If you watched any of the London 2012 Olympic Games you probably noticed many athletes wearing brightly coloured Kinesio tape on their buff bodies
Invented in the 1970s by a Japanese chiropractor and acupuncturist, Dr. Kenzo Kase, Kinesio tape is touted by many high-level athletes as being a miracle cure to overcoming injuries. As you can probably guess, I'm a bit skeptical about these types of hyped-up claims.
Taping for Injuries
Canadian physiotherapist and breakdancer Tony Ingram recommends using taping or bracing primarily for injuries that result in joint instability. But where traditional tapes were very inflexible, Dr. Kase made Kinesio tape almost as flexible as human skin so it could allow for easy movement when playing sports or performing other activities.
How Kinesio Taping Works
While the Kinesio taping website talks about circulation and lymph flow, it probably works through a neurological mechanism. As Seattle-based Feldenkrais Method instructor and Rolfer Todd Hargrove describes, Kinesio taping may work by confusing and tricking your brain by stretching your skin.
Stretching your skin alters the signals various mechanoreceptors in your skin send to your brain, which may lessen or eliminate pain and improve movement coordination.
What the Research Shows
While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from high-level athletes, the scientific evidence for Kinesio taping isn't quite as emphatic. Some studies have shown there is some decrease in pain and improvement in function but not all the results were clinically significant.
A review study published in 2012 concluded there may be small benefits in strength and range of motion but more research is needed to substantiate and confirm the large amount of anecdotal reports.
I used Kinesio taping for some knee pain I was having earlier this year and found it did indeed reduce the pain. But I also worked on improving my lower body strength and mobility, which I think was the key in achieving lasting, long-term relief.
So I'd say that Kinesio taping does have positive effects on specific injuries. But I'd always recommend getting properly diagnosed by a qualified medical professional to get a proper rehab program. If taping is a valid option for you, I'd recommend getting at least one session done by a qualified taping practitioner (which will often be the medical professional you saw in the first place) to learn proper technique so you can continue to do it yourself.
And don't neglect any other important aspects of your rehab such as strength and mobility exercises.