Keywords: kinesio tape, sports tape, therapy tape, musculoskeletal disorders, joint pain, myofascial manipulation, myofascial taping,
This colorful elastic tape is best known from the television given the fact that many professional athletes like wearing the tape while competing. It is however important to note that the tape is becoming a fashion trend among regular folks. It’s easy to spot people on the streets today with pink or blue tapes on their necks, backs, shoulders etc. Although the tape is increasingly becoming popular by the day, there are many questions surrounding the effectiveness of kinesio tape.
Is the tape capable of curing your shoulder or back pain? Well, most studies say no. Kinesio tape effectiveness is therefore a myth as we speak. Current evidence doesn’t support the use of this colorful intervention. Although many people have reported some pain reducing effects while wearing kinesio tape, research supports current conventional treatments more i.e. physiotherapy.
The studies however support the use of Kinesio tape as an additional pain reduction method i.e. using Kinesio tape alongside traditional therapies and nutrition. The official standing of many health and fitness experts indicates that no other benefits of using the tape exist yet apart from pain reduction.
Plenty of research is required for the official position to change even though many clinical practices continue to indicate positive results on the use of Kinesio tape on patients especially in regards to a technique called “myofascial taping”. This technique has been receiving lots of praise in the clinical circles however, scientific proof is still lacking.
The Journal of Physiotherapy presented a systematic review of twelve randomized trials involving 495 participants. They compared kinesio taping with sham taping/placebo, no treatment, exercises, manual therapy and conventional physiotherapy. Adding kinesio tape to the other more conventional treatments didn’t change the results which led to the tape being declared inefficient.
However, Karlon and Bar-Sela made a systematic review concluding that moderate evidence was found supporting an immediate reduction in pain while wearing kinesio tape. A total of 12 articles were reviewed and no long-term effects or lasting effects were found.
(Parreira et al 2014, Karlon and Bar-Sela 2013)
Effects on muscle strength
A Meta-analysis of 19 studies comprising data from 530 subjects examined the effects of kinesio tape on muscle strength. They reported that the use of these tapes doesn’t promote strength gains in healthy adults.
(Csapo and Alegre 2014)
Effects on pain with musculoskeletal disorders
The Physician and Sports Medicine presented a systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of kinesiology tape application on pain in individuals with musculoskeletal injury.
“kinesiology tape may have limited potential to reduce pain in individuals with musculoskeletal injury however, depending on the conditions, the reduction in pain may not be clinically meaningful. Kinesiology tape application did not reduce specific pain measures related to musculoskeletal injury above and beyond other modalities compared in the context of included articles”
(Montalvo et al 2014)
In addition, another systematic review found insufficient evidence to support the use of kinesio tape following musculoskeletal injury. However, some short-term pain reducing effects were reported when kinesio tape was used alongside conventional therapies.
(Mostafavavifar et al 2012)
It’s therefore accurate to conclude that kinesio taping on musculoskeletal disorder might improve pain levels in the short-term. However, the effects are not lasting and significant enough to solely tape the affected area and skip conventional treatments such as physiotherapy.
Kinesio taping has been said to have multiple physiological benefits. For instance, the tape is said to increase proprioception and limit joint over-extension, decrease muscle cramping, reduce edema and inflammation, improve range of motion, decrease muscle fatigue and stabilize joints. However, these claims aren’t supported by today’s scientific research. There is however evidence that the tape helps in decreasing pain when applied. It is however worth noting that these assertions remain insignificant.
As a physiotherapist, I try to give my therapies mainly on the basis of scientific research. However, treatments such as massage or kinesio taping don’t yet fall into this category but I use them regardless to complement my therapies. This is due to the fact that I have had positive experiences only with these treatments although in small scale. The main focus however should remain in functional exercises together with nutrition.
It is therefore advisable for kinesio taping to be used today to complement traditional scientifically proven therapies. When applied alone, the tape hardly has any physiological benefits. Moreover, it is advisable for the tape to be installed by a trained health professional in order to maximize its effects and minimize possible side effects. You shouldn’t attempt to apply the tape by yourself if you are keen on getting the best out of the treatment.
Future studies are needed due to the fact that lots of developed techniques of applying this tape show promising results in clinical practice. Myofascial taping is one of the leading techniques that is said to have greater physiological effects such as improved range of motion and decreased pain. According to one of the rising stars in myofascial manipulation physiotherapist Terho Heinola (Finland, North Europe), the tape affects the neural system through the fascias surrounding the muscles. He also mentions that there is scientific research coming to support the positive clinical results of kinesio tape in the near future.
Parreira, L. Costa, L. Hespanhol, A. Lopez and L. Costa. Current evidence does not support the use of kinesio taping in clinical practice: systematic review. Journal of Physiotherapy. University of São Paulo, Brazil and Institute for Global Health, Australia. March 2014. Vol. 60. Issue 1. P. 31-36.
Kalron and S. Bar-Sela. A Systematic Review of the Effectiveness of Kinesio Taping-Fact or Fasion? European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine. Multiple Sclerosis Center, Tel Hashomer, Israel. April 2013. Vol. 49. Issue 5. P. 699-709.
Csapo and L. Alegre. Effects of Kinesio Taping on Skeletal Muscle Strength-A Meta-analysis of Current Evidence. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sports. Univeristy of California San Diego USA, Carinthia University of Applied Sciences Department of Health and Social Sciences Australia, University of Castilla-La Mancha GENUD Toledo Research Group Spain. June 2014.
Montalvo, E. Cara and G. Myer. Effect of kinesiology taping on pain in individuals with musculoskeletal injuries: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Physician and Sports Medicine. Florida International University Miami. May 2014. Vol 42. Issue 2. P. 48-52.
Mostafavavifar, J. Wertz and J. Borchers. A Systematic Review of the Effectiveness of Kinesio Taping for Musculoskeletal Injury. Physician and Sports Medicine. Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA. November 2012. Vol. 40. Issue 4. P. 33-40.