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When a new product enters the market, many claims are made regarding the potential benefits of this product. Often a university or the manufacturers of the product do a few studies that substantiate the claimed benefits. As time goes on, independent research is done and many of these claims are questioned. One of such product is the Kinesiology Tape (KT), an elastic adhesive athletic tape which has a huge impact on sports persons and therapists, and the beneficial claims ranges from pain relief to improved performance. Physical therapists and trainers are using this tape for many different reasons, but are these reasons supported by sound evidence?
The first claim we should consider is “Tension on tape has the ability to relax or stimulate muscles.” In an article titled, Facilitatory and inhibitory effects of Kinesio tape: Fact or fad?, It was concluded that neither facilitatory nor inhibitory effects were observed between different application techniques of KT in healthy participants.1 Also, Carlson et al and Solomon et al found that KT does not significantly alter muscle performance in healthy individuals and further added that there was no consistent placebo effect in females.2,3 Another study on the effects of KT on muscle performance of young elite soccer players showed that it does not produce any short term improvement in muscle performance.4
Magalhaes et al noted that KT did not improve functional movement performance when taping the quadriceps muscles and cited two articles to support this findings.5 A study by Johnson noted that the peroneal muscle activity was increased in persons with chronic ankle instability when wearing kinesiology tape, but this was only true when the visual component was removed (eyes closed). When the same subjects were tested with their eyes open, there was no difference in peroneal muscle activity on a stable surface or when balancing on a BOSU balance trainer.6 This study does not show any clinically relevance of KT since we walk and play sports with our eyes open. Furthermore, It was also noted in the study that there was no difference in the performance on subjects when tape was applied under stretch or with no stretch.5 Two researchers, Csapo and Alegre published a meta-analysis which concluded that taping does not improve muscle strength in healthy adults.7 However, Castro-Sanchez et al. noted that trunk muscle endurance was improved in one week and this improvement was maintained after four weeks.8
Another claim is that KT improves proprioception and can be used to prevent injury and improve balance. A study conducted on twenty six adults who had sustained ankle sprains reported that KT lifts the skin, allowing better proprioception and muscle movement. This article concluded that the tape aided in joint position sense and that there was a significant difference in post-taping joint sense in dorsiflexion and inversion, but not in plantar flexion. The authors attributed improvement in 2 of the 3 planes studied due to the fact that most ankle sprains occur by sudden dorsiflexion with inversion.8 Again, in a randomized controlled trial, Magalhaes et al tested the prolonged effects (more than 48 hours) of KT on functional performance and on joint proprioception and found that the tape had no significant effect (both immediate and prolonged) on functional and proprioceptive performance.5 Another randomized controlled trial conducted by Lins et al on 35 healthy women found that KT did not have an immediate or delayed effect on balance and neuromuscular performance at the quadriceps muscles.9
There is also a claim that KT is used to treat sports injuries and pain, but is it indeed effective? In a systematic review of 17 clinical-controlled trials, Lim and Tay found that KT is superior to minimal intervention in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain, but it is not better than other treatment approaches to reduce pain and disability.11 Again, in a randomized double blinded trial, it was found that the application of KT reduced pain in subjects with chronic non-specific back pain immediately and also after four weeks. The authors however concluded that the effects may be too small to be clinically relevant.10
Furthermore, on a study about the effects of KT on whiplash patients, it was noted that the subject had pain relief immediately and 24 hours after application, but the authors concluded that the improvements were not clinically significant.12 Again, in a systematic review, there was moderate evidence to support the use of KT for the immediate reduction of pain in musculoskeletal disorders, but no evidence to support its long-term use.13 Mostafavifar et. al. noted that KT may provide short term pain relief.14
In conclusion, a systematic review of 12 randomized control trials by Parreira et al., noted that KT was no better than sham taping/placebo and either provided no significant benefit, or its effect was too small to be clinically worthwhile”.15 Another review noted that there was no evidence to support the effectiveness of KT for neurological conditions or lymphatic disorders. They also concluded that kinesiology tape does not elevate muscle strength or long-term range of motion.13 In addition, a third systematic review found insufficient evidence to support the use of KT following musculoskeletal injury”.14
When taking into consideration the evidences provided here, it can be concluded that KT does not live up to most of the claimed benefits. One claim that does merit the use of KT is for pain relief as a number of articles reported short term pain relief after its application. However, the same effects can be obtained by using traditional physiotherapy modalities. Post injury application of kinesiology tape could help improve proprioception, but more research needs to be done in this area, as the evidence presented to date is inconclusive. Aside from these two examples, it does not appear that there is evidence to support the use of kinesiology tape in clinical practice.
Opinions expressed by physiogramworld contributors are their own.
- Cai C, Au IP, An W, Cheung RT. Facilitatory and inhibitory effects of Kinesio tape: Fact or Fad? Sports Medicine Australia. 2015.
- Carlson CD, McLean SP, Smith J. Effects of Kinesio Taping on Muscular Motor Unit Recruitment in the Quadriceps in Healthy Individuals. Internation Journal of Exercise Science. 2016; 2(8).
- Solomon KF, McLean SP, Smith J. The Acute Effects of Kinesio Tape on Athletic Performance in Healthy Individuals. Internation Journal of Exercise Science. 2013; 2(5).
- De Hoyo M, Alvarez-Mesa A, Sanudo B, et al. Immediate Effect of Kinesio Taping on Muscel Response in Young Elite Soccer Players. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation. 2013; 22: 53-58.
- Magalhaes I, Bottaro M, Freitas JR, et al. Prolonged use of Kinesiotaping does not enhance functional performance and joint proprioception in healthy young males: Randomized controlled trial. Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy. 2014.
- Johnson J. The effects of Kinesio Tape on peroneal muscle activity in patients with chronic ankle instability. 2014.
- Csapo R, Alegre LM. Effects of Kinesio Taping on Skeletal muscle strength: a meta-analysis of current evidence. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2015; 18(4): 450-456.
- Seo H, Kim M, Choi J, et al. Effects of Kinesio taping on joint position sense of the ankle. The Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2016; 28: 1158-1160.
- Lins C, Borges D, Macedo L, et al. Delayed effect of Kinesio Taping on Neuromuscular performance, balance, and lower limb function in healthy individuals: a randomized controlled trial. Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy. 2014.
- Castro-Sanchez A, Lara-Palomo I, Penarrocha G, et al. Kinesio Taping reduces disability and pain slightly in chronic non-specific low back pain: a randomised trail. Journal of physiotherapy. 2012; 58(2): 89-95.
- Lim E, Tay M. Kinesio taping in musculoskeletal pain and disability that lasts for more than 4 weeks: is it time to peel off the tape and throw it out with the sweat? A systematic review with meta-analysis focused on pain and also methods of tape application. Brazilian Journal of SportsMedicine. 2014.
- Gonzalez-Iglesias J, Fernandez-de-las-Penas C, Cleland J, et al. Short-term effects of cervical Kinesio Taping on pain and cervical range of motion in patients with acute whiplash injury: a randomized clinical trial. Journal of orthopeadic & sports physical therapy. 2009; 39(7): 515.
- Kalron A, Bar-Sela S. A systematic review of the effectiveness of Kinesio Taping – Fact of fashion? European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine. 2013; 49(5): 699-709.
- Mostafavifar M, Wertz J, Borchers J. A systematic review of the effectiveness of Kinesio taping for musculoskeltal injury. The Physician and Sportsmedicine. 2012; 40(4).
- Parreira P, Costa L. et al. Current evidence does not support the use of Kinesio Taping in clincal practice: a systematic review. Journal of Physiotherapy. 2014; 60(1): 31-39.