Kinesiology taping has seen a huge surge in popularity in recent years, most notably since the 2008 Beijing Olympics where it adorned athletes everywhere from the diving board to the track and hurtling around the velodrome. Bulging quadriceps with brightly coloured tape caught the world’s eye and sales apparently tripled. But it has come under criticism from those who say it is merely a flashy placebo. Lotus caught up with ‘the expert’s expert’ John Gibbons – world-renowned osteopath, author of ‘A Practical Guide to Kinesiology Taping’ and lecturer for the Bodymaster Method – to get his views on the subject.
LP: Where did kinesiology tape originate?
JG: It was first introduced by Dr Kenzo Kase, a Japanese chiropractor and acupuncturist, who believed there was a need for a tape with a texture and elasticity closer to human tissue than the rigid athletic tapes on the market (zinc oxide tape, for example, which stabilises and immobilises an area such as the patella, or elasticated adhesive bandages which aid compression of muscular strains and hematomas). Kinesiology tape can be stretched up to 180% of its original length and has a thickness and elasticity similar to that of human skin, meaning it can provide support for many days whilst allowing normal movement and continued training.
LP: How does it work?
JG: Injury or trauma to the body will set off the body’s protective inflammatory response: pain, swelling, heat, redness and restricted movement. We know kinesiology taping helps relieve this inflammation by lifting the skin, promoting blood flow and facilitating lymphatic drainage (Capobianco and van den Dries, 2009). But there’s more to it than that. It is also believed to reduce pain through neurological suppression, help correct joint misalignment by influencing the function of fascia and muscle, stimulate muscle facilitation and inhibition (Kase et al, 1996, 2003), and increase proprioception through increased stimulation to mechanoreceptors in the skin (Murray and Husk, 2001).
LP: Kinesiology tape has many applications, but has received criticism from people who claim the evidence is mostly anecdotal. What is your view on that?
JG: It is important to remember that it only treats the symptoms and not the cause, but in this respect the evidence is good.
Take ankles, for example. Murray and Husk (2001) showed that kinesiotaping helps ankle joint proprioceptors through increased stimulation of the cutaneous mechanoreceptors, and a study by Lee et al in 2012 showed that it helped increase ankle range of movement and decrease tenderness and pain in athletes with Achilles-related restricted movement. Knees: Chen et al conducted a study in 2008, which concluded that kinesiology taping could reduce pain relating to patellar instability when climbing stairs. And with low back pain, Castro-Sanchez et al (2012) found that there were significant improvements in disability, pain, isometric endurance of the trunk muscles and trunk flexion ROM. I could go on and on.
Kinesiotaping has revolutionised the field of taping as we know it and with my hand on my heart I can say that, in all my time treating thousands of athletes and teaching thousands more students, I have never once had a negative comment about the application or its effects. I am convinced that it works.
Further information on the practical and theoretical aspects (including the evidence base) of kinesiology taping is contained in John Gibbons’ book, ‘A Practical Guide to Kinesiology Taping for Injury Prevention and Common Medical Conditions’. John also hosts a 1-day course, ‘Kinesiology Taping for the Athlete’, at his Bodymaster Academy at the prestigious Oxford University Sport.