Kinesio Tape

As we all know, most modern jobs require us to perform repetitive tasks, in uncomfortable positions, for hours on end.  Over time, the body begins to develop irregular movement patterns; certain areas become tight while others become weak.  As this process continues, the body becomes deconditioned.  Simple tasks, such as climbing stairs, performing weekend yard work, lifting a grandchild, or going for a jog become stressful and inefficient.  Eventually, the body is unable to compensate for this newly created stress, and an injury arises.  These injuries are often the result of repetitive strain, and overuse, of the joints, tendons, muscles, and ligaments of the body.  Throw in the unpredictable “rolled ankle,” or missed step, and we find ourselves in a great deal of discomfort.

To avoid such injuries, or at least make them manageable, patients are looking for more conservative forms of care. These treatments might include chiropractic adjustments to maintain proper joint range of motion, cryotherapy chambers for soft tissue/inflammation support, natural pain relievers, and kinesio tape for injured muscles/joints that need support and mobility simultaneously.

You may be asking yourself, what exactly is kinesio tape? Kinesio tape is an often brightly colored elastic tape (blue, pink, green, etc.), that was invented by chiropractor Kenzo Kase in the 1970’s.  It most recently rose to notoriety after being worn by Olympic track and field athletes, and U.S. volleyball medalist Kerri Walsh. The tape was designed to mimic human tissue, in an attempt to restore the flexibility loss in an injured muscle. When applied in a specific manner, the tape may help to reduce pain, retrain proper motor control/function, reduce inflammation and swelling, relax or fortify injured muscles, prevent injuries, and improve activity performance (whether with daily tasks or athletics). Unlike traditional rigid white athletic tape, which is often used to immobilize joints (think taping a sprained ankle), the elastic property of kinesio tape allows an individual to continue performing at a high level.

Upon reviewing the research surrounding kinesio tape, it is generally observed that more high-quality, scientific studies need to be performed to truly assess the tape’s effectiveness. However, there appears to be a common thread supporting the use of kinesio tape for short-term, acute pain relief. This finding was present across a wide range of injuries, including de Quervain’s tenosynovitis (thumb pain), acute whiplash of the neck, chronic low back pain, and shoulder impingement. Evidence also suggests that the use of kinesio tape may improve joint positioning in regards to improving grip strength.

Clinically, at Full Function Chiropractic, we have seen positive results with using kinesio tape to treat a wide array of conditions, including tennis elbow, neck pain, swelling associated with knee strains/sprains, plantar fasciitis, and lateral ankle injuries (including my own).  However, we also appreciate that there is no such thing as a quick fix, or magic bullet, when it comes to health. Typically, therapies such as kinesio tape are used in conjunction with other treatments, in and out of the office. This combination creates a synergistic effect, in which all of the therapies work together to create an efficient environment for recovery.

A prime example of this would be a patient who presents to the office with shoulder pain, primarily with activities such as lifting, getting dressed, or reaching overhead.   Based on the results of an exam, a treatment plan would be created to meet the specific needs of the patient. This care plan may include chiropractic adjustments of the neck, mid-back, and shoulder regions, exercise instruction, therapeutic modalities such as electric stimulation, ergonomic advice, and nutritional counseling to limit inflammation/promote healing.

Adjustments have been found to not only restore proper range of motion/biomechanics, but to reduce inflammation and restore proper muscle function to the affected area. This stimulation allows us to activate the supporting muscles of the shoulder-blade, and respective rotator cuff, with focused exercises. Due to its high degree of motion, and shallow joint shape, the shoulder is a highly unstable joint that depends greatly on the force of these muscles for proper function.

A common finding among shoulder injuries is weakness of the rhomboids and lower trapezii muscles; both of which help to create a stable shoulder-blade. When these muscles work properly, the shoulder-blade is said to be held in a downward direction. By having the patient start in this position, and then applying the kinesio tape, we are able to create a unique feedback system. Every time the patient allows the shoulder-blade to move out of position, the tape will create a tugging sensation across the back. This tension reminds us to tighten up the shoulder-blade before moving the shoulder itself. By restoring proper strength, and movement patterns, we are better able to achieve long-term relief.