What can taping therapy do for me?

What is taping therapy?

Taping therapy encompasses the use of both rigid and elastic taping applications in such a way to provide therapeutic effect toward a treatment goal. There are many different kinds of tape on the market and this is largely due to the demand, marketability, and popularity of these products. Many of these products are referred to as their brand names.

In interest of full disclosure, I am formally trained in the majority of my techniques by RockTape. I do not, however, receive any financial compensation or sponsorship through RockTape and simply utilize it when it is appropriate toward the treatment goals of the patient in front of me.

For the purposes of this article, I have decided to mainly address the contrast between rigid/supportive taping and elastic/flexible taping.

What is taping therapy?

Taping therapy encompasses the use of both rigid and elastic taping applications in such a way to provide therapeutic effect toward a treatment goal. There are many different kinds of tape on the market and this is largely due to the demand, marketability, and popularity of these products. Many of these products are referred to as their brand names.

In interest of full disclosure, I am formally trained in the majority of my techniques by RockTape. I do not, however, receive any financial compensation or sponsorship through RockTape and simply utilize it when it is appropriate toward the treatment goals of the patient in front of me.

For the purposes of this article, I have decided to mainly address the contrast between rigid/supportive taping and elastic/flexible taping.

Rigid/Supportive Taping

This is the type of tape you think of when taping an athletes ankle, whether that is for protection of an old injury or prevention of a new one. Athletic/sport tape does provide some mechanical support when initially applied. However, recent research has shown these potential benefits last approximately 20 minutes in action before the tape loses mechanical stability. Despite this, many athletes still swear by it. It’s one of those tools where it’s safe and there is no harm Therefore, if an athlete or individual believes it helps them to perform better, it’s worth a shot. The theory isn’t all a wash, however, as the sensation of the tape can lead to some neural input from the taped area. There is benefit to neurosensory input, but I will discuss this in further detail with elastic taping where I believe it has a greater application.

Leukotape is another brand of rigid taping that is extremely robust. So much so, in fact, that it often requires a cover roll product application under the tape to avoid taping it to the skin directly (i.e. it’s SUPER sticky). I have found this type of taping to be particularly effective in offloading injured tissue. For example, one of the my favorite appliations with leukotape is for plantar fasciitis in the early, painful stages.

Elastic Taping

Elastic taping includes KT tape (aka kinesiotape, KT, kinesiology tape, etc.) and RockTape primarily. As the name suggests, the main contrast with the rigid tapes described earlier is in the ability of this tape to be flexible and stretch during and after application. RockTape has demonstrated an 180% stretch of its original length versus 120-150% for most KT tape. The science and theory behind both of these tapes are similar and are often tested interchangeably.

Every Strip of Elastic Tape Does 3 Things:

1) Pain Mitigation - The stimulus of touch by virtue of the tape placement is thought to reach the brain faster than the competing pain stimulus. This is known as the gate control theory of pain modulation. This is why it feels better to rub an area where you have recently injured yourself.

2) Mechanical Decompression - The elastic quality of the tape automatically recoils after being placed on the skin. This “lifts” the skin by tensioning the ligaments between the layers of skin. This is thought to provide more space for blood and fluid flow to the injured area, which is beneficial to the healing process.

3) Neurosensory Input - The stimulus of the tape placement activates certain sensory receptors in the skin known as proprioceptors and mechanoreceptors. These receptors provide a signal to the brain to improve the brain-body connection in the injured region - which is a crucial goal of a complete rehab process.

What Does Elastic Tape Not Do?

There are 2 big things I wanted to address in terms of the “limitations” or “myths” of taping application:

1) The ability of tape to “activate” muscles

There is an important distinction between the tape activating a muscle and being used as a tactile (touch) cue to more effectively get an individual to contract a certain muscle. For example, elastic taping has applications to improve resting seated posture to a more upright position in the neck and upper back. Rather than the tape directly causing more muscle activity where it is applied, it can placed in such a way that increases stretch when the individual is in a forward slouching posture. This increased stretch can be felt by the individual, which can then prompt them to “sit up straight” on their own accord and more frequently utilize biomechanically optimal posture. In this example, the tape is not activating the muscle, but rather facilitating a healthier balance of muscle activity through a cue.

2) The ability to “stabilize” a joint

Simply put, stabilizing a joint is a farfetched goal for a tape that is stretchy by nature. However, I still see this concept come up from time to time. The tape CAN provide neurosensory input (as described earlier), which can lead to an improved efficiency of an individual’s ability to activate a muscle in the taped area. This increased muscle activation can lead to a greater stability of the given joint, but this is the body doing the work, not the tape.

As with the athletic/sport tape, the touch of the tape can provide a “feeling” of stability, which is probably at the root of this misconception. Again, if an individual feels better with the tape applied, there is very little downside to using it - even if it just provides a feeling of mental comfort and ease.

About the Author

Dr. Ryan Queen is a doctor of physical therapy, certified strength and conditioning specialist, and level 1 certified precision nutrition coach, in addition to holding certifications in other adjunct treatment modalities and paradigms.

He created Revolution Performance as a gym-based physical therapy practice and wellness coaching service after becoming frustrated by the conflict of interest that health insurance company restrictions bring. His vision with the company has always been to provide high quality, holistic care while forming life-long relationships.

His mission is to help busy, hard-working adults get out of pain and dysfunction, whether from a current injury, a past one, or just daily aches and pains. In addition, Ryan has a passion for creating a proactive environment where issues are addressed before they become debilitating, or even before they exist.

After working 40 hours a week at a full time job while going to physical therapy school, Ryan knows how it feels to think you do not have enough time in the day to take care of yourself in all facets of health. It has been a goal of his to share the information and strategies he has learned to help others improve their overall health and become more productive.

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Medical Disclaimer: All information on this website is intended for informational and educational purposes only. The authors and partners are not responsible for any harm or injury incurred. It is important to seek professional guidance about your condition or injury. No guarantees have been made or implied regarding specific results of the services described.

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