Sports taping – myth or magic?

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You’ve probably seen the brightly coloured tape fashioned by pro-athletes during competition and wondered what it’s all about! Well let me explain:

The first thing to know is that not all sports tapes are the same; there is a wide variety of tapes on the market which provide different benefits. The most commonly used tape in sport however is kinesiology tape which translates to “body movement tape”. As the name suggests, when applied correctly this tape will stretch and move with the athlete, minimising restricted range of motion whilst providing several key benefits. These include:

  • Musculoskeletal support – It is widely acknowledged that kinesiology tape can provide additional support to a recently injured muscle area by increasing the athletes proprioceptive feedback.
  • Pain relief – This can be achieved through both neural and physiological mechanisms. Application of the tape is said to lift the skin relieving tension on the pain receptors, allowing the muscle to move more fluently. Furthermore, several studies have suggested that correct application may initiate the “pain gate” which temporarily blocks the activation of pain receptors.
  • Improved circulation – By lifting the skin (upon correct application) the lymphatic and circulatory systems are able to flow more efficiently (this is particularly beneficial when applied to swollen areas).
  • Increased Performance – Though evidence of this is somewhat inconsistent, it is documented that kinesiology taping can improve strength and power output. However, a recent study by Guner (et al, 2015) found that any improvement in performance from sports taping is due to the correction of biomechanics rather than muscle activation.

Though these benefits are widely supported by many physiotherapists to date, the jury is still out on this one. An equal amount of “sceptics” have questioned the abilities of kinesiology taping, suggesting that it provides nothing more than a placebo effect. For this reason, many studies are still being conducted to determine a definitive outcome on the effects of kinesiology taping. In my professional opinion, I have found a great deal of benefit from using kinesiology tape on both myself and my clients. I have used it on several issues including shin splints, sprains, strains and even postural correction analysis! Before reaching for the tape and scissors however, it’s worth considering the following;

Kinesiology tapeCorrect Application – Although self-application of kinesiology tape is not difficult, there is definitely a right and wrong way to do it! I would strongly recommend seeking the advice of a qualified sports physio/rehabilitator before going it alone. Correct application will not only give you a much greater benefit, but will save you money in the long run from all the “trial and error” taping attempts.

Brand – There is literally hundreds of sports taping brands out there ranging from £2.99 to £15+ per roll but from my experience you get what you pay for. Reliable brands such as RockTape have engineered a tape which holds an elasticity of 190% and is also water (and sweat) resistant. At the other end of the spectrum, Chinese wholesalers on eBay provide a budget tape which will stay in place as long as you don’t move!

Don’t get too reliant! – You may try kinesiology taping and find little benefit. You may also try it and find it to be the best thing since sliced bread! The problem here is knowing when to stop application. Although there is nothing strictly wrong with long term usage, I believe it is best to only use it when you have to. A great way to deal with this is by applying less and less tape as your injury heals with full removal when you’re 100% recovered.

So now you know what it’s all about. If you have anymore questions or would like help with any rehab queries, feel free to contact me through my Facebook page: LGR Fitness & Rehabilitation or comment in the section below!

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Luke Russell

Luke is a qualified personal trainer based in the University of Cumbria sports centre. He trains clients from all around Carlisle and surrounding areas with the option of training at home, outdoors or in the gym. He is also a Sport Rehabilitation BSc graduate and has a great deal of knowledge in overcoming recent injuries and preventing reoccurences.

2 Comments

  1. I am told by very highly qulified physiotherapists that these tapes are completely useless and provide no benefits whatsoever (apart from possibly some psychological benefit IF the subject thinks they are doing some good). Its nonsense to talk about them ‘lifting the skin up’, and as one eminent physio told me’ if the idea us that the tape is applied in a way to pull/hold muscles from moving in a certain way, how does the tape know which way its meant to be pulling?’.
    Save your money for other things!

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