By Sara Strain, Occupational Therapist, Functional Movement Technique Certified, Roc Doc (Rock Tape Medical Professional), Kinesiology Taping Practitioner Certified
Kinesiology tape has a wide array of therapeutic benefits for many conditions and injuries. Since kinesiology tape can be left on for several days at a time (then can be reapplied in the same manner), these therapeutic benefits are available to the injured or painful area 24 hours a day, significantly accelerating the healing process. However, taping is only an adjunct to therapy, and must be used in combination with other techniques to ensure improvement in strength, ROM, and function. The tape itself does not claim to heal, merely it is a tool we can utilize.
Let’s start from therapy 101 – why do we treat people?
We treat clients because they have a condition, injury, impairment that is affecting their optimal level of function. Therapists treat clients who need to possess a certain the skill, but in order to do that we are looking at the strength, alignment, and ROM needs in order for that task to be habituated. Indications for use of taping include joint stability, altering soft tissue mobility, pain, facilitating improved posture and movement, fluid dynamics and nerve entrapment. Rock Tape, a kinesiology tape brand name and partner for the Crossfit Games, USA diving, MLB, USA Water Polo, and APTA, embraces a practical framework of “taping movement, not muscles.”
We, as therapists, know that movement is vital to healing, and we are experts in movement. So how does tape improve movement? Tape improves movement through the decompression effects and neurosensory input that occurs with tape on skin. Researchers have looked at cross-sections of human skin and underlying fascia when tape is applied to the skin versus without tape over that area. The results indicate a dramatic lifting effect of each layer of tissues, even affecting the deeper layers. The decompression effect is the foundation for taping.
5 Reasons to Utilize Kinesiology Tape:
- Pain – The goal of treatment is to stabilize the acute region of the body in order to improve the speed and quality of healing. By decompressing the painful area, there can be a “lifting effect” where the layers of tissue below are able to improve vascularization and the ability to glide back and forth over the muscle. This is accomplished by placing a decompression strip of tape, stretched at 50%, over the region of pain. It is accompanied by 1-2 stabilization pieces of tape surrounding the decompression strip.
- Posture – The goal of postural taping is to assist in establishing a targeted posture to facilitate normal movement patterns. Good posture equals optimal functioning and therefore performance. Look at any elite athlete, they have excellent posture and body awareness. Their posture (stability) is the foundation for excelling in their mobility. To apply kinesiology tape for posture, put the client in the intended posture and apply tape with no stretch. When the client goes into the undesired posture, the tape will stimulate the mechanoreceptors in the skin to give feedback to adjust without restricting movement.
- Fluid Dynamics – When kinesiology tape is applied to the skin, we know that a decompressing effect occurs. This process occurs because the lymphatic ducts and blood vessels can clear more fluid more efficiently. When the kinesiology tape is applied over bruised and edematous areas in a “fan” or “basket-weave” approach, a bruise can show visible signs of clearing within only 1-2 days and edema can significantly decrease.
- Nerve Entrapment – Taping has been shown effective for assisting with treatment of conditions with nerve entrapment such as sciatic nerve, median/ulnar/radial nerve, and even the femoral nerve. The theory is that the decompression effect can begin repairing the tissue allowing for improved axonal and nerve conduction, which can reduce pain and neuro symptoms. This taping method is similar to the postural method for taping. Put the client in the intended posture and apply tape with no stretch.
- Scars – The goal for scar taping is to improve mobility and flexibility of post-surgical incisions in order to reduce the risk of pain and decreased mobility from skin not gliding properly. The scar must be fully closed, and best results are seen with scars under one-year-old. For this type of taping application, no stretch is applied and tape is laid in alternating directions creating multiple decompression strips.
Disclaimer, use common sense when applying kinesiology tape if:
- there is a past reaction to adhesives or tape
- on blood thinners
- fair skin types (tend to have more sensitive skin)
- “thin” or fragile skin
- history of CHF or renal failure.
- Never use tape on open wounds, overactive infection sites, or overactive cancer sites.
FMT Therapists and Rock Docs can be found HERE.