Kin Taping is a widely used practice that has grown in its popularity since the 1970’s. From decreasing musculoskeletal pain to repositioning joints, this elastic bandage seems to be your go to guy for anything that needs repairing! Oh, and for you fashion fanatics.. it comes in a variety of colours!
But much like most of our blogs, we tend to shy away from buying into anything without a proper analysis of the research and practical implications something may have.
So here we are questioning its use!
Without further adieu..
Why Is It Used?
Taping is used as an intervention in many clinical settings for its reported ability to aid and inhibit muscle activity, repositioning of joints, pain management, injury prevention, and improvements in proprioception (Morris et al 2013). It’s popularity stems from the mimicry it provides in terms of the thickness as well as flexibility of skin (Morris et al 2013).
Despite many of these claims, much of the science does not support its efficacy as you will soon see…
What Makes Kin Taping So Extraordinary?
1.) Helps with Lymphatic Drainage and Blood Flow
To start, the problem with this claim is that there is no current evidence to support it in the research. Countless reviews have been done on taping and its “benefits”, and not one piece of researched literature can support its superior ability to improve lymph drainage and blood flow.
The thought is that by lifting the skin, somehow blood flow and “drainage” will be increased, leading to who knows what sort of benefit.
An interesting study by Tsai et al (2009) took 12 participants with breast cancer that suffered from lymphedema. Lymphedema is essentially fluid build up in the extremities generally caused from tissue damage and poor movement (drainage) of lymphatic fluid.
Tsai et al (2009) implemented the use of kin tape to encourage fluid movement. Over the 4 week trial, no differences were found in limb size, fluid composition, lymphedema related symptoms or quality of life. Despite the lack of effectiveness, even if there was a change, there is no data that exists to identify clinically relevant changes in these variables.
In conclusion, there is NO EVIDENCE supporting this claim! While Kin Tape will not make blood flow or lymphatic drainage worse, it sure won’t make it better! It would be wise to abandon this reasoning for using Kin Tape.
2.) Pain Relief
Reducing pain in patients is a huge win for any practitioner as it results in an immediate improved quality of life! Whether you are an athlete or a senior with a nagging injury, pain sucks! Anything that reduces pain gets the green light!
Can Kin Tape do anything for your pain?
A systematic review by Moris et al (2013) investigated the effects of Kin Tape on the management of various conditions such as shoulder impingement, neck pain, chronic low back pain, patellofemoral pain syndrome, and plantar fascitis.
In terms of shoulder impingement syndrome, there was no sufficient evidence found that indicated benefits of the use of Kin Tape in terms of pain free range of motion, as well as enhanced function compared to the control (sham group) (Moris et al 2013). In terms of neck pain, there was a similar trend suggesting that there is no clinical benefits in using this tape for pain or enhanced range of motion (Moris et al 2013).
In addition, there was limited evidence that found Kin Tape in affiliation with physiotherapy to improve pain and fascia thickness compared to physiotherapy on its own (Moris et al 2013). When addressing Chronic Low Back Pain, the research suggests that there is no evidence that Kin Tape has any greater benefit in improving range of motion and decreasing pain. The outcome was also similar for patellofemoral pain syndrome, in which there was little evidence suggesting Kin Tape provided enhancements in pain relief (Moris et al 2013).
As you can see, there is a similar trend among all of these findings. There is insufficient evidence that suggests Kin Tape has a positive effect on pain management and relief in terms of short term use over numerous conditions.
NOTE: If there was any associated improved perceptions in pain, it is most likely a distraction from the pain or some sort of placebo benefit. Taping sends afferent signals to the nervous system based on the skin sensation it provides, where your mind now perceives the pain of the injury as less due to the focus on the feeling of the tape. Next time you stub your toe, try rubbing your arm. The pain might magically disappear!
3.) Injury Prevention
It’s not uncommon to see athletic therapists and physios taping athletes for practices and games. This could either be to prevent injury or to deal with a current musculoskeletal pathology. Should Kin Tape be your crutch?
- Range Of Movement
Another common claim that is associated with Kin Tape is how it is used to increased range of motion. It is said that there is an enhanced range of motion within a muscle when Kin Tape is applied, as there is an increase in blood circulation to the taped area (Williams et al 2012). Research suggests that if any, there is a small short term increase in range of motion in injured individuals; however, this is still unclear because there was no placebo used in the investigation (Williams et al 2012).
Without a placebo, a direct relation cannot be established which makes any claims rather distorted. Moreover, more research must be done to support these claims before any definitive statement is made.
NOTE: It must be outlined that pain is associated with a fear a movement, and the utilization of Kin Tape gives some individuals a sense of security and relief through sensory feedback which reduced pain and increases range of motion (Williams et al 2012).
There is no doubt this theory could work for certain individuals; however, it is necessary to establish the difference between the source of sensory feedback and the supposed CLAIMS that apparently stimulate increases in range of movement. Overall, you should be aware and be able to distinguish between the invalid claims and what actually is found to work.
- Joint Proprioception
Proprioception is thought to play a role in reducing the likelihood of an injury. If you can increase joint proprioception, you might be able to decrease risk of injury which is quite valuable regardless of who you are – athlete or not!
The ankle joint moves in a variety of planes and is extremely susceptible to injury in sports! Anything that is going to improve the ankle’s ability to respond to stimuli is a huge advantage for reducing acute injuries! Kin Tape has been thought to improve proprioception at joints, so it would make sense to apply it to the ankle if it had some sort of benefit.
It has been thought that the stretch being placed on the skin near a joint sends sensory information back to the brain, reporting joint position and movement. To date, there is really only one robust study assessing proprioception in individuals and it is on the ankle.
Halseth et al (2004) taped the anterolateral portion of the ankle joint in both males and females and used a reproduction of joint position sense (RJPS) to assess ankle proprioception. Essentially, is was the ability to replicate different joint positions. A group with Kin Tape and a group without Kin Tape were both studied, and there was no difference in proprioception at the ankle.
Once again we find ourselves without any research to support yet another claim…
In closing, I also want to leave you with one of the most recent reviews on the subject.
Parriara et al (2014) performed a systematic review further confirming that the use of Kin Tape is not supported in the research for clinical use on a variety of populations.
This review could help answer any other questions you may have about the topic!
I want to leave you with a few thoughts.
- Is it now okay to continue the use or prescription of a modality that is not based in solid research?
- Is it an ethical issue to implement a modality that does not stand up to its claims?
- Is it an issue if you make the athlete/client aware of the lack of research but offer to try the tactic ONLY after they are aware of the shortcomings?
Let’s summarize the findings:
Take Home Points:
- Kin Tape will not improve lymphatic drainage or blood flow. The research is extremely weak!
- Kin Tape is not shown to be an effective pain management or pain relief tool. However, there may be some sort of indirect neurological arousal that results in the perception of less pain through tissue distraction!
- Kin Tape for Injury Prevention? Highly Unlikely! Lack of robust relevant research.
- The use and efficacy of Kin Tape should be reevaluated in clinical settings.
Morris, D., Jones, D., Ryan, H., & Ryan, C. G. (2012). The clinical effects of Kinesio®Tex taping: A systematic review. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 29(4), 259-270. doi:10.3109/09593985.2012.731675
Tsai HJ, Hung HC, Yang JL, Huang CS, Tsauo JY 2009 Could Kinesio tape replace the bandage in decongestive lymphatic therapy for breast-cancer-related lymphedema? A pilot study. Support Care Cancer 17: 1353–1360
Williams, S., Whatman, C., Hume, P. A., & Sheerin, K. (2012). Kinesio taping in treatment and prevention of sports injuries. Sports Medicine, 42(2), 153-164. doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxy.library.brocku.ca/10.2165/11594960-000000000-00000
Halseth T, McChesney JW, DeBeliso M, et al. The effects of Kinesio taping on proprioception at the ankle. J Sports Sci & Med 2004; 3 (1): 1-7
Parreira, P. D., Costa, L. D., Junior, L. C., Lopes, A. D., & Costa, L. O. (2014). Current evidence does not support the use of Kinesio Taping in clinical practice: a systematic review. Journal of Physiotherapy, 60(1), 31-39. doi:10.1016/j.jphys.2013.12.008