Wednesday, August 20, 2014
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Therapeutic Taping: Helpful or all hype?

Therapeutic taping techniques that employ elastic tape as an additional component of the management of patients with muscle, joint and nerve dysfunction, are becoming increasingly popular.

Therapeutic Taping: Helpful or all hype?

Katrin Holtwick of Germany is taped during the London 2012 Olympic women´s beach volleyball match between Germany and Czech Republic.
Katrin Holtwick of Germany is taped during the London 2012 Olympic women's beach volleyball match between Germany and Czech Republic.

I recently co-authored an article for a Physical Therapy magazine, Advance Magazine, regarding the use of elastic taping for the upper quarter. Much of the information is useful in helping to educate more people about its many positive effects. I have adapted it to read more informatively than scholarly and I have also included a list of references at the end to give credit to the appropriate sources.

Therapeutic taping techniques that employ elastic tape as an additional component of the management of patients with muscle, joint and nerve dysfunction, are becoming increasingly popular. My patients are increasingly requesting it after seeing these bright, spiderweb-like designs of tape on professional athletes and in colorful advertisements. More and more medical professionals are offering this service since more recent research has been emerging to support its use for several important functions.

Therapeutic taping is becoming an important and useful treatment option that serves as an aide for prevention and rehabilitation. Taping can be used to reduce strain on tissues that may be damaged, facilitate or inhibit muscle activity, facilitate body awareness, provide mechanical support to enable correct moving patterns, reduce swelling and alleviate pain.

There are several types of elastic tape brands that are fundamentally built upon collective principles of aiding the body in its own natural healing process as well as providing support and stability to joints and muscles. This non-invasive treatment has demonstrated effectiveness for use with dysfunctions of the upper and lower extremities in addition to the spine.

When considering therapeutic taping for the upper body, there are a number of techniques used to address common problems of the shoulder. Skilled application of the elastic tape, in addition to Physical Therapy, can improve movement awareness and sensory feedback, assist in alignment and promote normal movement patterning of the entire shoulder complex. For the shoulder blade, scapular taping acts to maintain shoulder girdle function during overhead movements by assisting scapular upward rotation, activating the appropriate muscles and inhibiting the commonly over-active neck muscles.  

Management of tennis elbow, termed lateral epicondylitis, can also be conservatively treated with Physical Therapy and the application of therapeutic taping. Using specific taping methods at the forearm has shown significant results for decreasing pain during wrist extension and gripping. Elastic tape has been theorized to improve muscle excitability and stimulate nerves in the skin. When applied to the flexor muscles of the hand, taping has shown to increase activity of the muscle increasing grip strength.

Moving further down the chain of the upper extremity, there are specific taping techniques that treat several wrist and hand dysfunctions, including Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). CTS, the most common peripheral compression neuropathy, leads to pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand due to median nerve compression. Taping can enhance the performance of pinch in people with CTS. It is postulated that this improvement comes from the tape slowing the median nerve conduction and, thus, reducing the symptoms.

Similar to the upper body, the application of elastic taping, in conjunction with Physical Therapy, can address several common knee, foot and ankle problems. Taping techniques can reduce strain at the knee cap and reduce pain associated with many common muscle-related knee problems. It can also be applied to support the foot/ankle, encourage correct muscle activation and reduce pain with conditions including tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.

Therapeutic taping can also aid in decreasing neck and back pain. Research indicates that patients who have received taping for neck pain have made significant gains in range of motion, along with reduced pain. The effectiveness of elastic taping techniques in improving pain and disability are related to the increased neural feedback provided by the tape. This allows the patient to move their spine with less soft tissue irritation. In addition, taping can facilitate more neutral posturing with activity and at rest, which allows the spinal muscles to work with less strain.

Elastic tape manufacturers state that careful application works by microscopically lifting the skin from the muscle, improving circulation and range of motion and reducing pressure and irritation to help alleviate pain, with the end result of any application being improved functioning. Once applied, tape can be worn for several days per application, providing ongoing benefits.

Sometimes popular trends in medical treatment emerge without the backing of science. This is not the case with therapeutic elastic taping techniques. Taping can be an effective treatment that, when used in addition to conventional Physical Therapy, offers many benefits with little to no risks. So it just may be worth the hype.

References:

  1. Ludewig PM, Cook TM. Alterations in Shoulder Kinematics and Associated Muscle Activity in People with Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement. Phys Ther. 2000;80:276-291.
  2. Kneeshaw D. Shoulder Taping in the Clinical Setting. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 2002;6(1): 2-8.
  3. Saavedra-Hernendez M, Castro- Sanchez A, Arroyo-Morales M, et al. Short- Term Effects of Kinesiotaping Versus Cervucal Thrust Manipulation in patients with  Mechanical Neck Pain: A randomized Clinical Trial. Universidad Rey Juan Carlos. 1-7.
  4. Hus Y, Chen W, Lin H, et al. The Effects of Taping on Scapular Kinematics and Muscle Performance in Baseball Players With Shoulder Impingement Syndrome. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology. 2009;19:1092–1099.
  5. Ludewig P, Cook T. Alterations in Shoulder Kinematics and Associated Muscle Activity in People with Symptoms of Shoulder Impingment. Phsy Ther. 2000: 80:276-291.
  6. Jung-Hoon L, Won-Gyu Y, Kyung-Soon L. Effects of Head-neck Rotation and Kinesio Taping of the Flexor Muscles on Dominant-hand Grip Strength.Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2010; 24:285-289.
  7. Janikowska K, Fidut J. Effects of Kineso Taping in Patients with Symptoms of Lateral Epicondylagia. New Approaches in Joint Pain. 2013;44-59.
  8. Jung-Hoon L, Won-Gyu Y, Kyung-Soon L. Effects of Head-neck Rotation and Kinesio Taping of the Flexor Muscles on Dominant-hand Grip Strength.Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2010; 24:285-289.
  9. Selkowitz D, Chaney C, Stuckey S, et al, The Effects of Scapular Taping on the Surface Electromyographic Signal Amplitude of Shoulder Girdle Muscles During Upper Extremity Elevation in Individuals With Suspected Shoulder Impingement Syndrome. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy. 2007;37 (11):694-702.
  10. Kaya E, Zinnuroglu M, Tugu I. Kinesio Taping Compared to Physical Therapy Modalities for the Treatment of Shoulder Impingement Syndrome. Clin Rheumatol. 2011;30:201–207.

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.

Desirea D. Caucci, PT, DPT, OCS Co-owner of Conshohocken Physical Therapy, Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
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Kelly O'Shea Sports Medicine & Fitness Editor, Philly.com
Brian Cammarota, MEd, ATC, CSCS, CES Partner at Symetrix Sports Performance
Desirea D. Caucci, PT, DPT, OCS Co-owner of Conshohocken Physical Therapy, Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Michael G. Ciccotti, M.D. Head Team Physician for Phillies & St. Joe's; Rothman Institute
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Peter F. DeLuca, M.D. Head Team Physician for Eagles, Head Orthopedic Surgeon for Flyers; Rothman Institute
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R. Robert Franks, D.O. Team Physician for USA Wrestling, Consultant for Phillies; Rothman Institute
Ashley B. Greenblatt, ACE-CPT Certified Personal Trainer, The Sporting Club at The Bellevue
Eugene Hong, MD, CAQSM, FAAFP Team Physician for Drexel, Philadelphia Univ., Saint Joe’s, & U.S. National Women’s Lacrosse
Martin J. Kelley, PT, DPT, OCS Advanced Clinician at Penn Therapy and Fitness, Good Shepherd Penn Partners
Julia Mayberry, M.D. Attending Hand & Upper Extremity Surgeon, Main Line Hand Surgery P.C.
Jim McCrossin, ATC Strength and Conditioning Coach, Flyers and Phantoms
Kevin Miller Fitness Coach, Philadelphia Union
Heather Moore, PT, DPT, CKTP Owner of Total Performance Physical Therapy, North Wales, Pa.
David Rubenstein, M.D. Team Orthopedist for 76ers; Main Line Health Lankenau Medical Center
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