Therapeutic tape can yield excellent performance benefits for athletes in different sports.

Therapeutic taping has become hugely popular in the athletic world with many elite athletes acknowledging it as a performance enhancer and optimal recovery modality. Often referred to as Kinesio taping, it first gained worldwide exposure at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and has been used by health and fitness professionals around the globe ever since.

Different Brands of Therapeutic Tape

Early research showed that key factors in successful implementation of therapeutic taping were elasticity, adhesiveness, and breathability. Of the many brands available, Kinesio is one of three we have used in our clinic. As with so many products, therapists have their own preferences and “go-to” items. KT Tape, made by Lumos Inc, Lindon, Utah, and MuscleAid (MA) tape, based in El Monte, Calif, are equally strong performers, with MA now being our preference. Typically, each therapist uses tape four to fives times a day in our clinic.

All three of these brands come in rolls which the therapist is free to cut to shape. These are my preference over other brands that have precut patterns, as we want to have the freedom to cut and shape the tape so it is most effective for each respective patient.

Taping can be used to support ligaments, but it is more commonly used to either facilitate muscles to work or inhibit muscles from working—so being able to apply a tape exactly how and where you would like with a good elasticity and adhesiveness is of vital importance.

A tape’s adhesiveness is a major point of comparison. Whichever brand is used must stay in place as long as possible, but obviously not be painful or impossible to remove should the athlete wish. The ease with which a tape can be used around joints is also worth noting. The most effective tapes can be worn for several days without any reapplication needed and have elasticity of 30% to 40% from resting length.

Benefits

Taping allows the work we do in clinic to be continued outside once the patient has left the therapist—that is, in clinic we are able to provide the patient with a tactile sense of how the muscle should be moving. By using taping, we are able to continue this proprioceptive function. For as long as the tape is working to promote positive movement or inhibit unwanted movement patterns, then it is reinforcing to the patient how their muscles should be firing. This, in turn, helps expedite recovery and ultimately, training and performance.

By holding the muscles in the corrected position, the tape can encourage new movement patterns by promoting certain movements and inhibiting others. For example, we commonly use taping when rehabilitating swimmers’ shoulders. If there is a muscle group working too hard—often the upper trapezius when swimmers present with neck pain—then the tape is applied in one direction to inhibit its movement. It is then applied in the opposite direction across the middle and lower trapezius to encourage them to fire and activate. The tape can be used to effectively hold dysfunctional muscles out of the way. This is often the case when treating swimmers with neck pain or rotator cuff issues.

Professional Application

The presence of so many different taping products on the market and now widely available to the general public means patients can purchase kinesiology tape and apply it themselves, without necessarily having the knowledge to best apply it. The true value of therapeutic taping can only be realized when used and applied by a healthcare professional. When used and applied correctly, it undoubtedly provides great performance benefits, and its prevalence across so many sports is no surprise to see. PTP

Darwin Fogt, MPT, is owner of Evolution Physical Therapy and Fitness in Los Angeles and a California Licensed Physical Therapist with a BS in Exercise Physiology from USC and a Masters degree in Physical Therapy from Cal State Long Beach. For more information, contact PTPEditor@allied360.com.