The Magic Show set the stage for a discussion of in vogue passive modalities.  To kick off this multipart series, Kinesiology Tape (K-Tape) will be placed under the lens of scientific research.  This discussion will be brief – given the overwhelming amount of evidence demonstrating lack of efficacy of K-Tape.

Every two years the Olympics is host to some of the most pseudoscientific interventions capable of being imagined.  Maybe because the stage is entertained with the highest level of elite athletes in the world, or thousands of hours have been dedicated to training and preparation for a few days of competition, or valuable endorsements are up for grabs – but the Olympics glamorizes athletes who cover themselves in pyrite while seeking gold, all the while not realizing they’ve been fooled.

This year, the Rio Olympics was no different.  There were two controversial “treatments” televised:  cupping (a topic for another blog) and athletes decorated with magical K-Tape traversing their bodies.  For those unfamiliar, K-Tape is similar to duct tape, in that it offers endless brands and colors, and is a stretchy sticky substance meant to be applied to a surface – obviously the biggest difference being one is meant to prevent pipes from leaking, taillights from falling off, or keeping ammunition dry (the original purpose for its creation), and the other is being applied to various regions of a person’s body in hopes of holding together the underlying structures.1

At first glance, the tape is a marketer’s dream, a canvas to be plastered with various brand advertisements backed with endless claims of abilities.  Many clinicians and offices have K-Tape printed with their names, functioning as free advertising by the athlete – as if to say, “We fix athletes.”  What are they fixing exactly?  That has become the question.

Claiming abilities such as: turning muscles on/off, aligning posture, decreasing inflammation, pain reduction, decreasing edema, increasing blood flow – the list goes on and on.  This magical tape, through the previously proposed abilities, claims to treat a myriad of musculoskeletal issues:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Runner’s Knee
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Achille’s tendinopathy
  • Ankle Sprains
  • Shin Splints, etc.

However, these claims have resulted in a class action lawsuit, most likely because the evidence is not supportive.2 Research has demonstrated muscles are not so easily turned on or off.3 The tape does not improve performance.4,5  Nor does it reduce edema, decrease pain, or prevent/treat injuries.6,7,8

Many issues stated to be treated with the tape lack validity as actually being pathological.  Clinicians will often tape “fascial lines” in hopes your left neck pain can be traced to your right big toe – misdirection at its finest.  In regards to taping for posture, a structuralist approach is taken through postural evaluations as solidification for a patient’s need for treatment.  Such an approach can be damning to patients.  Relaying unsubstantiated beliefs in postural dysfunction drives a nocebo effect and further lays a weak foundation of fragility.  This approach is contrary to the literature which currently states posture has minimal impact on pain and/or dysfunction.  Instead there appears to be a broad number of factors to consider in addition to posture.  The evidence would state abnormal posture is relative and normal exists as a vastly wide range.9,10,11,12,13,14,15  If the premise for an intervention hasn’t been established, then why are we as clinicians intervening and, better yet, what are we intervening on? The evidence is unsupportive of the premise or the claims.

Current evidence does not support the use of K-Tape. 16  Yet the misdirection of K-Tape continues to permeate rehabilitation, in spite of the ineffectiveness of the modality and the incurred cost to the patient through continuous utilization.  New types keep getting released year after year with fancy new colors/designs and more impressive claims demonstrating why one company’s tape is better than another.  How much evidence do we need to demonstrate long term outcomes are null for this modality?

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  1. “The Woman Who Invented Duct Tape – Kilmer House.” Kilmer House.  p., 2012. Web. 09 Oct. 2016.
  2. “Kinesio Tape Sued in Consumer Fraud Class Action.” Medium. N.p., 2015. Web. 18 Aug. 2016.
  3. Cai C, Au IP, An W, Cheung RT. Facilitatory and inhibitory effects of Kinesio tape: Fact or fad? Journal of science and medicine in sport / Sports Medicine Australia. 19(2):109-12. 2016.
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  6. Nunes GS, Vargas VZ, Wageck B, Hauphental DP, da Luz CM, de Noronha M. Kinesio Taping does not decrease swelling in acute, lateral ankle sprain of athletes: a randomised trial. Journal of physiotherapy. 61(1):28-33. 2015.
  7. Parreira Pdo C, Costa Lda C, Takahashi R. Kinesio taping to generate skin convolutions is not better than sham taping for people with chronic non-specific low back pain: a randomised trial. Journal of physiotherapy. 60(2):90-6. 2014.
  8. Williams S, Whatman C, Hume PA, Sheerin K. Kinesio taping in treatment and prevention of sports injuries: a meta-analysis of the evidence for its effectiveness. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.). 42(2):153-64. 2012.
  9. Christensen ST, Hartvigsen J. Spinal curves and health: a systematic critical review of the epidemiological literature dealing with associations between sagittal spinal curves and health. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics. 31(9):690-714. 2008.
  10. Okada, Eijiro et al. “Does the Sagittal Alignment of the Cervical Spine Have an Impact on Disk Degeneration? Minimum 10-Year Follow-up of Asymptomatic Volunteers.”European Spine Journal11 (2009): 1644–1651. PMC. Web. 18 Aug. 2016.
  11. O’Leary S, Christensen SW, Verouhis A, Pape M, Nilsen O, McPhail SM. Agreement between physiotherapists rating scapular posture in multiple planes in patients with neck pain: Reliability study. Physiotherapy. 101(4):381-8. 2015.
  12. Côté P, van der Velde G, Cassidy JD. The burden and determinants of neck pain in workers: results of the Bone and Joint Decade 2000-2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders. Spine. 33(4 Suppl):S60-74. 2008.
  13. Gay RE. The curve of the cervical spine: variations and significance. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics. 16(9):591-4. 1994.
  14. Richards KV, Beales DJ, Smith AJ, O’Sullivan PB, Straker LM. Neck Posture Clusters and Their Association With Biopsychosocial Factors and Neck Pain in Australian Adolescents. Physical therapy. 2016.
  15. Grob D, Frauenfelder H, Mannion AF. The association between cervical spine curvature and neck pain. European spine journal : official publication of the European Spine Society, the European Spinal Deformity Society, and the European Section of the Cervical Spine Research Society. 16(5):669-78. 2007.
  16. Parreira Pdo C, Costa Lda C, Hespanhol LC, Lopes AD, Costa LO. Current evidence does not support the use of Kinesio Taping in clinical practice: a systematic review. Journal of physiotherapy. 60(1):31-9. 2014.