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Performance taping

At Camp4 sports rehabilitation center Taylrosville UT, we utilize taping procedures as an adjunct to patient rehabilitation, in order to decrease healing time, improve proprioception, and inhibit pain. Sometimes patients need the additional sensory input from the tape to their joints and muscles which can increase position awareness, assist in injury prevention, and help activate inhibited muscles.  Taping has always been commonplace in the sports medicine world, and more recently to the general public since the 2008 olympic summer games. The staff at Camp4 have been trained in all taping procedures commonly used in sports medicine and stay current with the most recent literature to be sure they are providing the most effective treatments. This page discusses the most common use of traditional athletic style taping as well as the newer elastic-style tapes, so you as a patient can better understand how our sports rehabilitation center Taylorsville UT can benefit your condition.

By far the most commonly used taping procedures in sports medicine are performed to the ankle and foot. Ankle taping has been used for many decades in order to prevent ankle sprains, by mechanically inhibiting ankle motion and thus preventing injury. This is the classic ankle tape job that athletes wear during competition, similar to an ankle brace. Another commonly used taping procedure is anti-pronation taping. Pronation (AKA internal rotation or eversion) is the normal foot motion when the foot goes flat right before the muscles on the outside and inside of the ankle contract to make it stiff again before you toe-off. However, many patients have excessive pronation in their feet  due to muscular fatigue or inhibition during walking and running, this is the proverbial flat foot. We use this particular technique of taping commonly in the management of lower extremity musculoskeletal pain and injury. The clinical efficacy of anti-pronation tape is described anecdotally and has some support through clinical trials for some foot conditions. However, the mechanisms underlying its effect are broadly categorized under mechanical, neurophysiological and psychological.

The literature does provide evidence that anti-pronation tape does have a biomechanical effect, which has been demonstrated by increases in navicular height and medial longitudinal arch height, reductions in tibial internal rotation and calcaneal eversion and alteration of plantar pressure patterns, under both standing and walking, jogging, and running conditions. Preliminary evidence from few studies suggests that anti-pronation tape also has a neurophysiological effect as it has been shown to reduce the activity of several muscles of the leg during dynamic tasks such as walking, hopping, cutting, back pedalling and drop jumps.

This is a very important component in patient rehabilitation because it is well understood that people with excessive foot pronation are vulnerable to injuries such as metatarsal stress fractures, plantar fasciitis  and Achilles tendinosis.  Also, with the abnormal movement coupling between internal rotation of the tibia, excessive foot pronation may lead to problems in more proximal body parts causing medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints)and patellofemoral pain syndrome (knee pain).

Another commonly are taped in sports medicine is the shoulder.

Shoulder taping is believed to affect the resting position of the scapula, and assist in maintaining the shoulder-girdle stability necessary to perform elevation of the arm. With the tape holding the scapula in a more proper alignment, the patient can then use the shoulder without further reduction of the space between the acromion and humeral head. Additionally, the tape provides a feedback mechanism allowing the patient to feel normal alignment and positioning of the shoulder complex. The two most frequently proposed mechanisms are like the ankle, proprioceptive and mechanical in nature.

Over the past decade taping has been proven to be an effective adjunct in reducing pain, improving proprioception and muscle recruitment patterns, as well as assisting in motor control and function.

Although taping is used for the correction of postural abnormalities and many studies are available regarding beneficial effects of taping in symptomatic patients, there is a lack of evidence for its use in clinical practice for upper extremity postural correction in healthy subjects who are at risk of musculoskeletal disorders due to altered posture. This is not an exclusive list of locations to apply athletic tape, however these are the most common as well as the most supported in the literature.

Next we will address the more recent elastic style  tapes such as Kinesio and Rock tape.

The big question that many people have is whether the effects of K-tape are for real, or simply a fashion statement.

First lets discuss the properties of the elastic tapes (plural since Kinesio tape is not the only one), then their proposed mechanisms, and lastly what the literature says about their use.

K-tape, Rock Tape, and other latex based tapes dry quickly, are comfortable to wear, and are very elastic. The cool thing about these tapes is that they are very sticky to the point they will stay on for 3-4 days before falling off, and can be worn in water. During the application of the elastic tape a muscle or group is generally put in an elongated position while the practitioner anchors and lengthens the tape with various amounts of tension to a chosen end point. This is generally done according to muscle origins and insertions. The patient or athlete then releases the muscle stretch and returns to a natural position with a new wrinkling of the tape on the skin. This wrinkling of the skin is what is proposed to be the primary mechanism of action of the tape. This is one of the primary differences between the two types of performance taping, the ability to stretch and recoil.

By wrinkling the skin the tape creates a space between the skin and underlying myofascial tissue. This stimulates tensions on the tissues to the point of activating proprioceptive free nerve endings, improving joint position,  increasing the flow of blood and lymph in that layer, inhibit pain, and increase corticomotor. The most important of all those components, as you have learned from other pages on the website, is the neurological component. Pain inhibition, improved proprioception, and motor control are all the result of tape stimulating afferent nerve endings which preset the the nervous system to fire certain motor units.

One interesting thing is that the original creator of this elastic tape craze was Dr. Kase, a chiropractor from Japan who created the tape in the 1970’s. Since then, there have been many other companies that create a similar, and less expensive version of Kinesio-tape. The elastic tape boom came about after Dr. Kase donated thousands of rolls to the 2008 olympic games for athletes to wear. As soon as Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh wore this tape on their shoulders to the gold medal, everyone was hooked. Ever since, there has been an increased interest in the sports medicine literature investigating any real therapeutic benefit to elastic tapes, here is what we find.

It turns out that the documentation on the mechanisms of action listed above rely on very few case series, small pilot reports, and research studies performed on healthy participants, which is in general a low level of overall clinical evidence.

There has been demonstrated some evidence to support an immediate reduction in pain while wearing K-tape, as demonstrated by one randomized trial that showed those who wore the tape had remarkable improvement over a control group. There is also some support that the tape effects joint position and bodily proprioceptive awareness by increasing ones awareness of their body in space. As mentioned already, this effect is not unique to elastic tapes however the main difference is that elastic tape is much more comfortable for patients to wear. To date, there is no real support in the literature indicating any long-term effects on pain, increases in muscle strength, improved range of motion, or effectiveness of the tape on neurological conditions. In respect to clearing lymphatic fluid and excess blood, the evidence is more promising yet still inconclusive.

All-in-all, the amount of case study and anectodal support for elastic style tapes warrants better, well designed randomized research particularly pertaining to sports injuries. This research interest, will continue into the future and use taping procedures with caution. A big thing to recognize in sports medicine is the psychological component of taping and performance. This is why Div 1 athletic programs do not utilize K-tape, the return on a teams investment by using the tape does not exceed the expensive as well as the psychological dependency. For any questions, feel free to leave a question here.

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Page citations

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1 – Mostafavifar, M.Wertz, J., Borchers, A systematic review of the effectiveness of kinesio taping for musculoskeletal injury. PhysSportsmed. 2012 Nov;40(4):33-40

2 – Kalron, A., Bar-Sela, S. A systetatic review of the effectiveness of kinesio taping – fact or fashion?. European Journal of Physical Rehabilitative Medicine . 2013;49:699-709

3 – Joel A. Radford, Joshua Burns, 
Rachelle Buchbinder, Karl B. Landorf, Catherine Cook. The Effect of Low-Dye Taping on Kinematic, Kinetic, and Electromyographic Variables:
A Systematic Review. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy Volume 36 • Number 4 • April 2006

4- Williams, Sean., Whatman, Chris., Hume, Patria., Sheerin, Kelly. Kinesio Taping in Treatment and Prevention of Sports Injuries: A Meta-Analysis of the Evidence for its Effectiveness. Sports Medicine 2012: 42(2)

5 – Roy T H Cheung, Raymond C K Chung, Gabriel Y F Ng. Efficacies of different external controls for excessive foot pronation: a meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2011;45:743–751

6 – Melinda Franettovich, Andrew Chapman, Peter Blanch, and Bill Vicenzind. A Physiological and Psychological Basis for Anti-Pronation Taping from a Critical Review of the Literature. Sports Med 2008; 38 (8)

7 –Verhagen, K Bay. Optimising ankle sprain prevention: a critical review and practical appraisal of the literature. Br J Sports Med 2010;44:1082–1088

8 – NehaDewanKavitha RajaGanesh Balthillaya Miyaru, and Joy C. MacDermid. Effect of Box Taping as an Adjunct to Stretching-Strengthening Exercise Program in Correction of Scapular Alignment in People with Forward Shoulder Posture: A Randomised Trial. ISRN Rehabilitation Volume 2014 (2014),