15 Elastic Therapeutic Tape

Elastic Therapeutic Tape

Elastic therapeutic tape is an elastic cotton strip with an acrylic adhesive that is used with the intent of treating pain and disability from athletic injuries and a variety of other physical disorders. Unlike conventional athletic taping it is applied in a manner that allows the body to move freely without restriction. Research suggests that elastic taping may help relieve pain, but not more than other treatment approaches.

What is The Role of Taping?

The tape lifts the skin (decompression technique), increasing the space below it, and increasing blood flow and circulation of lymphatic fluids (swelling). This increase in the interstitial space is said to lead to less pressure on the body’s nociceptors, which detect pain, and to stimulate mechanoreceptors, to improve overall joint proprioception. Performance Taping works by affecting the specialized nerve receptors of the skin and the underlying fascia through the gentle tugging action the tape offers during movement. The intention is to optimize motor recruitment in order to improve the quality of movement of a specific region, and to reduce pain.

Therapeutic Taping for Pain Management

There are many brands of elastic therapeutic tape, the most well known brand being Kinesio tape. This brand of therapeutic tape was developed by Kenzo Kase in 1970 as an adjunct treatment for athletic injuries and a variety of musculoskeletal disorders. Despite being around for nearly forty years, taping remained relatively unknown until a surge in popularity after the product was donated to Olympic athletes in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and the 2012 London Summer Olympics. After being featured on this global stage it became common practice to add therapeutic taping to treatments in an effort to accelerate the return to activity, specifically for cases of low back pain. Evidence of efficacy is mostly anecdotal, but there are recent randomized controlled clinical trials showing clinically significant improvements in pain and disability.

The application of taping stays on the skin for 3-7 days, during this time the tape stimulates large diameter mechanosensitive nerve fibers. This novel sensory input helps to alleviate pain by preventing or reducing nociceptive traffic into the central nervous system. Essentially, this involves the gate control theory of pain, insofar as nociceptive signals are often modifiable in such a way that the pain experience greatly subsides or disappears altogether. Another proposed mechanism of action is that the application of tape facilitates tissue perfusion and lymphatic flow through a sympathetic vascular reflex and by mechanically increasing the interstitial space where the exchange of gases, nutrients, and metabolites between the blood and tissues occurs (Cimino et al., 2018).

In acute cases of low back pain, there are studies that show therapeutic taping provided clinically significant improvements in pain and disability (Kelle et al., 2016). In chronic cases of low back pain the literature on therapeutic taping is mixed. However there is a recent randomized controlled trial published in the journal Spine, that showed simple application of Kinesio tape over the erector muscle group reduces pain and disability in people who suffer from chronic non-specific low back pain (Al-Shareef et al., 2016).

Key Takeaways

For those who suffer from low back pain, taping has been shown to be a safe non-pharmacological therapeutic intervention that is simple to carry out, economical, and has very few and relatively minor side effects. Existing evidence suggests that therapeutic taping decreases the frequency, intensity and duration of non-specific low back pain, giving people confidence in their recovery and may lead to a reduced need for additional medication. However, it does not establish the superiority of taping to most sham interventions and other treatment approaches in terms of pain reduction. Additional rigorous study into the mechanisms behind and therapeutic values of taping would be of value.

References and Sources

Al-Shareef, A. T., Omar, M. T., & Ibrahim, A. H. (2016). Effect of Kinesio Taping on Pain and Functional Disability in Chronic Nonspecific Low Back Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Spine, 41(14), E821–E828. doi:10.1097/BRS.0000000000001447

Cimino, S. R., Beaudette, S. M., & Brown, S. (2018). Kinesio taping influences the mechanical behaviour of the skin of the low back: A possible pathway for functionally relevant effects. Journal of biomechanics, 67, 150–156. doi:10.1016/j.jbiomech.2017.12.005

Draper, C., Azad, A., Littlewood, D., Morgan, C., Barker, L., & Weis, C. A. (2019). Taping protocol for two presentations of pregnancy-related back pain: a case series. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, 63(2), 111–118.

Ghozy, S., Dung, N. M., Morra, M. E., Morsy, S., Elsayed, G. G., Tran, L., Minh, L., Abbas, A. S., Loc, T., Hieu, T. H., Dung, T. C., & Huy, N. T. (2019). Efficacy of kinesio taping in treatment of shoulder pain and disability: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Physiotherapy, 107, 176–188. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physio.2019.12.001

Kelle, B., Güzel, R., & Sakallı, H. (2016). The effect of Kinesio taping application for acute non-specific low back pain: a randomized controlled clinical trial. Clinical rehabilitation, 30(10), 997–1003. doi:10.1177/0269215515603218

Lim, E. C., & Tay, M. G. (2015). Kinesio taping in musculoskeletal pain and disability that lasts for more than 4 weeks: is it time to peel off the tape and throw it out with the sweat? A systematic review with meta-analysis focused on pain and also methods of tape application. British journal of sports medicine, 49(24), 1558–1566. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2014-094151

Lin, S., Zhu, B., Huang, G., Wang, C., Zeng, Q., & Zhang, S. (2020). Short-Term Effect of Kinesiotaping on Chronic Nonspecific Low Back Pain and Disability: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Physical therapy, 100(2), 238–254. https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/pzz163

Luz Júnior, M., Almeida, M. O., Santos, R. S., Civile, V. T., & Costa, L. (2019). Effectiveness of Kinesio Taping in Patients With Chronic Nonspecific Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review With Meta-analysis. Spine, 44(1), 68–78. doi:10.1097/BRS.0000000000002756

Macedo, L. B., Richards, J., Borges, D. T., Melo, S. A., & Brasileiro, J. S. (2019). Kinesio Taping reduces pain and improves disability in low back pain patients: a randomised controlled trial. Physiotherapy, 105(1), 65–75. doi:10.1016/j.physio.2018.07.005

Nelson, N. L. (2016). Kinesio taping for chronic low back pain: A systematic review. Journal of bodywork and movement therapies, 20(3), 672–681. doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2016.04.018

Tu, S. J., Woledge, R. C., & Morrissey, D. (2016). Does ‘Kinesio tape’ alter thoracolumbar fascia movement during lumbar flexion? An observational laboratory study. Journal of bodywork and movement therapies, 20(4), 898–905. doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2016.04.007

Velasco-Roldán, O., Riquelme, I., Ferragut-Garcías, A., Heredia-Rizo, A. M., Rodríguez-Blanco, C., & Oliva-Pascual-Vaca, Á. (2018). Immediate and Short-Term Effects of Kinesio Taping Tightness in Mechanical Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. PM & R: the journal of injury, function, and rehabilitation, 10(1), 28–35. doi:10.1016/j.pmrj.2017.05.003


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Evidence-Based Massage Therapy by Richard Lebert is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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