The Olympics always seem to bring up this topic. What’s the deal with the tape that the athletes are wearing? Does it actually help? Here’s what we know.
Kinesiology tape is an elastic adhesive tape that is applied directly to the skin. It’s often sold in bright colors and varying patterns. Therapeutic taping has been around for years, but was brought to the forefront during the 2008, 2012 and now the 2018 Olympics.
In a nutshell, there are three basic reasons to use kinesiology tape; to decrease pain, to decrease swelling and to improve posture. The techniques used are a little different based on the patients and therapists goals.
One common function of kinesiology taping is tissue decompression. Decompressing soft tissue is a way of “freeing up” space underneath the top layer of skin. This allows more room for muscles, tendons, fascia, blood vessels and nerves to move more freely, causing a fairly immediate reduction in pain. Tissue decompression also results in better circulation, reducing swelling and improving performance and recovery.
Kinesiology taping also works to decrease pain through the stimulation it provides to sensory nerves in and under the skin. These receptors are responsible for feeling pain, pressure, and letting the body know where it is in space. When tape is placed on the skin it alters the signals that these sensory receptors send to the brain, changing the way that the brain interprets pain. We see this in our daily lives when we stub our toe or bump our elbow. Our immediate response is to rub that area and it feels better. This is how kinesiology tape helps decrease pain!
There is no strong scientific evidence to support the use of kinesiology taping. The research that has been done has shown conflicting results. Some argue that improvements that are reported when wearing kinesiology tape are “placebo effects” and the wearer believes they feel better without any actual decrease in physiologic symptoms. This clinician believes that if one of my patients reported feeling better while wearing therapeutic tape, who cares if it’s “all in their head?” They feel better! What more could I ask for?
Our Herkimer clinic has been utilizing therapeutic taping for over a year now and the results are astounding. We’ve seen patients report significant decreases in pain. We’ve seen dramatic changes in swelling, post operatively. Although science hasn’t proven it yet, we believe kinesiology tape has improved the recovery of the patients that we see, regardless of their age or activity level.