Over the past several years, many athletes are wearing colourful Kinesio tape on different parts of their body for injury management. I have wondered about the effectiveness of this treatment.
Based on the physiology of injury repair, I can’t make sense of the benefits. However, having an open mind about the advances in science, I decided to research if evidence supports the use of skin tapes for injuries.
Please note; there is a clear distinction between the use of tape, such as athletic adhesive tape to an injured ankle, and the tapes applied to the skin, such as Kinesio tape.
After researching several studies that evaluated the use of skin taping, there is no scientific evidence of significant benefit. However, if we look at the physiology suggested by using Kinesio Tape, it’s claimed there is increased proprioception (the concept of knowing where your body is in space) that is beneficial.
Unfortunately, this is the only benefit noted when it comes to injury management with Kinesio Tape.
How does Kinesio tape work
Proponents of Kiniseo Tape report that “lifting” of the skin, as you would see if you pinched the skin on the back of your hand is an advantage using this method. Consequently, this claimed benefit of lifting, is creating a negative pressure allowing blood and lymphatic vessels to open, increasing circulation of both fluids.
However, fundamental understanding of fluid dynamics and tissue pressure concludes that negative pressure causing an increase of fluid accumulation is undesirable, since it could allow injured tissues to be decompressed and delay the repair process.
How muscles work
Consider this example: The muscles and tendons in our bodies are made of fibres, like a broom is made of multiple sticks. When the sticks are separated, they are not as strong as when they are compressed together. Similarly, in the body, keeping repairing tissues close together will decrease fluid accumulation and improve the healing process.
Another way to understand this is how a gaping cut on your skin will heal faster if the wound is stuck together versus being left open. The same theory applies to our injured muscles. Compressing them gives them the potential to be stronger and heal faster. Whereas, Kiniseo tape does the opposite effect by pulling them apart, causing a possible increase in swelling and slowing recovery process.
The benefit of wearing a compression sleeve compared to applying Kiniseo Tape is clear, the compression will help to reduce swelling and compress the damaged tissues so they have the potential to be stronger, consequently increasing proprioception as well.
There is no disputing that the colourful patterns seen with the use of Kinesio Tape is quite decorative. Fortunately, if you’re looking to make a fashion statement, in addition to effectively treating their injuries, Body Helix compression wraps are available in a variety of colours. To learn more about compression and how it could help you treat your injury, click here.
I have been contacted by physical therapists who use Kinesio Tape or similar products, and are convinced they are beneficial.
Whilst we base our analysis on science, absence of proof is not proof of absence and it’s possible that the science is incorrect.
Let me know what you think.
About the Author:
Thomas E. Parker, MD, Chief Science Officer of Body Helix, is a retired physician, with a practice specialty of Internal Medicine.
He attended The Ohio State University College of Medicine and completed his Internal Medicine internship and residency at Duke University Medical Center. Parker received the distinction of “Top Doctor” in Charlotte Magazine in 2011, 2012, and 2014.
In 2008, Parker became involved in Body Helix as a founding member and Chief Science Officer with the responsibility of overseeing product development, safety and guiding marketing materials to reflect scientifically accurate claims.