Clinician Vladimir Janda, famous for his lifetime of work treating muscular pathologies, describes K tape’s function as applying moderately contractile tape over the affected muscle, joint or soft tissue. This appears to cause gentle, passive, and constant contraction tension of the epidermis (have a look at the illustration below to better understand this concept). This affects muscle strength (Murray 2000) and can change blood flow in the taped muscle of injured subjects (Kase and Hashimoto 1998).
Scientific research has always been contradictory when it comes to evaluating kinesio tapings effectiveness in reducing pain in musculoskeletal injuries. A 2011 meta-analysis reviewed 6 studies in order to try and gain conclusive insight into the effectiveness of kinesio taping. The results showed that kinesio taping seems to be effective in the short term.
Subjects (…) treated with KT and exercise, KT alone, or exercise alone experienced significant improvement in short-term pain."
Functional fascial taping (a less popular taping technique) reports good pain relief and improved function from their patients. We won’t get into how this technique works as the basic idea is the same (to contract and create tension in the epidermis). The bottom line here is the following - studies show that both of these techniques are effective in reducing pain (Marc Campolo et al.).
That being said, there are hundreds of studies which lead us to assume that Kinesio Taping is an effective method of controlling pain that has stemmed from an injury, to a certain degree. Kinesio Taping has shown to be effective in injuries such as IT band syndrome, hamstring strains, shin splints, runner’s knee, and plantar fasciitis. Please note, K tape will help relieve pain however, the injury is still present. The runner still needs to recover from the injury that is causing the pain! KT will help you cross the finish line with a little less pain – but ultimately, the injury is still there.
The strange thing about kinesiology is the following… lots of people claim that they don’t feel any kind of relief when they put tape on the affected area. This leads us to thinking that there may be a psychological effect in play when using Kinesio Tape…
The placebo effect is real, there’s no denying that. By placing the tape over an injured area we might fool ourselves into thinking the pain is slowly getting better – and sure enough, it is! It’s our brain that decides if we feel pain and when we feel it so this argument makes a lot of sense. A team of researchers conducted an experiment in 2015 where the lab team took 60 participants and performed a few tests to see if this type of tape is more effective than placebo taping in patients with chronic lower back pain. The conclusion was that KT was not better than the placebo in patients with chronic lower back pain. This means that both KT and the placebo tape provided the same amount of pain relief!
Kinesio tape also offers a very real placebo effect. It is undeniable that the placebo effect has a definitive impact and can influence performance and this fact is no different when it comes to using kinesio tape.
So far, there is no definitive answer as to whether kinesio taping is 100% effective across all athletes. Some studies suggest that it is, other suggest it isn’t. But before we wrap this article up I want to leave you with another piece of scientific literature.
Ward et al. conducted another study to test the effect of tape on stride and step length in fatigued runners. The results showed that non-taped runners decreased their stride and step length towards the end of the test, while the runners using kinesio tape maintained the stride and step length!
In this preliminary study, placing elastic therapeutic tape over the anterior lower limbs demonstrated short-term preservation of runner step length and stride length in a fatigued state.”
It’s important to take into account that shorter strides can affect running posture, which may ultimately lead to injuries. It seems that K tape can aid in relieving pain but it can also help us avoid fatigue, possibly avoiding injuries in the process.
There are numerous studies contradicting each other when it comes to kinesio taping so we have to be careful when drawing conclusions. I believe that the benefits of using K tape seem real – placebo or not - and considering the low cost of the product I would say that it’s definitely worth trying.
As a final word, I suggest you evaluate the studies above, analyze the methods used and the results obtained in order to make a sound decision on whether you should use this product or not.
Have you ever tried kinesio taping? What is your opinion on it’s effectiveness? Join the discussion in our Running and Race Training group or join us (if you are a sports coach) in our new project – the Running and Race Coaches Facebook group.
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