Kinesiology Taping: A New Approach to Pain Relief

Injuries, arthritis, poor posture, swelling, chronic pain and other health problems can be debilitating, and various treatments advertised as being able to make your pain abate do not have the promised effect: magnets and ultrasound proved to be useless in managing chronic pain. A relatively new method of using special bands, or tapes, can be a good option to many, as it is backed by both scientific and anecdotal evidence.

Image Credit: shutterstock.com / Adam Gregor

Injuries, arthritis, poor posture, swelling, chronic pain and other health problems can be debilitating, and various treatments advertised as being able to make your pain abate do not have the promised effect: magnets and ultrasound proved to be useless in managing chronic pain. A relatively new method of using special bands, or tapes, can be a good option to many, as it is backed by both scientific and anecdotal evidence.

Despite having been introduced in the 70s, when it was developed by Kenzo Kase, kinesiology taping has become popular only recently. To be exact, it made headlines after athletes started to use them even during the Olympics, and in 2012, it turned into a trend.

Image Credit: Ryan Pierse / Getty

What is it?

Kinesiology taping implies use of special elastic bands which are called tapes. They can be of different colors, but this diversity is due to the manufacturers’ wish to bring some style and fashion into the approach, so colors do not affect their effectiveness.

When applied, tapes lift the skin, enabling the fluids in the underlying tissues flow freely, thus reducing compression in this area. It helps improve lymph and blood flow, which benefits muscles, helps remove recovery process waste faster, and relieves some of the pain associated with nerves being compressed by muscles.

The principle is clear from the picture below.

Image Credit: eujournal.org

Does it really work?

Unlike the means of treatment promoted by alternative medicine, kinesio taping has science behind it. In 2013, a team of scientists from the Indiana State University carried out a study which found that elastic tapes can increase shoulder range of motion in patients with a history of shoulder injuries, unlike stretching, which did not have such an effect.

Another research suggests that it can be effective at reducing pain and swelling, and can have an even stronger effect than a combination of an anti-inflammatory drug and physical therapy.

However, it should be noted that no scientific evidence backs the idea that tapes can boost your performance or increase strength.

Anecdotal evidence, while still not a reason to affirm the method’s effectiveness, suggests it can help those patients who have injuries, sprains, or certain chronic diseases. Even if you have walked a lot in the past several days, and now your hips, back or legs are aching, tapes can help you relieve the symptoms and recover faster.

Can I use them myself?

It depends. Kinesiology taping implies that you know a lot about anatomy, as the aim is to rearrange the pressure on tissues, which means you should know where every muscle is, what joints and tendons there are, etc. To be done appropriately – and be most effective – it should be carried out by a professional who was awarded a certificate from the American Kinesiology Association or your local association that issues such documents. The aim is not to obtain the document, but to learn how to apply tapes to make it do the trick.

Some easy applications can be used by anyone, such as those that are designed to treat knee pain. Others, like shoulder and back taping instructions, can be followed only if performed by someone else (even if you know how to do it, you simply won’t manage to reach the spot).

Here are some examples for you to study.

Standard shoulder instruction

Standard knee support

Before you try kinesiology taping, consult your GP, as there may be contraindications that may apply in your case.

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