medicine Clinic at University of Alberta, Marni Wesner has been working in sports medicine since 1999. She recently said that she has seen the popularity of kinesio tape rise, but she feels the benefits are minor, or there is a strong placebo effect associated with the usage. When younger athletes see professional Olympians using things like K tape, they feel like they also need it. She did state that she feels that it could be helpful with muscle awareness, which could lead to pain control or muscle recovery.
What is the Deal with K-Taping?
We have seen various athletes using adhesive tape throughout their careers and during their biggest athletic moments while reading reports that cannot prove kinesio tape’s effectiveness. Perhaps the tape is helpful, and a future better-funded study will give us clinical evidence of that. On the other hand, maybe Dr. Marni Wesner is right, and people are only finding benefits of this tape because of a large placebo effect. When they see people like Olympic beach volleyball champion Kerri Walsh or soccer star David Beckham covered in kinesio tape, it leads us to believe that we, too, need this to be successful. We have all heard the saying “mind over matter” and that rings true for athletes working through injury recovery or pain; the better the mindset of the athlete, the faster they recover or get their confidence back.
Whether the studies prove its effectiveness or not, kinesio tape is here to stay. So now we want to hear from our therapist readers. Do you believe kinesiology tape is all hype or help? Do you have experience with Kinesio tape therapy, or do you have an opinion regarding it? If a patient asks about K-taping, what sorts of things do you tell them as a therapist? Do you feel that K tape is just a way for companies to make money on fun colored or patterned athletic tape?