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Athletes must be falling apart because, suddenly, everyone from Novak Djokovic to Mario Balotelli is taped up in bright colours. Are these elaborate weaves of coloured “Kinesio tape” a genuine leap forward in the treatment of sports injuries? Or is the tape merely a trend?

“It’s not magic, but it does work”

kinesio-tape-2-femalesKinesio tape, a strong elasticated  tape, was developed more than 30 years ago by a Japanese chiropractor, Dr Kenzo Kase.  He found that the application of the tape replicated some of the beneficial effects of manual therapy – such as massage – in reducing pain and soreness for injured patients.

First seen on Sumo wrestlers, the tape took off when rolls were donated to 58 countries at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. A confusing array of brands has proliferated from RockTape, to PerformTex to SpiderTech to KT Tape. In Britain, 4,000 healthcare professionals have attended Kinesio taping training courses around the country.

kinesio-tape-tissueThe tape’s concepts include allowing space to increase blood flow and cooling to an area. Dr Kase believes the source of many joint and muscle pains lies in the thin layer of skin between the epidermis and the dermis. He wanted to create something to lift these layers to allow for a better flow of blood and lymphatic fluids. Because of this, it is a great tool in the treatment to decrease swelling and bruising. Skin is after all our largest and most under appreciated organ.kinesio-tape-marks   We consistently underestimate its importance in the rehab setting.

You can see the effects of the tape when it’s been removed  in the picture on the right.

“Don’t think this will repair your problems… It is a rehab tool, not rehab!”

However some are unconvinced about the theory, which is still largely unproven in mainstream science. “We need to be very cautious about the extent of the claims,” says John Brewer, a professor of sport at the University of Bedfordshire. “Some perhaps aren’t yet supported by science and I am struggling to see where the science is going to come from. Many of the muscles involved in exercise are deep muscles. Placing strips of tape on the skin is going to have little effect on supporting these muscles within the body. We need osteopaths and physios to do proper, peer-reviewed studies to show it really does work.” There has been research, but, he concedes, most is not yet the gold standard of randomised controlled trials.

A randomised double-blind clinical trial in 2008 found Kinesio tape produced an immediate improvement in range of motion when treating shoulder pain, compared with a sham tape. A study of whiplash patients found Kinesio tape provided pain relief and an improved range of motion, which continued a day later.

Whether the most significant effect is psychological or physiological, if it makes athletes feel better supported and better prepared, that’s fine. It does no harm, unless you’re reasonably hairy – in which case, peeling it off might be quite painful.

“Kinesio tape did not start for athletes, it started with the treatment of patients”

kinesio-tape-male

If you feel that you could benefit from Kinesio tape or would like an assessment for an injury or pain please contact Coast Chiropractic Clinic on 01273 321133 and book an appointment with Natalie our Sports Therapist.

Written by Natalie Harris, Sports Therapist BSc, MSST

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