Have you taken part in or watched any sporting events recently, noticed some of the athletes’ limbs covered in long strips of (often brightly-coloured) tape and wondered to yourself, “what on earth is that?” Well, it’s called kinesiology tape and it is the latest tool used for recovery from injury and enhancing athletic performance.

Last year I undertook training in kinesiology taping, its application and how it differs from conventional taping, with one of the leading brands, RockTape. As a certified “RockDoc”, I can confidently and correctly apply tape to my patients if appropriate for their injury. RockTape say that their kinesiology tape is set apart from other brands in terms of the quality of the adhesive as well as the fabric tape itself. The adhesive is latex-free so is less likely to cause skin reactions, it is also heat-activated, meaning it can be applied loosely at its anchor point and be repositioned if necessary before applying the rest of the tape. It also means it sticks really well to skin after a few minutes of exposure to body heat (it is claimed to stick better and longer than other brands, lasting up to 5 to 7 days). And, for the fashion-conscious, it is available in a variety of colours and designs.

How does RockTape work?

To summarise in very basic terms, by applying the tape in various configurations over specific muscles, joints or kinetic chains (groups of muscles linked by a connective covering called fascia) you can provide varying degrees of support or restoration of normal function in the injured area while allowing the body to still move through it's normal ranges of motion; furthermore, during injury rehabilitation, pain and swelling can be reduced by the lifting effect the tape exerts on the skin, pulling it away from the underlying tissues and easing congestion. It can even be used to support physical changes during pregnancy.

Injuries that I have found most commonly benefit from kinesiology taping include tennis elbow, shoulder problems, knee and thigh pain, ankle injuries, and Achilles tendon and calf pain.

Power taping

The principle of restoring/improving kinetic chain function is not just beneficial following injury, it is becoming more and more popular with athletes and keen sportspeople looking to improve the coordination of their movements and promote proper form - you may have seen a few tennis players with bright strips of tape on their arms or legs, without any obvious sign of injury, during Wimbledon recently. Furthermore, because the tape lifts the skin away from the muscles, blood flow is increased which reduces muscle fatigue during activity and allows faster recovery.

Posture taping

Kinesiology tape can also be used for posture control. By applying tape to the area of poor posture when the individual is consciously maintaining a better posture, the tape is barely noticeable when maintaining the good posture but becomes more taut when they return to their habitual poor posture. The gentle pull of the tape on the skin reminds the person that they have adopted a poor posture and encourages a return to the better posture. The tape doesn't actually hold you upright or correct your posture for you - it still allows a full range of movement without limitation or painful pulling on the skin.

Taping service

At this current time I do not offer a stand-alone kinesiology taping service in my clinics, largely because I think that if someone has an injury or dysfunction that would benefit from taping, they would most definitely benefit from an osteopathic assessment first and maybe have taping as part of their overall treatment. I can supply tape for my patients to purchase at cost and set time aside for applying the tape at the end of their appointment if necessary.

If you live in the Henfield area and are suffering from muscle/joint pain, injury or postural problems, you can book an osteopathic consultation with me at the db Foot Clinic on Thursdays (Tel 01273 493467); if you're keen to try out kinesiology tape (and it is suitable for your specific injury) we can incorporate this into your management plan.

Outside of my clinic hours, I would be happy to demonstrate some of the taping applications to local sports/athletic clubs and teams and any other groups where taping can be useful (for example mums-to-be, walking groups, dancers, golfers and general keep-fit enthusiasts) so that participants can learn basic techniques to apply tape to themselves/each other. I would also be happy to discuss providing pre-event power taping services and pre/post-event osteopathic services to local teams.

Please email ross@southdowns-osteopathy.co.uk with any questions or requirements you may have regarding a kinesiology taping demo for your group/club/team or pre/post-event osteopathic/power taping services.