How Effective Is Kinesio Tape?

Kinesio tape, a hugely popular sports innovation from Japan, has taken the industry by storm. Used by a number of high profile athletes at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, this unique, skin-friendly therapeutic tape uses Kinesiotherapy to treat and relieve a wide range of conditions.

Take just one trip to any Kinesio tape manufacturer’s website and you’ll be faced with a seemingly endless list of reasons to buy the product. However, is there really enough clinical evidence to prove its effectiveness as a therapy aid?

What Does Kinesio Tape Do?

Kinesio tape is designed to treat musculoskeletal problems and can provide athletes with pain relief from sports injuries. It is alleged to provide proprioceptive feedback, helping to protect athletes from further injuries, aiding their technique and helping to facilitate a graded return to sport. Manufacturers also claim that it can treat lymphedema, a condition that is said to affect over 100,000 in the UK.

It has become a hit with sports men and women worldwide, largely because it doesn’t restrict movement in the same way as the traditional taping or strapping, which is often used for protection and to help maintain correct joint position. According to its inventor, Japanese chiropractor Dr Kenzo Kase, Kinesio tape actually lifts the skin to encourage the flow of crucial inflammatory fluids. The patient’s lymphathic flow is then able to work to reduce pain and swelling in the affected area much faster.

kinesio tape

Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/breatheindigital/4676670967/

Does It Really Work?

Developers of Kinesio tape have published a number of articles and case studies to support claims that it aids the lymphatic and muscular systems to improve recovery from injury. Many of these documents are supported by the results of randomised controlled trials, such as the South African Journal of Sports Medicine’s September 2012 paper, which details the effect of Kinesio tape on the muscle power of the gluteus maximus in male athletes.

Despite a wealth of information on the subject remaining readily available, many sports professionals, such as Geoff Scott, Head of Physio at Tottenham Hotspur FC, have noted that it is difficult to quantify the benefits of the tape. Others have mentioned that the tape may have a psychological effect on the user, rather than a physical one. Phil Newton, a physiotherapist at one of the UK’s leading National Sports Centres, has been quoted as saying that the tensile strength of Kinesio tape simply could not have its alleged effect on muscles that lie so deep below the skin. He and many others are of the opinion that the tape simply has a placebo effect on athletes.

There’s no denying that more research into Kinesio tape is needed, if the vast majority of medical professionals are to fully believe manufacturer’s marketing claims.  Despite the tapes many success stories, criticism remains from some physiotherapists, highlighting the need for further research into the efficacy of Kineso tape. We hope to see further high quality clinical trials in the future, which will clarify the effectiveness of the tape.

Stretch Physiotherapy & Pilates is a dedicated team of specialist Essex physiotherapy professionals based just outside of Writtle, Chelmsford.

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