What is Elastic Therapeutic Tape? (Part 1 of 2)

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Elastic therapeutic tape, also known colloquially as “KT Tape”  or “kinesio tape,” is an adhesive, stretchy, porous, and breathable cotton tape that stays on your body for 3-5 days or longer.  It is an alternative to the rigid white tape commonly applied to athletes–I have especially noticed it around football player’s ankles, but there are a variety of applications for it.  Elastic therapeutic tape comes in a variety of brands and colors and stretches 120-140% of its original length.

Elastic therapeutic taping to alleviate plantar fascia pain / Photo by Bodymybody.com

Elastic therapeutic taping to alleviate plantar fascia pain / Photo by Bodymybody.com

History

Elastic therapeutic tape made a big splash in the 2008 Olympics with the televised beach volleyball matches featuring Kerri Walsh.  Although elastic therapeutic tape has been used by chiropractors and other health professionals since the mid 1980s, Kerri Walsh helped popularize it.  

Kerri Walsh (pictured sans tape here) helped elastic therapeutic tape become mainstream during the 2008 Olympics / Image by Aleksey Toritsyn via CC-by-3.0

Kerri Walsh (pictured sans tape here) helped elastic therapeutic tape become mainstream during the 2008 Olympics / Image by Aleksey Toritsyn via CC-by-3.0

Elastic therapeutic tape was invented by a chiropractor by the name of Dr. Kenzo Kase.  I was lucky enough to attend a lecture by Dr. Kase late 2012.  He talked a bit about Kinesio Tape, handed out some samples, and did a few demonstrations.  During his presentation, he discussed how kinesio taping came to be.  While practicing as a chiropractor, he saw the need for stretchy non rigid tape that would support the muscle and facilitate the body’s healing process.  He developed the idea for elastic therapeutic tape and approached a myriad of tape companies to make the product for him.  He presented the companies with detailed information and specs, but no company ever produced his product.  Eventually he formed his own company and started manufacturing his own tape.  Unfortunately, now all of his competitors had the information on the product and were easily able to replicate Dr. Kase’s idea.  Like all good ideas, Kinesio Tape was copied and there are dozens of variations of elastic therapeutic tape now available on the market.

A variety of elastic therapeutic tape / Image by Boydmybody.com

A variety of elastic therapeutic tape / Image by Boydmybody.com

After speaking about his history with the tape, Dr. Kase showed us some different applications of the tape, above and beyond just supporting the muscle.  He showed how the tape reacted differently depending on the direction in which it was applied.  He applied tape to the shoulder and upper arm of a volunteer.  One one arm he applied the tape from the elbow towards the shoulder and on the other arm he applied the tape from the shoulder towards the elbow.  The volunteer felt like the elbow to the shoulder application made his arm float and the shoulder to the elbow application made the arm feel heavy and stay down.  He also asked for a volunteer that had any damage to an organ.  A wonderful friend was recovering from stomach cancer and she volunteered.  He felt her stomach and located the area of previous cancer based solely on heat differential in the skin.  Dr. Kase then cut a spider shape from the tape and applied it over the area.  The volunteer stated immediate relief and tried to keep that tape on as long as she could.  The lecture and demo made quite the impression on me.

A close approximation of the “spider taping” Dr. Kase placed on the stomach of a volunteer during his demonstration / Image by Bodymybody.com

A close approximation of the “spider taping” Dr. Kase placed on the stomach of a volunteer during his demonstration / Image by Bodymybody.com

How It Works

Before elastic therapeutic tape, the only option for supporting the muscle was white rigid athletic tape.  That tape is restrictive and was usually applied in a way that affected the hurt muscle and many of the surrounding tissues.  If your calf was hurt, for example, athletic tape was applied around your leg, affecting the muscles in your calf, on your shin and everything else below the ring of tape.  Elastic therapeutic tape would be applied directly to your calf in this case.  This would support the strained muscle but still preserve the range of motion of the lower leg, ankle, and foot.  

Elastic therapeutic tape is typically applied to the skin while stretched.  Then, when the tape attempts to return to its regular length after being applied to the skin, it theoretically bunches the skin.  This creates more space under your skin for lymph fluid to flow, reducing stagnation and promoting healing.  The tape also theoretically provides proprioceptive feedback which can help correct muscular dysfunction.

The Science

The jury seems to be out scientifically as far as the effectiveness of elastic therapeutic taping.  Some studies noted no or minimal physiological effect from the tape.  Other studies showed statistically significant reduction in pain, decreased need for pain medication [1] and decreased recovery time.  Both meta-analyses I read called for more investigation into the potential of elastic therapeutic taping.  Generally,  elastic therapeutic taping is safe with few complications, and although skin irritation is mentioned, it is mentioned rarely [2].  Below is a summary of recent research involving elastic therapeutic taping.  

Summary of Recent Research and Case Studies Involving Elastic Therapeutic Taping

TitleYearResultsSource
Effects of balance taping using kinesiology tape in a patient with moderate hallux valgus: A case report.2016Yes, it helped[3]
Short-Term Effects of Kinesio Taping in Women with Pregnancy-Related Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial.2016Yes, it helped[4]
Effects of kinesiotaping versus non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy for treatment of pes anserinus tendino-bursitis: A randomized comparative clinical trial2016Yes, it helped, better than naproxen (which is an NSAID)[2]
The Effects of Exercise and Kinesio Tape on Physical Limitations in Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis2016Yes, it helped[1]
Short-term effects of high-intensity laser therapy, manual therapy, and Kinesio taping in patients with subacromial impingement syndrome2016Manual therapy and high intensity laser were more effective[5]
Effects of ankle balance taping with kinesiology tape for a patient with chronic ankle instability.2015Yes, it helped[6]
Efficacy of stepwise application of orthosis and kinesiology tape for treating thumb metacarpophalangeal joint hyperextension injury.2015Yes, it helped[7]
The effect of elastic therapeutic taping on back extensor muscle endurance in patients with low back pain: a randomized, controlled, crossover trial.2015
Not statistically significant improvement
[8]
Effect of Taping on Spinal Pain and Disability: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials2015No firm support for effectiveness[9]
Rigid and Elastic taping changes scapular kinematics and pain in subjects with shoulder impingement syndrome; an experimental study.2015Performed as well as rigid tape[10]
The ergogenic effect of elastic therapeutic tape on stride and step length in fatigued runners.2014Yes, it helped[11]
Effect of kinesiology taping on pain in individuals with musculoskeletal injuries: systematic review and meta-analysis.2014Might work, needs more investigation[12]
A scoping review of the use of elastic therapeutic tape for neck or upper extremity conditions.2014Might work, needs more investigation[13]
The effect of elastic taping on patients with patellofemoral syndrome2014Yes, it helped[14]
Therapeutic elastic tape reduces morbidity after wisdom teeth removal--a clinical trial.2014Yes, it helped[15]
A little elastic for a better performance: kinesiotaping of the motor effector modulates neural mechanisms for rhythmic movements.2014Yes, it did[16]


Interestingly, one study examined the elastic properties of 5 different tapes (Kinesio Tex, ATex, Thai Tape, 3M and Mueller).  Stress, load, and Young’s modulus (a measure of stiffness) at 25%, 50%, 75%, 100%, and maximum point were collected. Up to about 50%, the Young’s modulus was similar, however past 50%, the tapes varied significantly [17].  This shows that there are different mechanical properties of tape to each brand.  This has repercussions–a 75% stretch in one tape is not equivalent to a 75% stretch in another tape.  More analysis and investigation is needed in laboratory testing similar to this and also in the human body itself.

But Which One?

Ok, great.  You want to try out elastic therapeutic tape on your own injuries.  But what brand to buy?!  If you go to your local Target/Walgreen’s/CVS/etc, you may only have one or two choices.  Your local chiropractic office might apply some to your body, but not have any to actually sell.  If you look on Amazon, there are so many choices it is hard to begin to compare.

Luckily, I did a comparison for you.  I chose seven different brands and applied them to various parts of my body and subjected the tape and my body to a variety of tasks.  I chose popular brands (Kinesio Tex Gold (affiliate), Rock Tape (affiliate),  and Spider Tech (affiliate)), brands readily available at local stores (KT Tape Pro (affiliate) and CVS Health (affiliate)), and brands of which I liked their other products (Theraband (affiliate) (stretchy bands used in physical therapy) and Mueller (affiliate) (white athletic tape)).

Look for Elastic Therapeutic Taping Practice and Analyses (Part 2 of 2) coming soon!

If you can’t wait for the results of Part 2, Mueller (affiliate) scores the best on my analyses.  Kinesio Tex Gold (affiliate) is a close second.  However, I would still recommend Kinesio Tex Gold over Mueller, for reasons detailed in Part 2.  Stay tuned!


References

[1] Castrogiovanni, Paola, Angelo Di Giunta, Claudia Guglielmino, Federico Roggio, Domenico Romeo, Federica Fidone, Rosa Imbesi, Carla Loreto, Sergio Castorina, and Giuseppe Musumeci. “The Effects of Exercise and Kinesio Tape on Physical Limitations in Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis.” Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology 1.4 (2016): 355-68. Kinesio. Finanziamento Della Ricerca D’Ateneo, University of Cantania, 18 Oct. 2016. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

[2] Homayouni, Kaynoosh, Shima Foruzi, and Fereshte Kalhori. “Effects of Kinesiotaping versus Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs and Physical Therapy for Treatment of Pes Anserinus Tendino-bursitis: A Randomized Comparative Clinical Trial.” The Physician and Sportsmedicine 44.3 (2016): 252-56. Kinesio. Taylor & Francis Group, 23 June 2016. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

[3] S, Lee M., and Lee H. J. “Effects of Balance Taping Using Kinesiology Tape in a Patient with Moderate Hallux Valgus: A Case Report.” Medicine 95.46 (2016): n. pag. PubMed. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2016. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

[4] Kaplan, Seyhmus, Mahmut Alpayci, Erbil Karaman, Orkun Cetin, Server Ilter, Volkan Sah, Hanim Guler Sahin, and Yasemin Ozkan. “Short-Term Effects of Kinesio Taping in Women with Pregnancy-Related Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial.” Medical Science Monitor 18.22 (2016): 1297-301. PubMed. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 18 Apr. 2016. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

[5] Pekyavas, Nihan Ozunlu, and Gul Baltaci. “Short-term Effects of High-intensity Laser Therapy, Manual Therapy, and Kinesio Taping in Patients with Subacromial Impingement Syndrome.” Lasers in Medical Science 31.6 (2016): 1133-141. Kinesio. Springer-Verlag London, 25 May 2016. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

[6] Kim, Byeong-Jo, Jung-Hoon Lee, Chang-Tae Kim, and Sun-Min Lee. “Effects of Ankle Balance Taping with Kinesiology Tape for a Patient with Chronic Ankle Instability.” Journal of Physical Therapy Science 27.7 (2015): 2405-406. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 22 July 2015. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

[7] Lee, Sun-Min, and Jung-Hoon Lee. “Efficacy of Stepwise Application of Orthosis and Kinesiology Tape for Treating Thumb Metacarpophalangeal Joint Hyperextension Injury.” Journal of Physical Therapy Science 27.8 (2015): 2655-656. PubMed. Society of Physical Therapy Science. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

[8] Hagen, Lindsey, PT, DPT, Jeffrey J. Hebert, DC, PhD, Joel Dekanich, DC, MS, DACBSP, and Shane Koppenhaver, PT, PhD. “The Effect of Elastic Therapeutic Taping on Back Extensor Muscle Endurance in Patients with Low Back Pain: A Randomized, Controlled, Crossover Trial.” The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy 45.3 (2015): 215-19. The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

[9] Vanti, Carla, Lucia Bertozzi, Ivan Gardenghi, Francesca Turoni, Andrew A. Guccione, and Paolo Pillastrini. “Effect of Taping on Spinal Pain and Disability: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials.” Physical Therapy 95.4 (2014): 493-506. Physical Therapy Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association. American Physical Therapy Association, 13 Nov. 2014. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

[10] Shaheen, Aliah F., Anthony M.J. Bull, and Caroline M. Alexander. “Rigid and Elastic Taping Changes Scapular Kinematics and Pain in Subjects with Shoulder Impingement Syndrome; an Experimental Study.” Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology 25.1 (2015): 84-92. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 04 Aug. 2014. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

[11] Ward, John, DC, MA, MS, Kenneth Sorrels, DC, Jesse Coats, DC, DAAPM, Amir Pourmoghaddam, PhD, JoAnn Moskop, BS, Kate Ueckert, BS, and Amanda Glass, BS. “The Ergogenic Effect of Elastic Therapeutic Tape on Stride and Step Length in Fatigued Runners.” Journal of Chiropractic Medicine 13.4 (2014): 221-29. PubMed. National University of Health Sciences. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

[12] Montalvo, A. M., E. L. Cara, and G. D. Myer. “Effect of Kinesiology Taping on Pain in Individuals with Musculoskeletal Injuries: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” The Physician and Sportsmedicine 42.2 (2014): 48-57. PubMed. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

[13] Taylor, Raewyn L., BOccThy, Lisa O’Brien, PhD, and Ted Brown, PhD, MSc, MPA,. “A Scoping Review of the Use of Elastic Therapeutic Tape for Neck or Upper Extremity Conditions.” Journal of Hand Therapy 27.3 (2014): 235-46. Journal of Hand Therapy : Official Journal of the American Society of Hand Therapists. Elsevier Inc. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

[14] Yang, L., J. L. Jiang, Q. Liang, Z. J. Lei, and C. Q. He. “The Effect of Elastic Taping on Patients with Patellofemoral Syndrome.” Sichuan Da Xue Xue Bao. Yi Xue Ban (Journal of Sichuan University. Medical Science Edition) 45.1 (2014): 126-28. PubMed. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

[15] Ristow, Oliver, Bettina Hohlweg-Majert, Stephen R. Sturzenbaum, Victoria Kehl, Steffen Koerdt, Lilian Hahnefeld, and Christoph Pautke. “Therapeutic Elastic Tape Reduces Morbidity after Wisdom Teeth Removal–a Clinical Trial.” Clinical Oral Investigations.Springer International Publishing, 21 Aug. 2013. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

[16] Bravi, Riccardo, Eros Quarta, Erez J. Cohen, Anna Gottard, and Diego Minciacchi. “A Little Elastic for a Better Performance: Kinesiotaping of the Motor Effector Modulates Neural Mechanisms for Rhythmic Movements.” Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience 8 (2014): 181. PubMed. Frontiers Media SA, 25 Sept. 2014. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

[17] Boonkerd, Chuanpis, and Weerawat Limroongreungrat. “Elastic Therapeutic Tape: Do They Have the Same Material Properties?” Journal of Physical Therapy Science 28.4 (2016): 1303-306. Pu. The Society of Physical Therapy Science, 28 Apr. 2016. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.


 

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