The art of taping

Kinesiology taping has been around for more than 35 years. Chiropractors, physical therapists, athletic trainers and massage therapists have used it for decades, and for many good reasons—all of which apply to the realm of massage therapy.

Kinesiology tape has been shown to reduce pain; positively affect fluid mechanics; improve posture and muscle function; speed recovery; and improve sporting performance. That’s a giant basket of good reasons, if you ask me. Today, you’d be hard-pressed not to see the colorful, cool-looking tape on amateur and pro athletes in various sports, as well as folks leaving physical therapy appointments at which they’ve been treated for common ailments such as knee replacements, shoulder injuries and low back pain.

Not all tape nor taping education programs are equal, however. There are many brands: RockTape, Spider Tech, and Kinesio Tape, among others, and a few schools of thought on how to apply it. Thanks to some forward-thinking folks, the evolution of application and successful client outcomes have led to a more global and more effective method of taping.

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Why tape?

And, more importantly, how can tape benefit our work as massage therapists and benefit our clients? If you’re in the field of manual therapy, you already have a grasp on the benefits, the whys, and the how-tos of moving tissues, fluids and fascia, while increasing range of motion. The power of touch is remarkable. That’s why we do it. But how many times have your clients left your office and said, “I felt great for a while, but the pain came back”?

If you understand the role of stability, synergists and compensation patterns, you understand that a returning symptom points to the fact that the site of pain isn’t necessarily the root of the issue and other contributing factors need to be addressed. Once these underlying issues are discovered, kinesiology tape can reinforce therapies to more properly address not only the site of discomfort but also the cause. With taping, you can send clients out the door with the benefits of movement feedback, postural awareness and correction, stabilization and pain reduction. That’s super for your clients—and even better for your business.

How tape works

Considering that the skin contains more mechanoreceptors than any other part of our body, it should come as no surprise how combining manual therapy with a tactile feedback mechanism like kinesiology tape can have incredible results that last long after our clients leave our treatment tables.

When taping athletes, I can literally invoke movement re-education—think posture correction, patterning corrections, and muscle activation; reduce pain and inflammation; and increase sports performance and recovery, all while reinforcing the work done during manual therapy.

All of this can be accomplished without restricting range of motion, and in about five minutes or less. Common ailments we see in our offices, such as rotator cuff injuries, whiplash, shin splints, knee issues, low back pain, upper trapezius pain and plantar fasciitis all can benefit from kinesiology taping.

Understanding the fluid effect

The fluid effect is induced by the elastic properties of the tape, which produce a vertical lift of skin from the underlying tissue, thus decompressing the space between skin and muscle. Understanding fascia, you get the importance of this. This direct effect on the subcutaneous layer promotes improved blood and lymphatic flow in the area where you apply the tape, thus creating speedy removal of injury waste products and pain-generating chemicals, which in turn promotes healing. This sounds strangely like the changes we aim to create through massage.