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Athletic Tape: Types, Benefits and the Research Behind the Tape

Dr. Caitlin McAlpine, D.C

The use of taping in clinical practice is an extremely valuable tool that is used in the management of numerous types of musculoskeletal injuries. Due to its ease of use, widespread availability and purposed therapeutic benefits, athletic taping has become increasingly popular and more research studies are being conducted to establish its effects. There are different types of athletic tape on the market; therefore, it is important to speak with your chiropractor about the type of tape that is best for you and your injury. For example, traditional white athletic tape promotes stability due to its lack of extensibility and is used mainly for acute trauma and preventing injuries from reoccurring. Conversely, Kinesio Tape is designed to stretch and this characteristic allows for a full range of motion in the affected joint.

Taping can be used before an injury occurs, as a preventative measure, or may also be used after an injury, as part of the treatment. Here are some of the purposed benefits of different types of taping techniques:

1. Increases Proprioception

The term “proprioception” refers to the body’s ability to know where it is in space, or, the body’s unique capability to sense movement. After an injury has occurred, a joint loses its position sense, which directly affects coordination and balance, causing the individual to be prone to further injury. It is hypothesized that the pressure of the tape against the skin stimulates receptors that send information to the brain about the joint’s position, enhancing proprioception.

2. Decreases Swelling

Immediately after an injury, there is an increase in blood flow to the damaged area and swelling typically occurs. Taping the site of injury helps to raise the skin and ultimately create more space, allowing for improved circulation of blood and lymph flow.

3. Provides Support and Stability

to injured tissues to help prevent re-injury

4. Corrects Muscle Function

Tape has the ability to strengthen weak muscles and reduce muscle tightness and tension, which tend to result from an injury

5. Decreases Pain

Pain levels decrease through neurological suppression, reduction in muscle tension and improved circulation.

More research is needed to support the purposed benefits of taping an injury, as well as the benefits that the tape may have on athletic performance. Although there are not enough high quality studies to definitively state the effects of taping protocols, it is clear that taping does not hinder performance, and therefore, it should be considered as either a treatment option or preventative strategy when dealing with an injury.

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