Kinesio tape is one of the hottest products making its way into widespread use in recent years. Many of us first saw it on the shoulder of US Beach Volleyball Gold Medalist Kerri Walsh in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Kerri now endorses one of the top brands of the tape.
So what is all the fuss about, and does this elastic tape really work?
Kinesio tape manufactures (Kinesio Tex, K-Tape, KT Tape, Spider Tape, Rock Tape and more) claim it can treat injuries literally from head to toe. Treatment philosophies range from “best when applied by a professional” to “anyone can do it.” So what’s the truth?
As a Physiotherapist with experience using the tape over a hundred times in a range of applications, here’s my answer: Yes. It works. And yes, the technique used and the skill of the person applying the tape matters. Ideally one would have an understanding of the particular injury, the factors contributing to it, and how to apply the tape with a specific physiological rationale that will improve pain-free movement.
I have worked with athletes who have tried several ways of kinesiotaping for the shoulder, with variable results. Some athletes have come to me saying they’ve tried it and it doesn’t work, only to try a different application and find that it makes a substantial difference.
The most dramatic examples I have seen are:
1) taping an elderly male who had two of four rotator cuff tendons surgically removed, leaving his shoulder permanently unstable and painful, with range of motion limited to about 50% of normal. Application of the tape allowed immediate, full range of motion because it corrected the joint position.
2) taping over 30 athletes in 3 days of U17/18 Volleyball Nationals held in Abbotsford May 13, 14 and 15, 2011. I would estimate a 95% success rate (notable improvement in pain-free range of motion) with the taping. In other words, almost all the athletes could either move further before onset of pain, or felt no pain at all.
In most cases taping is not addressing the cause of the problem. Don’t kid yourself. If you have a shoulder injury, taping may help you make it through a tournament or perform closer to 100%, but there is no substitute for effectively diagnosing and treating the root cause(s) of the problem, so that you can train harder, play harder and perform like a champion.
I consider shoulder injuries to be one of my key areas of expertise. If you’d like to be the boss of your shoulder, and keep it that way, instead of the other way around, I would be glad to help. Visit my in clinic or on site page for more information about working with me.
Want to learn more about how to tape?
A good free resource is available on kttape.com. Their video instructions offer basic techniques for application that will generally be useful for novice tapers. More advanced tapers will benefit from courses or study of higher quality published resources such as Clinical Therapeutic Applications of the Kinesio Taping Method, which allows for a better understanding of the theories behind how and why the tape works.
Want to see what the research says about kinesio taping for shoulders?
García-Muro, F., Rodríguez-Fernández, A.L., Herrero-de-Lucas, A. 2010. Treatment of myofascial pain in the shoulder with Kinesio Taping. A case report. Manual Therapy 15(3): 292-295
Kaya E. Zinnuroglu M. Tugcu I. 2011. Kinesio taping compared to physical therapy modalities for the treatment of shoulder impingement syndrome. Clinical Rheumatology. 30(2):201-7
Thelen MD. Dauber JA. Stoneman PD. 2008. The clinical efficacy of kinesio tape for shoulder pain: a randomized, double-blinded, clinical trial. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 38(7):389-95
About the author
Travis Dodds is a registered physiotherapist practicing clinically in Vancouver (InSync Physiotherapy on Cambie Street and King Edward Avenue) and Richmond (LifeMark Sports Medicine at the Richmond Olympic Oval), British Columbia. In Clinic, he sees private, sport, ICBC and WSBC/WCB patients and treats conditions from head to toe. He also consults to teams and clubs for On-site Services such as establishing and implementing team prehab programs, injury screening, recovery and pre-practice treatments. Additional on-site sevices are provided to tournament hosts for high level events and charitable causes. Building on his experience playing and coaching volleyball, he curently consults to UBC Women’s Volleyball Team, Thunder Volleyball Club, and Volleyball BC.
Travis’ goal is to help people prevent injuries, recover faster, and perform like a champion.