Kinesio tape, KT tape, Rock tape, whatever you call it you’ve likely seen it or used it before. Popular among runners, the tool claims it “helps in reducing pressure to the tissue, which may reduce discomfort or pain. In addition, it is also believed that correct taping can help provide support to muscles by helping the muscle to not over-extend or over-contract.”-KTTape.com
The use of kinesio tape during competition has become widely popular, particularly within the running community, with athletes claiming they can really “feel the difference” and citing improvements in their performance/recovery.
Companies who sell it however, are careful to not over promise, using language like “It is believed that…” or “It may…”. Even going as far as to post disclaimers such as “Not Clinically Proven…”.
This week we hope to separate the fact from fiction when it comes to the use of kinesio tape amongst athletes. We asked our team of expert PTs for their opinion on the subject, here’s what they had to say.
“Always question something that claims to do everything. KT tape is one of these things. It is effective in the following ways:
1. Helping clear out swelling and bruising more quickly. This is because the tape stretches the skin in such a way that supports the lymphatic system. The results are typically visible.
2. Creating "proprioception." Any contact or stimulus with your skin will help your brain better identify where your body is in space. Because of this, KT tape is great for providing a little reminder to sit up straighter or can provide a little cue to move a little better through a joint's active range of motion--i.e. shoulder during overhead throw. That being said, however, does it protect a joint under the forces of quick, powerful load? Not really. Does it help "hold a joint together?" No. Can it provide a little relief to an overworked muscle? meh, debatable. Can it provide a nice placebo effect that helps you feel like you're doing something? Sure. And, if it does no harm and helps provide comfort, why not.”
- Antara Quinones, PT, DPT, CLT-LANA
“I think we can make the argument that kinesio tape or the like is not something that will provide a lot of support or stability but it can affect the neuromuscular system and provide increased feedback to a system that may be impaired by injury. An athletic trainer once said about KT tape..."It's like a hug" for the injured area!”
- Jess Kehoe, PT, DPT, CSCS
“I definitely think that KT tape is a legitimate tool for athletes to help unload their tissues and allow them to play/practice during the season while recovering from mild sprains and strains. Sure, there is probably some mental aspect to using KT tape, of feeling like you are 'doing something' to help your body heal but that is true for most every treatment and is also a part of recovering from an injury. It takes both physical changes and the right mental approach to heal and return to play. I don't think KT tape is a long term solution. It should be used in the short term to unload injured tissue. The real recovery comes in recognizing why those tissues were injured in the first place and working to fix the underlying cause.”
- Leah Versteegen, PT, MS, DPT
“The one theory of how KT tape works is that it lifts the superficial tissues away from the muscles and allows for normal blood flow and helps decrease swelling and helps with healing and another is that it provides support to strained muscles. Both which have value. However it does have a placebo effect because it does feel good and it also looks good with all the patterns of taping and variety of colors. So in the end it is a little bit of both legitimate value and placebo which is not a bad thing.”
- Dennis McCrea, PT, MPT