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What is all that coloured tape athletes wear and does it do anything?
25 April 2013
- What is all that coloured tape athletes wear and does it do anything?
- By Philip Godfrey BSc. (Hons.) Ost. Med. D.O. N.D.
- Osteopath. Chase Lodge Hospital, London NW7
As I watched the runners at the London Marathon it amazed me how many of them were covered in colourful 'kinesio tape'. The practice of using kinesio/K-Tape has become so popular recently which is amazing considering it was developed in the 1970's in Japan. Dr Kenzo Kase says he came up with the design because he found standard taping techniques didn't work for many of his patients.Although standard strapping provides muscle and joint support, it limits movement and, according to Dr Kase, gets in the way of the healing process by restricting the flow of inflammatory fluids below the skin.Kinesio tape is different, he says, because it lifts the skin to assist this lymphatic flow, which, in turn, reduces pain and swelling.
- One of the most common questions we get asked in my clinic is 'what the different colours mean/do'? Put simply the answer is "nothing"! The colours are a matter of personal preference but the properties of the tape are identical no matter what design is on it. Many professional athletes are highly superstitious and creatures of habit and they will swear by certain colours. Football fans will be used to seeing Mario Balotelli adorned in blue K Tape whilst Tottenham fans will know that Gareth Bale prefers black tape?!The tape differs from normal sticking plaster as it is extremely thin and is designed to have very similar properties to our own skin, in terms of how it stretches and moves. There are different techniques used to apply the tape depending on what one is trying to achieve.. It can be applied with little tension to stimulate tissues or greater tension to support tissues. At Backinhealth we have trained in the use and application of K Tape and we use it in our practice. It has to be said that we use it sparingly and don't tend to send our patients out of the practice covered from head to toe in the stuff (like some of the marathon runners!!). As the practice of using this tape has become more popular there have been sections of the press who have come out to rubbish its use and say that there is no evidence and that any perceived benefit is placebo. I think these reports are typical of ill informed sensationalist journalists but I have to concede that there is a lack of evidence and research to support ALL of the claims made by the tape manufacturers. As the use of K tape increases more and more research is being undertaken and bit by bit studies are being published. In my personal opinion K Tape is extremely useful in certain conditions. I do not believe that the positive effects are purely placebo and I have seen first hand the results.. Many dramatic and obvious results like bruising disappearing quickly where tape has been applied compared to areas not covered by tape. I believe more research needs to be undertaken to find out WHY/HOW this type of tape works to aid healing and support tissues. In the words of Andy Rolls, who is the head of medicine at West Ham Football Club, there is no doubt that the tape "does something". Now the first time I heard that, I laughed... but I do agree with him. It definitely works.. I have experienced it with our patients and I have also used it on my own knee. It may work by just providing the brain with 'feedback' as we move and sense the tape pulling gently on the skin over an injured area.. or it may increase blood flow and therefore nutrition to the damaged tissues, as suggested by Dr Kenso.. Or perhaps it simply limits vibration through the tissues and allows them to heal faster. I think K Tape is a useful tool to use in our practice in addition to treatment. I am not so sure K tape is performance enhancing, as suggested by some but whatever the case, I urge you not to be put off by bad press or write off the effects as 'placebo' and to simply try it for yourself.
- In my experience patients love it and journalists like to knock it.. I would say; Who would know.. the person wearing it or the person writing about it?!!!