We spent a good amount of time going over the theory behind kinesiology taping, its application and how it differs from conventional taping. It certainly made a lot of sense. 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 while allowing the body to still move through it's normal ranges of motion; furthermore 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.
The theory is all well and good but does it work in practice? I was selected as the guinea pig for a demonstration of restoring kinetic chain function. A good way to assess this is to get the subject doing squats and to carefully observe for asymmetry or compensatory movements when completing the squat. Barry quickly noted that my right leg and foot tended to roll in slightly as I went down into the squat: this was a result of altered ankle proprioception (the brain's awareness of where the body is in space, relative to its other parts - an example of this is the ability to touch the tips of your index fingers together when your eyes are closed) following a bad sprain 15 years ago. Barry applied RockTape to the sole of my foot, up around the outside of my ankle, calf and thigh, and all the way up to just below my armpit. I was then asked to repeat the squat and, amazingly, there was an obvious improvement in function despite the age of my injury!
This principle of restoring/improving kinetic chain function is described as power taping and is becoming more and more popular with athletes and keen sportspeople - 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. However, kinesiology tape can also be used for injury rehabilitation and reduction of pain and swelling. I didn't have any current injuries to test the tape on but I did happen to have a very tight muscle in my lower back so thought I would see if RockTape could ease this. A combination of support and decompression application techniques were used and the area instantly felt "lighter" as the tape gently lifted my skin away from the tight muscle. I imagine for a genuine muscle strain or joint sprain it would have felt far more beneficial but it took a bit of good old-fashioned deep massage from one of the other delegates to relax the muscle. I am trialling RockTape as an aid to reducing pain and swelling on selected patients in my clinic so will hopefully have a more informed opinion on this soon.
Another application that I was keen to try was taping for posture control. I'm fairly tall so it's not uncommon for me to stoop when interacting with people - I can really get into the habit of slouching my back and rolling my shoulders forward. I know that repeatedly adopting this posture will eventually lead to backache but it's surprisingly hard to break a habit and I rarely even realise I'm doing it. Some wider sections of RockTape across my upper back, designed to be neutral and barely noticeable when standing properly, but to become taut when I slouched, soon made me realise when my posture was becoming lazy and encouraged me to keep myself more upright. The tape doesn't actually hold you upright or correct your posture for you - it still allowed me to bend fully forward without limitation or painful pulling on the skin, which meant I could comfortably wear it whilst working.
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.
It's a week later, so how was it wearing the RockTape during my everyday activities? Let's start with the posture control taping. For the first 4 days, I barely noticed it was there unless I was slouching, when the gentle pull on my skin reminded me to stand up straight. By day 5 I think the adhesive may have been starting to fail slightly and was causing a sharper pulling sensation in places, a bit like when you slowly remove a sticking plaster. By the evening of day 6 I decided to remove it as it was coming away at the edges and I was becoming more and more aware of having something stuck to my skin. It was actually still stuck pretty firmly in most places, leading to a small amount of discomfort when removing but nothing that would put me off using it again. The power taping down my side lasted less well. After a few hours of playing tennis (and sweating profusely) it had peeled away from my foot, although it was still well stuck above the ankle. RockTape sell an extra-sticky "H2O" tape, designed for use in water, so I might try that if I repeat that application in future!
I've not tried other brands of kinesiology tape to see how they compare on quality, comfort or price but I imagine they all work on the same basic principles.
If you live in the Brighton and Hove area and are suffering from muscle/joint pain, injury or postural problems, why not contact me for a consultation or to discuss how osteopathy could help you; if you're keen to try out kinesiology tape we can incorporate this into your management plan.