Kinesio Tape is otherwise known as dynamic tape or even the common brand, ROCKTAPE. You’ve most likely seen it on sports men and women on television. It’s the coloured tape decorating their bodies in fancy patterns and configurations. Tennis players, UFC fighters, cross fitters, footy players, volleyballers, practically any sport you can think of (even dressage), are all using this fancy tape. Is it just a fad, or does this stuff really have a place in the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries?
What is it?
Kinesio tape is stretchy tape. As previously mentioned, it is also referred to as dynamic or kinesiology tape. Whatever term you use, they all describe the tapes ability to stretch during movement, and then return to its original length. It is made from flexible cotton and nylon fibres and uses an acrylic adhesive. The tape can stretch up to 180% of its original length.
What is it used for?
Kinesio tape is used to provide support, stimulation, and resiliency necessary for rehabilitation, injury prevention, postural support and performance enhancement.
Common injuries you might use kinesio tape or Rocktape to assist with include shin splints, runners knee, low back pain, shoulder injuries, tennis elbow and other tendinopathies. You can pretty much use Rocktape for any musculoskeletal complaint but the effectiveness of its use depends a great deal on when you use it as opposed to what for.
For example, an acute ankle sprain would require immediate immobilisation of the ankle. This is achieved firstly by resting the ankle – staying off it and ceasing activity. Secondly, assuming the sprain was quite significant (too sore to walk on), the use of rigid or non-stretchy tape would prevent any unwanted movement within the joint whilst in the early stages of repair.
If the sprain was only mild, or you had already progressed with rehabilitation of a more severe sprain, Rocktape would be more appropriate. Its use in this scenario, would allow a favourable combination of movement and support, provide stimulation of the relevant muscles and ligaments and promote blood flow within the area.
How does it work?
The stretch imparted by the tape when applied to the skin causes it to form convolutions. This creates a biomechanical lifting mechanism that decompresses the tissue just below the skin. Observe in the following images a demonstration of how this lifting mechanism is thought to work on the tissues of the body, convolutions are created by the tape on the underside of the shirt.
Today, research is being carried out to test three hypotheses on the effect this lifting mechanism has on the tissues of the body.
Fluid effect: by causing decompression at the site of application, the tape promotes a more normal fluid dynamic. This assists the flow of inflammatory toxins out of the injured area and enhances blood flow to the area.
Notice in the image below where the strips of Rocktape were applied. The lattice arranged is thought to create a pressure gradient at the injured site that facilitates better drainage of inflammation as opposed to applying a single piece of tape over the entire area.
Mechanical effect: when the pressure from the surface of the skin to the bone is reduced, the layers of tissue in between (muscle, fascia, tendons, etc) will slide and glide better. This results in increased range of motion.
You can observe this effect in an instant with the forward bend test. By taping the posterior muscle chain, a person might change their forward bend range of motion from only reaching as far as their knees, to touching their toes.
Neurological effect: applying the tape to the skin acts as a stimulus to the mechanoreceptors (nerves) embedded within the skin. The reduced pressure on these nerve endings enhances proprioception (movement awareness). The taping essentially strengthens (or makes more aware) the neural connection between the brain and the injured site so that it may function more efficiently.
Where can I get it?
A variety of therapists are qualified in the application of Rocktape but you don’t need to be qualified to use it. Rocktape is available at a number of outlets, including The Physicaltherapy Centre. Instructions on its application are included in every box.
It is recommended having a certified therapist run through with you how to apply the tape correctly as it can be more tricky than you first think. There are also many alternative ways of taping certain injuries. Your therapist will most likely have a better understanding of the anatomy and will be helpful in showing you how to get the best use out of your roll of tape.
The last image is a photo of me taping a lady suffering runner’s knee at the 2013 City 2 Surf Race Exhibition. I must have taped about 50 runners that day – exhausting! As a demonstration, I had my arms taped up as I would do so for tennis and golfers elbow.
Whenever you get the chance, try Rocktaping for yourself, you will be amazed how a piece of tape can enhance your performance!
*DISCLAIMER: This discussion does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained in this discussion are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this discussion is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.