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Kinesio Tape and Pain Management

150825_ktape3With little time to heal aches and pains from exercise, kinesiology tape is often an alternative pain management method athletes use to help speed up the healing process.

Kinesiology tape was developed in the early 1970s to prolong the effects of physical therapy. Kinesiotape may be used to help change muscle tone, move lymphatic fluids, correct movement patters, and correct posture. When there’s little time to heal aches and pains from exercise, kinesiology tape is often an alternative pain management method that professional athletes use to help speed up the healing process.

Professional golfer Michelle Wie has been wearing kinesio tape on her thigh and knee throughout the LPGA tour this summer. NBA player James Harden has been wearing kinesio tape on his right shoulder purely as a preventative measure on and off for the past eight years. And with the US Open beginning next week, Serbian tennis pro Novak Djokovic was recently spotted wearing black kinesio tape from his shoulder to his elbow to manage his forearm pain.

Whether athletes are using kinesio tape for pain management or prevention, the question still remains if it really works.

The tape is made of a thin, lightweight, elastic fabric that when used for pain management is meant to either reduce the risk of injury or speed the healing process. The tape is meant to stabilize muscles and give athletes a better awareness of how their muscles are engaging. For pain management purposes, the tape is meant to slightly lift skin away from sore or injured tissues, improving blood flow to support injured joints and muscles without obstructing the range of motion.

Jim Thornton, the president of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, recently told the New York Times, “There is no solid, independent scientific evidence that kinesio tape does what it is supposed to do. It is possible that it has health benefits but we just don’t know yet.”

While research has yet to prove that the tape actually works, some evidence may suggest that it is better as a psychological crutch. In February, researchers at NIH studied how therapeutic kinesio tape affected thirty healthy participants. Some participants were given the real kinesiotape, others were given a sham kinesio tape, and a third group was not given kinesio tape at all. The researchers concluded that any muscle facilitation from using kinesiology tape could be attributed to the placebo effect.

As Djokovic and peers gear up for the US Open, he is reportedly using the tape to help him “bear with the pain.” “You have to accept it as part of the game,” he told tennisnow.com. “Tomorrow’s a new day, hopefully it will be better.”

Have you tried using kinesiology tape on your sore muscles during exercise? Tell us if you think it works on our Facebook page.