Selected Topics in Athletic Training

The Roles of Kinesio Tape®

Erica D. Carlyn Stuart
California University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This paper discusses research on the effects of Kinesio Tape® applied to various musculoskeletal injuries as well as common pathologies. Kinesio Tape®, along with other various taping techniques such as McConnell tape, white athletic tape, and elastic tape, are described. In the field of sports medicine, taping techniques play a major role in the support, protection, and prevention of athletic injuries.

Properties and Techniques of Kinesio Taping

Taping techniques are frequently used for support of athletic injuries and musculoskeletal imbalances. The most commonly used types of tape include: white athletic tape, McConnell tape, and some variations of elastic tape. These taping methods are used to support joints; however, Kinesio taping can offer much more than support. The application of Kinesio tape® is rarely seen in an athletic training setting but more commonly used by physical therapists and chiropractors. The purpose of this review is to educate certified athletic trainers of the beneficial properties, techniques, and effects of Kinesio tape®, which also may have a positive result on common musculoskeletal pathologies.

When analyzing the various choices of taping methods for a specific injury, it is vital to determine exactly what effect is needed to benefit the injury. White athletic tape is the most common taping technique used in injury prevention and to support acute injuries.1 Athletic tape limits joint movement and is not used for rehabilitative purposes because of its rigid, supportive characteristics that do not allow the weakened or injured muscles to heal and function properly.1, 2 The McConnell tape is an adhesive, super-rigid tape, primarily used for its improvements in neuromuscular re-education.3 Kinesio taping is known more for its therapeutic effects than as a taping technique. Kinesio tape® (KT) was developed in Japan by Dr. Kenzo Kase in 1963 and was introduced to the United States in the 1990’s. 4,5

KT is a latex free, non-medicated elastic tape that acts as a form of support without compromising a patient’s range of motion while biomechanically allowing the body to heal itself. Kineso tape’s 100% cotton fibers are thin, air permeable, acrylic adhesive fabric. It differs from other elastic tapes in the sense that it can be stretched up to 140% of its original length, applying a constant pulling force to the skin.6-8 Moisture and air flow through KT’s porous fabric minimizes skin irritation and allows the tape to be worn continuously for three to four days before a new application is required.6-8 This elastic quality creates convulsions that are thought to lift the skin to relieve underlying pressure and provide greater drainage.7 KT can be used in conjunction with other therapies such as cryotherapy, hydrotherapy, and electrical stimulation. The tape is manufactured in several sizes ranging from ˝ inch to 4 inches in width, 2-inch width being the most common.

The application of Kinesio tape® is rather simple and is always applied based on the treatment goals. The variables in the application include position of the affected area, amount of pre-stretch applied to the tape, and the treatment goals. When targeting a weak muscle it is important to apply the tape from the specific muscles origin to its insertion with a 25-50 percent tension to facilitate the muscles proper function.8 To relieve a muscle spasm, the tape is applied from the muscles insertion to origin with 15-25 percent tension. 8

Specific cut shapes of KT are designed to allow for optimal responses. An “X” strip, “Y” strip, and ‘I” strip all seek various results. The size and shape of the targeted muscles depict which type of KT strip will be applied. The “I” shaped KT application is used for small areas, such as the teres minor or rhomboid minor, whereas “Y” shaped application is used for large areas such as pectoralis major or the deltoid. The “X” shaped application is used for large and long areas, such as the bicep and triceps muscle.7 An alteration to the basic application techniques may be appropriate, including combining techniques and adding multiple strips.

Theorized Effects of Kinesio tape®

KT is used for pain reduction due to a musculoskeletal injury and is commonly used during competition or activity.9 The literature claims that tissue compression present during injury stimulates subcutaneous pain receptors that transmit discomfort signals to the brain.8 When applying the tape directly over the area of pain, KT decreases the pressure by applying a lifting force to the skin directly over the treatment area.4 The physical effects of the tape may have included the activation of the Meissner’s corpusles along with the Pacinian corpuscles due to the pressure relief from the lifting technique of the tape.

The application of KT can be used to produce increased sensory stimulation of the mechanoceptors in ligaments and tendons to assist or limit motion while relying on the stretched tape for corrective posture.9 A light tension KT technique may be applied to facilitate muscle contraction of injured muscles. Several authors report that KT may have a potential for facilitation of muscle strengthening due to the support provided by the tape that contracts during movements of the joints.6-8 The elastic properties of KT allow for enhanced joint functions, support, and re-education of weakened muscle to be strengthened while in use during exercise.10 The continuous feedback 24 hours a day, 3-5 days a week, allows for the tape to slowly re-align and position the body in a corrective manner.10 Applying a fan shaped technique of KT to an area of inflammation with a proximal directional pull, along with muscle contraction and relaxation, allows for a superficial to deep lymphatic drainage.8, 11 Also an increase in the interstitial space between the skin and underlying connective tissues will provide a greater flow of venous and lymphatic fluids.7, 11 KT does not restrict ROM (range of motion) but is thought to enhance ROM with its elastic qualities, therefore acting only as support to the injured joint.8 KT provides support to musculoskeletal structures while enhancing the body’s natural healing process.12

The body has several types of receptors including proprioceptors that receive impulses from areas where body movements have occurred. The Pacinian corpuscles and Ruffini endings are two important receptors located in the joints and skin. They are activated by quick changes in the angle of the joint and by pressure that compresses and distorts the capsule for a brief period of time. Ruffini endings are also activated with mechanical deformation and signal the nervous system when there is continuous pressure. Some researchers suggest that taping provides immediate sensorimotor feedback through direct contact between the skin and tape providing a sense of awareness.1, 13 KT’s elastic properties may cause proprioceptive stimulation anticipating a facilitory effect of cutaneous mechanoreceptors.11 Some research suggests KT as a useful therapeutic and prophylactic assistance in rehabilitation and during activity on the field.9

Uses of Kinesio tape® in Common Pathologies

Physical therapists and chiropractors frequently use KT as a long-term treatment for patients who are experiencing pain in a localized area. Certified athletic trainers tend to use white athletic tape to support acute injuries minimizing the athletes ROM. In the rehabilitation process, the use of athletic tape is heavily frowned upon because of the tape’s rigid property. The goals of the rehab exercises are to strengthen the weakened muscles in a slow progressive manner without support from a brace or tape. It is hypothesized that KT provides therapeutic benefits for acute and chronic musculoskeletal injuries through the support and non-invasive techniques without limiting ROM and allowing the body to biomechanically heal itself. The method of Kinesio taping involves taping around and over muscles to give support and to assist and prevent over contraction of weakened muscles. KT may provide benefits to patients who present with the following but not limited to torticollis, compartment syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome, herniated disk, calf cramps, plantar fasciitis, Bells palsy, and headaches.

Summary

Appling Kinesio tape® to a musculoskeletal injury during rehabilitation could result in a quicker recovery by allowing the body to biomechanically heal itself. Educating certified athletic trainers on the beneficial factors of Kinesio tape® may offer the profession new protocols and positive outcomes in the rehabilitation of injured athletes.

References

  1. Simoneau GG, Degner RM, Kramper CA, Kittleson KH. Changes in ankle joint proprioception resulting from strips of athletic tape applied over the skin. Journal of Athletic Training.1997; 32:141-147.
  2. Yasukawa A, Patel P, Sisung C. Pilot study: investigating the effects of Kinesio taping in an acute pediatric rehabilitation setting. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy. 2006; 60:104-110.     
  3. Osterhues DJ. The use of Kinesio taping in the management of traumatic patella dislocation: a case study. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice. 2004; 20:267-270.
  4. Schoene L. The Kinesio® taping method. Podiatry Management. June 2009; 28(5):149.
  5. Osborn K. Tape it up: Kinesio taping facilitates movement, while offering support. Massage & Bodywork. May 2009; 24(3):52.
  6. Halseth T, McChesney JW, DeBeliso M, Vaughn R, Lien J. The effects of Kinesio taping on proprioception at the ankle. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine.2004; 3:1-7.
  7. Youshida A, Kahanov L. The effect of Kinesio taping on lower trunk range of motion. Research in Sports Medicine. 2007; 15:103-112.
  8. Kahanov L. Kinesio taping, part 1: an overview of its use in athletes. Human Kinetics.2007; 12:17-18.
  9. Hsu YH, Chen WY, Lin HC, Wang WJ, Shih YF. The effects of taping on scapular kinematics and muscle performance in baseball players with shoulder impingement syndrome. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology; 2009: 1-7.
  10. Kase K, Hashimoto T. Changes in the volume of the peripheral blood flow by using Kinesio taping. Illustrated Kinesio Taping. 1994; 3:90-91.
  11. Murray HM. Kinesio taping muscle strength, and ROM after ACL repair. Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy.2000; 30:1.
  12. Williams. Breast and trunk edema after treatment for breast cancer. Journal of Lymphoedema. 2006; 1:32-39.
  13. Zajt-Kwiatkoska J, Rajkowska-Labon E, Skrobot W, Bakula S, Szamotulska J. Application of Kinesio taping for treatment of sport injuries. Research Yearbook.2007; 13: 130-134.

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