Yes. Blog post over.
Of course, it works! If it didn’t, we wouldn’t use it.
However, it doesn’t work the way people often want it to.
Let’s take a step back – What is KT Tape?
It’s the elastic (stretchy) and colorful tape you often see athletes wearing around their shoulders, backs, and knees. In the upcoming Olympics, you’ll likely see quite a few athletes donning an array of tape applied every which way.
If you have an injury, tape won’t make it all better. If you’re an athlete who needs to compete while injured, it’s not going to stabilize your knee or keep your shoulder from detaching (if detachment was a likely possibility).
So why wear it?
Some people claim putting tape on the skin helps raise the skin from the underlying fascia (next layer of tissue down) which helps deal with swelling. To this, we say “Maybe”. We use it for this purpose, but don’t depend on it to manage swelling.
We use tape for three primary reasons:
1) It helps body awareness
2) It rubs your elbow
3) It’s fake security (which is real security)
Here’s a brief breakdown of what those three points mean:
1) Your body has three main systems that help it know what position it’s in – the visual system (eyesight), the proprioceptive system (feedback from muscles), and the tactile system (skin).
A weird thing happens when you get injured. Let’s use an injured knee as an example. Your brain’s map of where your knee is in space becomes less “defined” when pain is present. Imagine holding a map in front of you but it’s a little too far in front of you where the details aren’t quite clear. KT tape helps bring the map back in a little closer.
It boosts the sensitivity of the tactile system.
When you move, your skin gives extra feedback to the brain because it feels the tape move on your skin.
More Feedback = Better Map
Better Map = More Accurate Movement
2) Have you ever banged your elbow on a doorway really hard? What’s the first thing you do in response? You start rubbing it with the other hand, obviously! It makes the pain feel less.
This is what tape does.
Something hurts? Put tape on it and your brain thinks a bit more about the feeling of tape on the skin than it does the underlying pain. Simple. Effective.
3) Tape is not that strong. It’s not enough to hold you together. That said, sometimes it tricks your brain into feeling like there is something holding you together even if it’s not.
That false sense of security helps your body to move more naturally. The majority of the time, natural movement is often more stable than movement patterns developed while injured. Is it a placebo? Essentially, yes – but it helps you move well which is a real effect.
We like tape. It’s one of many short-term tools. We don’t depend on it, but we like it.
That’s what we think about tape.
Want to learn from us how to use tape for your situation? Schedule a call here!
Ross Gentry, PT, DPT, CF-L2, CSCS
Here’s a picture of us being silly with tape. We promise not to do this to you.