Kinesio Tape: Fad or the Real Deal?

So the doctor sent me to get physical therapy for the sprained knee.  Giving me the script, he said, “I know you like Joint Care Physical Therapy, but I want you to go to this other place.  They use kinesio tape.”


So I was already bummed out because my knee isn’t right.  This is the most debilitating injury I’ve had; it’s totally disrupted my training for the last month.  And the guys at Joint Care are the real deal: I trust them totally and I’ve recommend them more than once.  And they’re not paying me for a link and a glowing review.

I delayed scheduling an appointment  because I was conflicted about seeing a new physical therapist.  But I sucked it up and drove to Montclair.

At the New Place, the therapist and I went through the usual intake routine.  She probed and squeezed, determining that I’d damaged the hamstring muscles where they attach to the knee, in addition to the sprained ligaments.  At the end of the session, she applied green tape along various muscle lines and sent me on my way.

While my new PT says the tape’s color isn’t significant, the therapist in this video on taping for runner’s knee says that different colors have different properties.  Halfway through viewing, I paused the video so I could light my aroma therapy candles.

kinesio tape on medial knee ligaments

Add some glitter and I’d look like some alien character out of Star Trek.  I should have thought to shave my legs.

I can’t say this stuff made me feel any better, but it didn’t make me feel any worse.  Perhaps what helped the most was that I copped to the fact that I just can’t run right now.

Since I’m studying to be a personal trainer, I thought some research on this stuff would be in order.  Kinesio tape was developed by one Kenzo Kase, a Japanese acupuncturist and chiropractor.  While it’s been around for many years, the tape got mainstream attention when Kase donated quantities of tape to 58 countries’ Olympic teams leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  Many high profile athletes have used it.

Proponents say that kinesio tape activates neurological and circulatory systems.  According to the Canadian kinesio tapers’ association, “Muscles are not only attributed to the movements of the body but also control the circulation of venous and lymph flows, body temperature, etc. Therefore, the failure of the muscles to function properly induces various kinds of symptoms.”  The tape is supposed to alleviate them.  Personally, I don’t see how this stuff frees up circulation, but I’m in no way an expert.  It should be noted that there are several different brands on the market.

Four New Zealand researchers did a meta analysis – a review of multiple scientific studies – of the available research on kinesio tape, published in the journal Sports Medicine in February 2012.  Out of 97 previous studies, Williams et al found 10 studies sufficiently rigorous to review.

Conclusions from their overview:

The efficacy of [kinesio tape] in pain relief was trivial given there were no clinically important results. There were inconsistent range-of-motion outcome results, with at least small beneficial results seen in two studies, but trivial results in two other studies across numerous joint measurements.

KT had some substantial effects on muscle activity, but it was unclear whether these changes were beneficial or harmful. In conclusion, there was little quality evidence to support the use of KT over other types of elastic taping in the management or prevention of sports injuries.

The above is quoted from an abstract of the article.  The writers conclude that additional research is needed in this field.  An recent story in Runner’s World links to videos for do it yourself kinesio taping.

Online, one finds many enthusiastic commenters writing that the tape has made big differences for them.  Others are more skeptical.  I’m taking a neutral approach right now.  I’ll try anything once to see if it works.  But I miss the crew at Joint Care.