From Novak Djokovic to Mario Balotelli the use of multi-coloured tape in the professional sports field had become increasingly popular. This leads to the question is this just a new fad or an effective evidence based treatment technique that can also be used with the amateur sports person.
Kinesio tape was originally designed by Dr. Kenzo Kase over 35 years ago. It is designed to facilitate the body’s natural healing process while providing stability to muscles and joints and allowing natural movement. It mimics the qualities of human skin, having roughly the same thickness as the epidermis (Kase 2003). Dr. Kase has proposed several benefits to the use of kinesio tape. Once applied it is reported to lift the upper layers of skin, creating more space between the skin and the underlying muscles. This space is believed to reduce pressure and irritation on nerve tissue and sensory receptors thereby relieving pain. Recent research by Thelen et al (2008) found that the application of kinesio tape for shoulder pain showed immediate effect with increased pain free range of movement.
In addition to pain relief kinesio tape can also be used to enhance muscle function through influencing muscle contraction. This can be used to address several sports problems including any overuse issues or muscle weakness. By applying a specific amount of stretch kinesio tape can be used to facilitate or inhibit muscle contraction. For example a typical sports problem may be knee pain due to muscle imbalance. With the right application of kinesio tape muscle facilitation can be achieved in order to enhance appropriate muscle contraction during activity. A recent study by Chen et al (2008) has shown that kinesio tape can improve the ratio of contraction of vastus medialis obliquus (inner muscle of the thigh) to vastus lateralis (outer muscle of the thigh).This leads to improved muscle balance and improves the efficiency of movement.
In addition to pain relief and muscle facilitation kinesio tape is also useful when dealing with the acute sports injury as it has been shown to significantly reduce swelling (Bialoszewski et al 2009). The lymphatic system is a one way system that is reliant on tissue pressure to assist in movement. Its function is to remove waste products and larger cell proteins that cannot be transported by the venous system. Approximately two litres of lymph are processed by the body daily. Lymph nodes are responsible for removing toxins from the lymph fluid in order to allow this fluid to rejoin the venous system.
Following a sports injury, oedema and inflammation may occur due to an increase in blood circulation. At times the lymphatic system is unable to keep up with this increase in fluid. This can ultimately lead to increased pressure and lack of skin movement thereby inhibiting lymphatic collectors and increasing swelling (Kase 2003)Kinesio tape helps decompress the lymphatic channels of the affected area by means of the lifting effect. This creates space and provided a channel for the fluid to drain towards lymph nodes thereby reducing swelling (Kase 2003).
More and more research is now available into the benefits and effectiveness of kinesio tape. In practical terms kinesio tape is very sports friendly as it lasts up to 5 days, it can be worn in the pool or the shower without having to be reapplied, it is quick drying and allows for evaporation. It can also be used with non sports related injuries such as whiplash. Gonzalez-Iglesias et al (2009) found that kinesio tape helped reduce pain and improve neck movement post acute whiplash immediately following application and at a 24hour follow up.
Here at Mount Merrion Physiotherapy all members of the team are trained in the application of kinesio tape and have observed great results clinically through its use. It can be concluded from the evidence available and my own clinical practice that kinesio tape is much more than a fashionably coloured tape. It is a treatment tool that has several uses for common musculoskeletal injuries.
KASE K, WALLIS J & KASE T (2003) Clinical Therapeutic Applications of the Kinesio Taping Method. “nd Edition. Ken Ilkai Co. Ltd Tokyo, Japan
THELEN M, DAUBER J.A. & STONEMAN P.D. (2008) The Clinical Efficiacy of Kinesiotape for Shoulder Pain. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports physiotherapy 38(7): 389-395.
CHEN PL, HSIEN HONG W, LIN CH & CHEN WC (2008) Biomechanics Effect of Kinesiotape for Persons with Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome During Stair Climbing. 4th Kuala Lumpar International Conference on Biomedical Engineering
I ViITHOULKA, 1. BENEKAB A. MALLIOUB, P. AGGELOUSICB N.,KARATSOLISA KTSOLISA K & K. DIAMANTOPUOLOSA K (2009) . The Effect of Kinesiotaping on Quadriceps Strength during Isokinetic Exercise in Healthy Non-Athlete Women Department of Physical Education and Sports, Democritus University of Thrace, Komotini, Greece. Retrieved on http://www.kinesiotaping.com/global/association/research/published-research-case-studies.html
GONZALEZ-IGLESIAS J, FERNANDEZ-DE-LAS-PENAS C, CLELANS JA, HUIJBREGTS P, DEL ROSARIO GUTIERREZVEGA M (2009) Short term effects of cervical kinesio taping pain and cervical range of motion in patients with acute whiplash injury : a randomised clinical trial. The Journal of Orthopaedics and Sports physical Therapy 39(7) 515-521.
DARIUSZ BIALOSZEWSKI, WERONUKA WOZNIAK, SLAWOMIR ZAREK (2009) Clinical efficacy of kinesio taping reducing oedema of the lower limbs. Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma and Rehabilitation 1(9) vol 11