What is the current evidence for the use of Kinesio tape?
By Richard Moore | 20 December 2012

A Literature Review

The popularity of Kinesio taping has skyrocketed in recent weeks due to a high-profile presence at the London 2012 Olympics and European Football Championships, with widespread coverage in mainstream media. Much attention has been paid to the athletes wearing the tape and the claims made by the manufacturers, with very little evidence being given as to its efficacy. It is the aim of this article to assess if the current body of evidence supports the use of Kinesio taping in the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions.


Figure 1b: Muscle facilitation.

Figure 1a: Muscle inhibition.

Figure 2a: Lymphatic correction.

Figure 2b: Mechanical support.

Taping patterns for lymphatic correction of the calf.

Kinesio taping was developed by Japanese chiropractor Kenso Kase in the 1970s as a method of assisting physical treatment of damaged tissue while maintaining full range of motion ? unlike traditional taping methods, which restrict movement. The Kinesio Taping Association (KTA) has over 10,000 members worldwide and is training professionals at a rate of over 800 per year in the UK.

Kinesio tape (KT) first gained widespread attention at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, where 50,000 rolls were donated to 58 countries, giving the product exposure on the world stage. Since then, high-profile athletes such as Lance Armstrong, Rory Mcllory and David Beckham have popularized use of the tape, and it can now be regularly seen at many high-profile sporting events.

The precise mechanism of how the tape works is ultimately unproven but its ability to stretch longitudinally when placed on the skin is the primary mechanism offered by its inventor (1). The tape is said to lift the epidermis as it recoils after being applied with tension. This 'lifting' increases space between the skin and the underlying connective tissues, vessels and muscles to improve mobility and aid lymphatic and venous movement. The 'lifting; also has an effect on underlying fascia, reducing pain, decreasing susceptibility to microtrauma and improving muscle performance.

The therapeutic effect is the same for all available colours and some believe is dependent on the direction that the tape is applied. Figure 1a demonstrates as typical application to inhibit a muscle, tension is applied distally to proximally, whereas Figure 1b shows application in the opposite direction to facilitate a weakened muscle; both applied with minimal tension in the tape.

Application of KT to aid oedema reduction is shown in Figure 2a. A single strip is cut into multiple tails placed over the oedema with 0-20% tension. The 'head' of the tape is placed towards the target lymph nodes.

KT can also be used to increase joint stability by placing it over the unstable joint with all the stretch removed (Figure 2b), making the tape behave more akin to traditional athletic strapping.


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