Is Kinesio Tape an Effective Method of Injury Management?

Omsk, Russia - September 20, 2015: girl athlete running a marathon, knees in blue kinesiology taping during Siberian international marathon

Over the past several years, I have noticed many athletes wearing colourful Kinesio tape on different parts of their bodies for injury management and often wondered about the effectiveness of this treatment. Based on anatomy, normal physiology and the known physiology of injury repair, I couldn’t seem to make any sense of the benefit. However, always having an open mind about the advances in science, I decided to research if any evidence supports the use of skin tapes for injury management and pain control. Please note there is a clear distinction between the use of tape, such as athletic adhesive tape that might be used to tape an injured ankle, and the tapes applied to the skin, such as Kinesio tape and its imitators.

After researching the findings of several studies that evaluated the use of skin taping, I have found there to be no scientific evidence of significant benefit.1 However, if we look at the physiology reported to occur with Kinesio Tape, it is noted that there is increased proprioception (the concept of knowing where your body is in space and the ability to safely manoeuvre around your environment) that is indeed beneficial. Unfortunately, this is the only benefit worth noting when it comes to effective management of injuries with Kinesio Tape.

Proponents of Kiniseo Tape often report that the “lifting” of the skin, much as you would see if you pinched the skin on the back of your hand and lifted it up, is an advantage to using this method. This claimed benefit of the “lifting” effect is the creation of a negative pressure allowing both blood vessels and lymphatic vessels to dilate (open), increasing circulation of both fluids. However, the most fundamental understanding of fluid dynamics and tissue pressure concludes that the negative pressure that causes an increased fluid accumulation is undesirable since it could allow injured tissues to be decompressed and delay the effective repair process.

Isolated broom on white.Consider this example to further explain my thoughts: When thinking of the muscles and tendons in our bodies, consider how they are made of fibers, much like how a broom is actually made of multiple “broomsticks.” When the individual broomsticks are separated, they are in turn, not as strong as when compared to broomsticks that are compressed together. Similarly, in the body, keeping the tissues that need to be repaired close together will decrease fluid accumulation and will improve the healing process. Another way to envision this process is to consider how a gaping cut on your skin will heal faster if the wound is sutured together versus if it is left open. The same premise applies internally to our injured muscles and tissues. Compressing them gives them the potential to be stronger and heal faster. Whereas, Kiniseo tape actually does the opposite effect by pulling them apart, causing a possible increase in swelling and a slower recovery process.Full Knee Compression Sleeve Teal

The benefit of wearing a compression sleeve compared to applying Kiniseo Tape, though, is clear since the compression will help to reduce swelling, will compress the damaged tissues so that they have the potential to be stronger, and will increase proprioception as well.

There is no disputing that the colorful and artful patterns that are seen with the use of Kinesio Tape is quite decorative. Fortunately for athletes who are looking to make a fashion statement in addition to effectively treating their injuries, Body Helix compression wraps are also available in a variety of styles and colors too. To learn more about compression and how it could help you treat your injury, click here.

Addendum Jan 21, 2017  There is more to come on this. Since this article was published I have been contacted by physical therapists who use Kinesio Tape or similar products and are convinced they are beneficial. While we like to base our analysis on science, absence of proof is not proof of absence and it is possible that the science is incorrect.  Let me know what you think.



About the Author:
Thomas E. Parker, MD, Chief Science Officer of Body Helix, is a retired physician, with a practice specialty of Internal Medicine. He attended The Ohio State University College of Medicine and completed his Internal Medicine internship and residency at Duke University Medical Center. Parker received the distinction of “Top Doctor” in Charlotte Magazine in 2011, 2012, and 2014.

In 2008, Parker became involved in Body Helix as a founding member and Chief Science Officer with the responsibility of overseeing product development, safety and guiding marketing materials to reflect scientifically accurate claims.

2 thoughts on “Is Kinesio Tape an Effective Method of Injury Management?

  1. Dennis Nielson says:

    I am an 82 year old tennis player, who continues to play both doubles and singles on a Category 1 and 2 level. I wonder if you are missing one of the biggest reasons for wearing the compression wraps? I have been wearing similar wraps for at least 20+ years. I have found that if I have or get a pain, I immediately put a wrap on. This has resulted in the pain not getting worse but in the overwhelming cases of going away. The reason, in my opinion, is the HEAT generated around the joint. I have had 3 wraps on my limbs at once. I have been, I’m sure, a leading proponent in the use of these for keeping pain from causing future. I have worn on occasion an ankle, calf, knee, thigh, back, wrist and elbow wrap, all of which I carry in my bag. I one match I felt a twinge in my butt on the 3rd point, and thought ‘what to do now?’ So I put one on my thigh on the side of the pain and amazingly, it worked as I had no further trouble and went on to beat a worthy opponent. Anyhow, I am a believer in these neoprene wraps and how they have made my pursuit of competitive tennis a pleasant reality.

  2. Kim E says:

    A frequent visitor of the dreaded tennis elbow. The last episode lasted almost a year! After much rest and better mechanics, the tennis elbow finally healed. However, 3-4 yrs later, after some overuse and some heavy serve practices, the tennis elbow was worse than ever. I knew a friend who swore by her compression wrap. I had used everything on the market, including kinesiology tape, guards, various elbow wraps, etc She told me she used the body helix. I had the elbow sleeve on for two days and my tennis elbow is already 50% better. I had to get used to it as the pain was so bad, any compression was painful but after about 30 minutes, I noticed the pain subsiding. I could not even pick up a glass of ice water without pain. I can’t wait to try it on the court in a day or so. Will keep you posted. Already a fan!

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