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How To Relieve Shoulder Pains Like Kerri Wash With Kinesio Tape?

April 1st, 2009 · 2 Comments ·
 
 

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If you have watched 2008 Beijing Olympics beach volley games, you probably have noticed one of the US female players, Kerri Wash’s right shoulder.  She was having something looks like a body art or tattoo on her right shoulder.  The color changes from game to game, from black to light blue with pink occasionally.  So, was she covering up a tattoo? Or that black tape is a tribute to someone?

No, it is not a tattoo.  Kerri was not covering anything up either.  It is Kinesio Tape which was reportedly placed there to help her stabilize her right shoulder and reduce chances of having shoulder pain during the games.  She underwent shoulder surgery in fall 2007 due to injury caused by long hours of setting and spiking volley ball.

Kinesio Tape is actually not a new invention.  For years, the tape and taping methods were mainly used by sports medicine doctors, physical therapists and chiropractors.  It was first developed 25 years ago by Dr. Kenzo Kase, a Japanese chiropractor who trained in the US.  In layman term, chiropractor is doctor who specializes in treating diseases by adjusting a person’s joints, especially those in the back.  Dr. Kenzo has also came out with the taping method called Kinesio Taping which is the way to apply the tapes correctly.

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Benefits of Kinesio Tape (As Claimed by the Company)
According to the manufacturer, Kinesio Tape provides the following benefits:

  • Corrects muscle function by strengthening weakened muscles
  • Improves circulation of blood and lymph by eliminating tissue fluid or bleeding beneath the skin by moving the muscle
  • Reduce pain and inflammation through neurological suppression
  • Stabilize joints
  • Relax overused tired muscles

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The company also mentioned that Kinesio Tape is effective in relieving:

  • Arthritis
  • Carpel tunnel (median nerve is compressed at the wrist, leading to pain and muscle weakness in the forearm and hand)
  • Plantar fasciitis (painful foot condition caused by inflammation of the tissue along the bottom of foot that connects heel bone to toes)
  • Shoulder pain

Whether those claims are true or not, I will elaborate later.

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How Kinesio Tape Works (As Claimed by the Company)
According to the company, when taped over the edges of a particular muscle, tendon, or ligament, “the tape alleviates pain and facilitates lymphatic drainage by microscopically lifting the skin. The taped portion forms convolutions in the skin, thus increasing interstitial space. The result is that pressure and irritation are taken off the neural and sensory receptors, alleviating pain. Pressure is gradually taken off the lymphatic system, allowing it to channel more freely.”

To me, those words sound so complicated for medically uneducated folks, including me.

Few Other Important Facts About Kinesio Tape and Kinesio Taping:

  1. The super thin tape itself is an elastic tape that comes in different widths, colors and types.
  2. It is cut into different shapes and applied to slightly stretched skin from one end of the muscle to the other. The effective of Kinesio Tape highly depends on the placement and technique. So, do not expect you will see the result if you just simply stuck the tape to your muscles

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  3. It is non-restrictive taping method as compared to heavy strapping.  This taping technique allows free range of motion and therefore allow the body’s own muscular system to heal itself bio-mechanically.  From the theoretical stand point, this point makes sense.  When your sore muscles are supported, you will heal faster.
  4. This elastic tape has an elasticity of 130 to 140 percent of its original length so that the muscles still can have free range of motion.
  5. The tape can stay on the skin for 3 to 5 days before it needs to be replaced.  In other words, you can having shower or dipping into swimming pool with it.  The tape is made of a porous cotton fabric that allows the kin under the tape to breathe and be cleaned while showering.
  6. The variety of colors actually designed for fashion purpose and not any indication of the quality of the tape.
  7. The tape does not contain latex which can be used for people with latex allergies.

In addition to beach volley ball player Kerri Wash, other top athletes such as Lance Armstrong (cycling), Serena Williams (tennis), David Beckham (soccer), Tiger Woods (golf) and Robby Ginepri (tennis) were seen using Kinesio Tape. In fact, in Lance Armstrong’s book “Every Second Counts”, he refers to Kinesio as “Something better than any laser, wrap, or electric massager.

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Robby Ginepri

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David Beckham

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Serena William

Now, is Kinesio Tape really that effective as claimed by the company?  Is it just another gimmick to sell Kinesio as a legitimate therapeutic product?

I have found two studies, both published in year 2008.  The first study, done by Dr Mark Thelen mentioned that Kinesio Tape does help to alleviate pain and improving muscle strength, though the improvement is at minimal level.  Patients with shoulder injuries have experienced the effect immediately after the application of the tape.  However, the other research conducted by Dr Tieh-Cheng Fu, revealed that the tape had no effect on muscle strength when it is applied to the thigh. Source

In short, one study showed that Kinesio tape has small effect whereas the other does not think so. While studies like those are good, but we should not over interprete the result.  We need more quality research being done on Kinesio tape to give a solid conclusion about its effectiveness.  At this time, research using Kinesio tape does not support the many claims made by its advocates.

So, should you or shouldn’t you use Kinesio tape then?

We all are very susceptible to placebo effect, including top athletes.  If we think this tape work, we will believe that it actually does.  Sometimes, performance is improved significantly with this belief.  This is the placebo effect, even though in real life the tape may not provide any scientific advantages.

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By sponsoring Kerri Walsh’s Kinesio tapes in Beijing Summer Olympics 2008, the Kinesio company has started to see the result.  The company has more than 1,600 online orders compared to the usual 250 orders it usually receives monthly.  It is indeed a very good strategy.  Previously, athletics made up only 10 percent of its business.  Its largest market was pediatrics used for children suffering from neurological disorders.  Now, it has successfully maximized an untapped market for its tape by targeting athletes.  Clearly a good case study of Blue Ocean strategy.

I guess I will see more beach volley players spotting the black spider web look alike Kinesio tape in near future.  If you want to give Kinesio Tape a try, check it out at Amazon.

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For those who want to learn how to use the correct way of applying Kinesio Taping, get a copy of the manual too.

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2 responses so far ↓
  • Thuy Bridges // Apr 1, 2009 at 12:02 PM

    Hi there,
    I have been using Kinesio Tape for the last 5+ years and have found it to be exceptionally good for certain types of injuries. For the purposes of full disclosure I should point out that I believe in the product so much that I became an instructor and now teach the techniques to other health professionals in Australia and New Zealand.

    I totally agree that there has not been much comprehensive research into how and why Kinesio Taping works – but it would not be the first technique/procedure where the fact that it works was discovered long before the reasons why.
    The lack of empirical evidence should not be seen as a threat to it’s validity, but an opportunity to explore further why Kinesio Tape seems to get the results that it does.

    What may be worthwhile considering is that practitioners (like myself) who get results are usually too busy to go do the research.
    Universities on the other hand wait for a considerable time for new techniques to consolidate with the public before spending their energy on researching them.

    I use Kinesio Tape regularly in my physiotherapy clinics and have been able to get people going again where other techniques have failed.

    When I first trained in the technique I was also quite skeptical.
    Walking away from the course I thought to myself at the very least I had revised my anatomy knowledge! But I decided to give the tape a go and on the very first client I tried it on it seemed to have amazing results, much more than what I would have considered placebo. I was consulting a woman who was unable to walk more than 5m or so (house bound) and was unable to do a straight leg raise against gravity. I thought to myself “here’s a test to see if this thing works!” so I stuck the tape on the appropriate muscles and without any other treatment she was immediately able to lift her leg against gravity. Her immediate question was if the tape had a steroid or some such drug in it and I had to convince her that it was just tape and adhesive. Suffice to say I have had similar amazing results since.

    I have also used it on other health professionals (including my colleagues) who understand their anatomy and can recognise all too well if something is merely placebo or if it is actually doing something for them.

    It is worth noting that whilst it has come to prominence recently in the sporting arena, it is in the more mundane (from a media point of view) chronic and lymphatic conditions that it has been the bread and butter of Kinesio Taping practitioners for many years. When you see swelling reduce or bruising disappearing within a day, you know that’s it’s not a placebo effect.

    Cheers,
    Thuy

  • Jenniferxguo // May 15, 2009 at 10:32 AM

    I also is interested in this product and like to know more information about it.

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