You may not know what it’s called but you have probably seen it. If you have seen any sport on TV over the last several years you will have seen various athletes with coloured tape positioned over certain muscles or joints. That’s Kinesio Tape, Rock Tape or K-Tape (different brands call it different things but they are all much the same stuff).
Having done a Sports Science degree, I have developed what I’d call a ‘healthy’ scepticism when it comes to all things in exercise. Whether I was looking at training methods, nutrition advice, recovery protocols, anything thought to improve performance, unless I looked at evidence both for and against I wouldn’t pass, simple as that.
That is something that has stayed with me, first with my work as a fitness instructor and now as a sports massage therapist.
I’ve by no means become a complete cynic and write things off as soon as something is written saying they’re no good. If I did that I wouldn’t use any methods at all, notably massage itself which in fact has very little empirical evidence to suggest it does anything.
I pretty much stick to one golden rule; If it works for me, I use it. Not rocket science I know! But I think people get caught too much about what is written about certain things without trying them for themselves, whether positively or negatively.
One such therapist tool that is a classic example of having mixed reviews is Kinesiology Tape. K-Tape came into the spotlight a few years back when high profile sportsmen such as Gareth Bale, David Beckham, Dale Steyn and several Olympic athletes were seen running around with brightly coloured tape strapped around their joints, and pretty much since then the argument over its effectiveness has rumbled on.
From a functional point of view, in a nutshell the tape lifts the skin from the muscles and other structures below, relieving pressure, while its stretch properties promote movement (hence the name) as opposed to restrict movement which the more traditional rigid zinc tape did.
As a therapist, I thought having some strapping and taping skills would be a useful tool to have, so did a 2 day course with ‘Rocktape’, which I feared may just be a 2 day sales pitch, but in fact the course was very good. The course leaders themselves appreciated and acknowledged studies which argued the ineffectiveness of K-Tape, along with presenting positive evidence.
They presented a variety of techniques, some of which I was very unsure about and have rarely, if ever, applied myself. For example I wasn’t convinced by their ‘Oedema Control’ taping, which used a fanning technique of the tape to help prevent swelling and bleeding in acute injuries. Some of their ‘Symptom Reduction’ techniques were a bit suspect for me also, although some I have used and had some success with.
But their more basic applications for joint support and postural issues I actually felt to really work, and so, low and behold, they’re the ones I use to this day. I use the tape on myself also, which I think is important for clients to hear; I’ve struggled with my ankles and Achilles previously, and the applications for those are easy enough to apply on yourself, and I find it really helpful for that.
Going back to how it supports movement as opposed to restrict it, I think back to my youth when I had ankle issues and used to wrap rolls and rolls of rigid tape around my ankle to prevent it twisting. In hindsight, what could the biomechanical implications of having a fixed ankle joint been when running around and changing directions?? It could well have done more harm than good.
There’s still certainly a place for rigid tape, for example in my work with Australian Rules Football teams, where dislocated shoulders are prevalent, reducing the mobility of the shoulder joint is often important. But on the whole I prefer the use of K-Tape, which will improve the function of troublesome joints as opposed to restrict them, which may have knock on biomechanical effects.
So, back to my original point, I find Kinesiology Tape works.. So I use it! I know other massage therapists and physio’s who hate it, and so they don’t. Fair dinkum, who am I to say otherwise?
Looking at the bigger picture, not just K-Tape, why not try something new? Don’t be afraid to give things a go. As long as you put tape on beforehand…