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How can taping be beneficial?

Tapes are a good complement to other therapies. Be it for pain relief, to improve movement patterns or for muscle relaxation.

In 2010, when Italian soccer player Mario Balotelli tore off his shirt after scoring in the semifinals, many spectators stared at the three turquoise stripes on his back and wondered, “What’s that about?”
Eleven years later, it’s hard to imagine treating athletes without the tapes. They are not a miracle cure for pain – but they often help surprisingly well in practice. Unfortunately, these “pieces of the puzzle” often come up short in the overall treatment program.

Improving movement patterns

Initially, the colorful adhesive tapes developed by the Japanese Kenzo Kaze in 1979 were considered pure placebos. In the meantime, however, some – albeit small – studies have shown that, for example, muscle strength can increase during taping and that taping improves body awareness.
What happens on or in certain areas of the body, such as the back, the brain generally perceives much worse than, for example, the sensitive fingertips. Taping improves body awareness for the areas where the tapes are stuck. They direct the attention there more, the “networking” with the brain improves and this leads to better control of movement sequences.
Therefore, poorly trained athletes or people with poor body control often benefit more from taping than competitive athletes. For the poorly trained, the muscles are not “controlled ” as well by the brain. The tape then provides additional information to the brain.

Often useful for ligament tears

Another area of application is acute injuries such as supination trauma (twisting) of the ankle. This, as with any trauma, worsens positional control. In this case, taping can also help to regain “awareness” of the position of the joint. However, taping is often worthwhile even after a previous trauma or a torn ligament.
In addition, the swelling and bruising after supination trauma disappear much faster thanks to a lymphtape. In general, joints with high degrees of freedom, such as the shoulder and knee, which are stabilized mainly by muscles and tendons, benefit more from taping.

Good therapy supplement for “runners leg”

Overuse injuries such as “runners leg” or “jumpers knee” also often respond well to taping. The adhesive tapes with the wave-like applied adhesive film can shorten the pain and the recovery time here.
Various studies have also been able to show an increase in strength, speed, power and a shortening of recovery after training in the anaerobic range. The tapes stimulate the skin receptors and through them probably more motor units are recruited in the muscle.
However, their placebo effect should certainly not be underestimated either – but why not take advantage of it?

Tips:

  • It’s best to have a professional apply the tape the first time and explain the system. Take some photos. They will help you when you want to apply the tape yourself.
  • Buy good quality tapes, the glue will last longer. By the way, the manufacturers of good tapes often give good instructions on how to proceed. Find out the best taping method for your problem.
  • If you want to relax a muscle, the tape follows the course of the muscle from the muscle origin to the muscle base. If you want to tighten the muscle, apply it the other way around. Another variant is to tape from the fixed point of the muscle to the mobile point.
  • Nowadays, “functional” taping is also often used. This means that a combination of muscles is taped in motion (for example, in internal or external rotation). In this case, when you put the tape on, you do the movement that is involved.
  • When taping a tendon, it is recommended to also apply a tape across the tendon to relieve it.
  • Whether the color plays a big role is debatable. Black warms up in the sun and thus warms the muscle underneath, which often feels good. “Cool” colors like blue are often used for pain relief. “Warm” colors are said to tend to increase muscle tone.
  • How much the tapes are stretched when applied depends on what is being taped. To improve lymphatic drainage so that a bruise disappears more quickly, you stretch the tape about 1.5 times its length when you apply it. (For example, cut off ten centimeters (cm) from the tape roll if you want to tape a 15 cm section later). In addition, for lymphtaping you need to cut the tape into thin strips so that a so-called octopus is formed – or you can buy pre-cut lymphtapes.
  • When taping a muscle, the tape is stretched by ten (up to a maximum of 20) percent. For example, if you need a piece eleven centimeters (cm) long, you cut ten centimeters off the tape roll.
  • If you round off all four corners with the scissors, the tape will last longer because no corners can catch on clothing.
  • Degrease very oily skin before applying the tape, for example with disinfectant.
  • The tape is applied to dry skin with even tension. The two ends should be applied without tension to prevent skin irritation from the adhesive. Most of the alleged allergies to the tape are in fact skin irritations due to incorrect application technique.
  • After application, it takes about 30 minutes for the tape to adhere to the skin. Spreading the tape from the center outwards improves the adhesion. After the warming up you can do everything with the tape: Shower, swim, bike and run. Always pat the tape dry after showering, do not rub it.
  • Waterproof tapes are sometimes very stiff. Normal tapes are usually sufficient. They hold even in water. In case of heavy sweating, perforated tapes are recommended because they last longer.
  • The tape can be left in place for three to seven days. However, it loses elasticity with each day.
  • Taping is always just a supplement that can be combined with acute treatment, manual treatment or massages. And taping alone will not make an injury heal. It’s a piece of the puzzle in therapy – but one that often gets short shrift. So don’t rely on taping alone!
  • Don’t get taped immediately before a competition, but better two to three hours before.
  • Do not apply tape to acute skin conditions or open injuries.
  • People with real allergy to the tapes should stop using them.
Author:
Dr. med. Hardy Hartmut Hüttemann, Head of Medbase Sports Medical Center Basel Heuwaage, Specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Sports Medicine SEMS/ Manual Medicine SAMM, Interventional Pain Therapy SSIPM, High Altitude and Mountain Medicine SGGM.
Who is Medbase?
Medbase is the largest multidisciplinary sports medicine network in Switzerland and offers specialized sports medicine services for athletes, clubs and sports federations of all activity levels in the fields of sports medicine, sports physiotherapy, performance diagnostics and training advice.medbase logo

https://www.medbase.ch/sport/