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K” tape has been around since the 1970s when Dr Kenzo Kase began experimenting with elasticated tape to reduce pain felt by his patients. Since then the tape has made a colourful appearance in elite sport and there is barely any skin left that isn’t taped in the Cross Fit games!
So there are two questions you may be asking yourself: does it work and how might I benefit from it?
Whilst some manufacturers claim massive benefits from the tape’s use, the more responsible ones are a little more realistic. Evidence is mixed to the benefits and if you’d like to read up on the studies can I suggest you go to the RocktapeUK website. RocktapeUK pride themselves on being evidence based so I’ll let you make your own mind up. As a general rule there seems to be a benefit of between 1 to 5%, sometimes there’s no benefit and sometimes there can be a lot, with every situation and person being different. This may not seem like much but it might be just enough to get you moving again without so much pain or carrying out a couple more reps of your rehabilitation exercises. Either way it may help you get back your functional movement that little bit quicker.
Other than pain reduction “K” tape can also be used for Oedema (swelling) control and Postural control. More advanced techniques include Muscle Recalibration taping (all to do with the agonist /antagonist relationship), Ligament support taping (increased proprioception for damaged ligaments) and Power taping (increasing power or endurance of weaker muscle groups). How it does all this is not completely known but it is believed that tape provides neurosensory stimulation, decompression and a bit of fascial release. It’s these properties that can be manipulated by the therapist to provide the benefits.
The great thing about “K” tape is that it is comparatively cheap, has very few contraindications, and, if there are any issues or it’s not working you can just take it off. Good quality tape should stay on 3 to 5 days and often longer. Just one point to highlight is that it doesn’t stick to hair very well! Speaking from experience, it’s definitely better to shave prior to application, should you need to.
If you’re a sports person just a word of warning. Some sports don’t let you compete with tape e.g. swimming, so make sure you check the rules if you intend to participate with the tape on.
Just like with most treatment modalities, tape, by itself, may not be the sole answer to your issues but rather a “tool” in the box of your therapist. If you’d like to know more please don’t hesitate to ask at the clinic.
Simon Abbott