You may have seen kinesiology tape discussions emerging in your professional journals. It is a hot topic in massage therapy and pain relief circles in part, due to effective marketing, and in part due to its proven efficacy for certain conditions that cause pain. But do you know what if it is the right fit for your practice?
Read on to learn more about kinesiology tape to determine if its right for your techniques and clientele.
What is Kinesiology Tape?
Kinesiology tape was born out of the clinical frustrations of Dr. Kenzo Kase, a chiropractor seeking better patient care. Designed in the 1970s, Dr. Kase’s invention has since spread globally. Its use is broad and includes the treatment of muscle injury, supporting weakened areas, re-educating muscles, easing pain, and improving posture.
Kinesiology tape is a water-resistant, highly stretchable tape. It is designed to support normal joint motion without movement restriction, to gently lift the skin, to improve proprioception, and to ease discomfort.
Athletes make use of kinesiology taping to help them build muscle strength and recover from sports injuries at a faster rate. However, massage therapists are now taking advantage of kinesiology taping methods to bring the same benefits to their patients. Taping can be used to assist the body’s natural healing process and can help extend the benefits of massage therapy after the session has ended.
While additional research is needed, there is anecdotal and experimental research to support its therapeutic use. Let’s look at several evidence-based benefits.
Benefits of Kinesiology Tape
Improved joint space
Reduced joint space can elicit pain, so the ability to reverse this may have clinical benefits. A study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy found that the correct application of kinesiology tape increased the patellofemoral joint space.
Another study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics showed that by applying kinesiology tape from the “insertion to muscle origin of the supraspinatus or the anterior and posterior deltoid,” an increase in the subacromial joint space was achieved.
Myofascial pain relief
Trigger points and myofascial pain syndromes commonly present in manual therapy practices and can be an ongoing source of patient discomfort. To investigate whether kinesiology tape could enhance the relief achieved by manual therapy, the authors of an article published in the Journal of Hand Therapy applied Y-shaped tape to the upper trapezius muscle.
The results showed that the combination of manual therapy and tape yielded better outcomes than therapy alone. Pain intensity and muscle tension both decreased significantly.
Correction of forward head posture
Forward head posture is frequently seen in practices across the country. In fact, research revealed that a staggering 63% of 12-16 year-old school students have this. This altered posture may contribute to rounded shoulders, headache, decreased respiratory function, and increased pain and discomfort. Yet both taping and therapeutic exercises lessened this posture and did so within two weeks.
Kinesiology tape may help health professionals to improve their patient’s posture before age creeps in and problems become chronic.
Improved gait following stroke
Every year, around 795,000 Americans suffer from strokes. When lower limb hemiplegia results, it can negatively impact ambulation. Published research assessed the ability of kinesiology tape to reduce deviation towards both left and right during walking, with positive outcomes.
The authors noted that,
“Applying tape to the skin increases cutaneous sensation; in other words, taping provides a strong proprioceptive cue through its contact with the skin, and the resulting cutaneous sensory information can decrease a stroke patient’s left and right deviation when walking.”
Is Kinesiology Tape Right for My Practice?
Determining if kinesiology tape is right for your practice depends on your specialty and the type of work you do. Kinesiology tape can be useful for specialists who specifically treat muscle and joint injuries, including physical therapists, osteopaths and massage therapists.
Let’s explore the pros and cons of using kinesiology tape on your patients.
- This relatively new option is said to relieve pain by taking pressure off injured muscles and/or joints.
- By reducing pressure on the lymphatic drainage channels, built-up fluids are removed, inevitably reducing inflammation from an injury.
- It removes the blood that accumulates around an injury, helping to relieve bruising, and speeds up oxygen circulation, reducing cramps and muscle spasms.
- Kinesiology tape is a more natural solution for pain relief that can reduce or completely mitigate the need for oral pain medications.
Some of the downsides of kinesiology tape include:
- The tape can cause allergic reactions for some individuals, especially those with a history of reactions to adhesive tape.
- It can also not be used on or near open wounds or on those with deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Using kinesiology tape near a DVT could cause increased mobility and blood flow, putting the patient at risk for a pulmonary embolism.
- While kinesiology tape can be a useful addition to your treatment plan, it cannot be left on the skin indefinitely. It is vitally important that the skin has an opportunity to breathe.
- The adhesive from the tape leaves a greasy, sometimes sticky residue on the skin that can be difficult to remove.
While topical pain relievers cannot be used simultaneously with kinesiology tape, the two can work in conjunction as more natural remedies for pain relief if the injury is connected to the muscles or joints. When tape is not applied to the skin, naturally-derived pain relievers, such as those from CBD CLINIC™, are a safe option for patients in pain.
The two can be a perfect pair for a more holistic treatment approach.
How to Use Kinesiology Tape
Before applying kinesiology tape, it is important that the skin is prepared. Here are proper steps you should follow before applying kinesiology tape:
- Ask your patients to remove excess hair, lotions, oils and sweat, and to clean their skin with soap and water before a consultation to apply tape, or self-application. Ensure the area is dry.
- Cut tape to the desired length and design, ensuring the ends of each strip have rounded corners to reduce snagging. The backing paper can be easily torn, wherever required. This will depend on your particular application technique.
- Keep the paper backing over any area you will handle to avoid touching the adhesive. Remove the rest of the paper.
- Once on the skin, rub vigorously for several seconds. This action generates heat, activates the glue, and maximizes adhesion.
Explain to your patients how, where, and why the tape needs to be placed so they can successfully apply it at home. You can also share this video tutorial with them showing how to properly apply kinesiology tape for knee support:
How to Remove Kinesiology Tape Safely
To ensure the tape is removed safely without causing pain or any further injury, follow these steps:
- Unless otherwise indicated, ensure the tape is not removed prematurely. If it has only recently been applied, the grip is stronger.
- Moisten the tape and loosen one end.
- Place a finger on the skin and apply downward pressure, pressing away from the tape. Gently and slowly remove the tape, preferably in the direction of hair growth.
- Ensure the removal angle follows the horizontal aspect of the skin closely. Do not pull upwards.
Pain Relief Without the Use of Oral Medications
Kinesiology tape is a simple product with a broad range of potential clinical uses. Whether you practice within the rehabilitation field, work with athletes, those with severe illness or younger people, kinesiology tape may have an important role to fill.
You can also use topical pain-relievers in conjunction with kinesiology tape when the tape is not applied to the skin. Together, the two can offer a more natural approach to muscle and joint pain management that does not involve oral medications.
To learn more about how you can integrate natural science into your practice, be sure to read our additional resources here.