I get questions from physical therapy patients about products they can rub in, glue on, and strap into to help decrease pain and promote healing. These balms, braces, magnets, and tape, they hope, will make their recovery quicker and more convenient. Athletes often ask about Kinesiotape (KT) – the colorful stripes of very sticky elastic tape visible on many competitors on television. A recent New York Times article by Gretchen Reynolds, “Does Kinesiology Tape Really Work?” reviews the more recent information we have about Kiniesotape.
The research we presently have has demonstrated that the positive responses to taping are primarily due to the placebo effect. This is not surprising as we get similar results with drug studies. Some parameters produce a greater placebo response: the attention of a health care provider, a strong sensory input, two pills as opposed to one pill, and color all seem to have an effect.
Should You Use Kinesiology Tape?
I have written about KT in the past and my views have not changed. If you have a minor ache or pain and no structural musculoskeletal damage, then go ahead. The KT may make you feel better and this will make exercise and activities of daily living easier. The tape can provide some control over the symptoms, and it has no side effects other than occasional skin irritation.
Remember that your body sends pain signals for a reason. Any type of musculoskeletal damage should be dealt with more comprehensively than just KT. It is a bad idea to use KT to reduce pain and then participate in activities that create even greater tissue trauma. A small and easy to rehab rotator cuff inflammation can become a big ‘full-thickness tear/surgical repair with six months of recovery’ nightmare if you tape it up and practice your tennis serves.
The proper rehabilitation approach is to determine the cause of the problem and enact a treatment plan that resolves the pain and corrects the functional limitation. Start with an evaluation by a qualified physical therapist. Modification of activities, recovery modalities, manual therapy, and a prescribed program of exercise produce the best results.
To read Gretchen Reynolds’ article, click on the link below:
-Mike O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS