K-Tape – Does it really do anything?

Have you ever wondered what exactly kinesiology tape (K-Tape) does? Let’s first start by describing why the tape is so unique. K-Tape has a special weave and viscosity which gives the tape ventilation and water resistance.1,2,3 The elasticity in the tape helps decrease skin discomfort when applied. Application of the tape is claimed to elevate the skin, therefore increasing blood flow and lymphatic drainage.1,2,3,4 Applying the tape may benefit pain and support injured soft tissue and joints for accelerated recovery. When searching for such tape, various brands claim the tape can help relieve pain and support muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Other claims include decompression of swelling, delay fatigue, normalize muscle tone, and distribute physical stress. However, there is insufficient evidence within the research/literature to support the effectiveness of K-tape.4,5,6,7,8,9

K-Tape

A recent systematic review with meta-analysis studied the effectiveness of K-tape with chronic non-specific low back pain and found no evidence to support the use in clinical practice for these patients.5 K-tape did not demonstrate better outcomes when compared to other intervention, which included exercise alone.5 Another study compared K-tape to itself with varying tension and site of application to help reduce patellofemoral pain and neuromuscular performance.6 K-tape does not alter EMG parameters and does not improve the isokinetic performance, but the authors did note a reduced pain in the without tension group, compared to the control group (who had no tape) after it was applied for 72 hours.6

A 2015 randomized controlled trial analyzed the application of K-tape to reduce swelling.7 The taping application did not decrease acute swelling in athletes who sprained their ankle.7 There was no difference at the third day of intervention nor the fifteenth day follow up.7

K-tape was compared to cross taping (“a new method”), and medical adhesive tape to treat myofascial trigger points in the upper trapezius muscle.8 Side note, defining a trigger point and palpating a trigger point reliably is for another blog post, stay tuned! What the authors found was no difference between taping techniques to influence the resting bioelectrical activity of the upper trap muscle and did not reduce the tone of the “trigger point.”8 What the authors did find was, subjects within all three groups had a significantly lower pain score after the intervention.8 Save your money and buy some medical adhesive tape, according to this study, it had the same effect in regards to pain.

A systematic review published in 2014 reviewed a variety of randomized controlled trials researching the benefit of K-tape application for musculoskeletal conditions.9 Across these studies, K-tape was compared to sham/placebo, no treatment, exercises, manual therapy and conventional physiotherapy.9 The authors' systematic review found K-tape to have no more significant benefit than sham/placebo groups or the active groups.9 There were a few studies that demonstrated positive outcomes of k-tape. However, the effect was minimal and unfortunately not clinically relevant.9

There is plenty more research to demonstrate limited evidence to support the use of K-tape for long-term outcomes. Anecdotally pain may be relieved with the application, but this is temporary and unfortunately does not fix or correct anything. If you are subject to using this tape long term to push through your training routine, we may need to consider other factors to help resolve pain and difficulty with the activities you enjoy. You can find our treatment philosophy here, and our contact information here. Feel free to contact us by phone or email if you are curious about how we can help.

Written by: Dakota Ezell, PT, DPT

Other resources:
The Logic of Rehab

References
1. Kase K, Tatsuyuki H, Tomoki O. Development of Kinesio tape. In: Kinesiotaping Taping Perfect Manual. Albuquerque: Kinesio Taping Association; 1996. p117-8.
2. Murray H, Husk L. Effect of kinesiotaping on proprioception in the ankle. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2001;31. A-37.
3. Bicici S, Karatas N, Baltaci G. Effect of athletic taping and kinesiotaping on measurements of functional performance in basketball players with chronic inversion ankle sprains. Int J Sports Phys Ther 2012;7:154-66.
4. Beutel BG, Cardone DA. Kinesiology taping and the world wide web: a quality and content analysis of internet-based information. Int J Sports Phys Ther 2014;9:665-73.
5. Júnior M, Almeida M, Santos R, Civile V, Costa L. Effectiveness of Kinesio Taping® in Patients With Chronic Non-specific Low Back Pain. Spine. 2018:1. doi:10.1097/brs.0000000000002756
6. Melo S, Macedo L, Borges D, Brasileiro J. Effects of kinesio taping on neuromuscular performance and pain of individuals affected by patellofemoral pain: A randomized controlled trial. Physiother Theory Pract. 2018:1-11. doi:10.1080/09593985.2018.1492657
7. Nunes G, Vargas V, Wageck B, Hauphental D, Luz C, de Noronha M. Kinesio Taping does not decrease swelling in acute, lateral ankle sprain of athletes: a randomised trial. J Physiother. 2015;61(1):28-33. doi:10.1016/j.jphys.2014.11.002
8. Halski T, Ptaszkowski K, Słupska L et al. Short-Term Effects of Kinesio Taping and Cross Taping Application in the Treatment of Latent Upper Trapezius Trigger Points: A Prospective, Single-Blind, Randomized, Sham-Controlled Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2015;2015:1-9. doi:10.1155/2015/191925
9. Parreira P, Costa L, Hespanhol Junior L, Lopes A, Costa L. Current evidence does not support the use of Kinesio Taping in clinical practice: a systematic review. J Physiother. 2014;60(1):31-39. doi:10.1016/j.jphys.2013.12.008

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