Picture above credited to Craig Maccubbin
Kinesiology tape is all the rage right now. Athletes are seen all over the world participating in this trend. Kerri Walsh Jennings (pictured above), is a professional beach volleyball player and a major supporter of kinesiology tape. Many other volleyball, basketball, tennis and other players are following along to improve their game. But is it really helping them?
Photo by Maria Ly
Kinesiology tape, also known as Kinesio Tex Tape or KT tape, is an elastic sports tape that is placed methodically to alleviate and assist the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Kinesio tape was first developed by Doctor Kenzo Kase in 1979. According to the KT tape website, it can be used on injuries such as carpal tunnel, tendonitis, ankle injuries and pain anywhere in your body.
I play volleyball and was recently diagnosed with severe wrist extensor tendonitis from setting. The physical therapist suggested the use of Kinesiology tape. I decided to research whether this superficial tape was really helping my wrist.
Kinesiology tape is placed in a specific way to ease muscles in a targeted area of pain. Here is an example of placement for wrist pain including strains, sprains, or in my case tendonitis.
But how can tape affect the muscles deep under the skin? The scientific reason this product works is that it supposedly slightly lifts the skin, which decreases swelling and allows muscles underneath space to move smoothly. It seems like there is only pros to this miracle product. According to the KT website itself, the tape is said to ease muscles and is fashionable, comfortable and durable. It is also cheap only costing about $10-15 per roll. It can be worn for 3-6 days at a time. There is just one problem.
It has not been proven to actually work.
There are no medical studies that have confirmed the claims that companies make about the tape physically having an effect on your body. If this is true why would individuals continue using this elastic tape?
Many people have written testimonials affirming their belief the KT tape is working. But if this tape is not physically helping them, how could their pain be dulled? Well there is a potential answer, kinesiology tape could help in a way that is not physical. It could help psychologically. That means that it is all in the users mind. After the tape is applied, they believe it is helping which eases pain.
From the article “Ask Well: Does Kinesiology Really Work?” by Gretchen Reynolds
In an interesting experiment published in February, blindfolded volunteers were told that they had kinesiology tape on their legs during weight training exercises when, in some sessions, the tape was merely a sticky fabric. The blindfolded volunteers performed the same during the exercises, whether or not they were wearing real tape, suggesting, according to the study’s authors, that when benefits do occur with the use of the tape, they should “be attributed to the placebo effect.”
According to the experiment, the tape could have a placebo effect. A placebo effect is a fake treatment that can sometimes cure a person’s pain because they believe it is helping. Pain is emotional so if for example, a tennis player trusts that placing tape across their shoulder will support it, they often will have the confidence to perform without trouble or pain. If you are experiencing any pain or discomfort that prevents you from playing sports or other activities, it does not hurt to give kinesiology tape a try. It will not help you long term but it could give you temporary relief to perform.
Kinesiology tape also differs from regular athletic tape in many ways.
“The brightly-colored kinesiology tape is made up of cotton fibers with polymer elastic strands woven throughout. Whereas traditional athletic tape restricts blood flow and movement, kinesiology tape is pliable and allows for a full range of motion. “It feels like it’s not even there,” said VanNederynen.” from the article “Tape It Up: Does Kinesiology Tape Really Work?”
There may not be proof that this product helps you but there is not any proof it will harm you– as shown from the article “Kinesio Tape – does it work?”,
“There was some evidence to show that it doesn’t decrease performance in a number of tasks and, in this regard, faired better than other types of taping. So, while we may not have evidence that kinesio tape helps there doesn’t appear to be evidence to show it will harm. Clearly that’s not a great reason to use the colourful tape but doing so shouldn’t negatively affect performance.”
So now you are probably still wondering if you should use Kinesiology tape and if it will really help you. My advice would be to just give it a try. It may not physically help you but it could trick your mind into thinking its working. The worst that could happen is you are down on a $10 roll of tape.
I personally have found success in placing this tape around my wrist and up my arm. I have experienced little to no pain when playing volleyball or doing everyday activities.
But whether Kinesiology tape is physically aiding my wrist or mentally making me believe it is helping is a still a question left unanswered.