Serena Williams, Cristiano Ronaldo, Maro Itoje, Mo Farah, Andy Murray, to name just a few, sports taping is used by almost all athletes at one stage or another.
Our chiropractors are trained in sports-taping and may use it as part of your treatment, but what for? What does sports tape do, and is it only something for athletes?
Although sports tape seems to have boomed in popularity recently, it has been around in its current form for nearly 40 years. Sports tape goes by lots of different names; kinesio tape, k-tape, rock tape, kt-tape and more. The theory goes that taping helps with soft tissue recovery and injury resilience.
There are several mechanisms the have been proposed as explanations for this.
The mechanical assistance provided by the tape may help people maintain better posture, at the same time as unloading muscles. Similarly, it may be less easy to over-stretch muscles for the same reason.
Another effect claimed is that sports tape fractionally lifts the skin away from the tissue beneath, allowing better movement of fluid and greater mobility.
The clinical claims associated with these effects include reduced inflammation, better posture and less strain on muscles, resulting in lower injury risk and higher levels of performance.
Importantly, none of these claims is purely beneficial to athletes. Anybody can benefit from aids that improve posture, while decreasing load on specific muscles can help prevent injuries arising from day to day tasks as well as vigorous activity.
On top of a preventative effect, some of the actions of kinesio tape can help assist with recovery of injury. The most common instances in which sports tape is used are those involving muscle strain and ligament sprain. It is used more frequently for mobile joints such as shoulders, knees and ankles.
The caveat to all of this comes when looking in detail at evidence. Research into musculoskeletal health is often very difficult to conduct and so most of the research backing up sports-tape use suffers from being of poor quality.
There will always be contention amongst scientists over which claims hold the most water, but one thing everybody agrees on is that the placebo effect from having colourful tape strapped onto a sore muscle just before the cup-final can only help.
Don’t expect miracles from sports-tape alone but, as part of a package of care, it’s definitely worth a try and could be beneficial for a range of different muscle and joint problems.