When Italian football player Mario Balotelli recently lifted his shirt after scoring a goal and revealed three adhesive strips on his back, Kinesio tapes have gotten a spot in the limelight. But do they really do anything?
What Are Kinesio Tapes?
Kinesio tapes are elastic and adhesive cotton stripes, that are applied to spots on the body where the user wishes relief from athletic injuries and various other illnesses.
Supposedly they work by relaxing overused and, during rehabilitation, strengthen underused muscles. In addition, the adhesive on them is in a wave pattern, which is said to lift the skin and reduce swellings and inflammations through better blood circulation and helps reduce pain, as pressure is taken off pain receptors. Finally, their elasticity can also be used to limit or encourage a joint to move in a specific way.
All that sounds quite swell. Let’s run out and get a helping of the stuff, shall we? After all, a roll of 2″ x 103′ (5 cm x 31 m) is just $89.95. For comparison, the approximate same length and width of simple adhesive first aid tape costs around $20.
Seriously, with a price tag as hefty as that, we may want to examine things a bit closer before we shell out that much money. On his website above, the tape’s inventor, Dr. Kenzo Kase, claims that only “after years of testing, research and clinical trial” he came up with the idea for them. But no matter how far I looked, any positive evidence for the tapes doing anything useful is marginal or simply non-existent:
- A 2012 meta-analyis found that “there was little quality evidence to support the use of KT over other types of elastic taping in the management or prevention of sports injuries”.
- A Spanish study examining treatment of whiplash injury saw “statistically significant improvements immediately following application of the Kinesio Tape and at a 24-hour follow-up”. But “the improvements in pain and cervical range of motion were small and may not be clinically meaningful.”
- A Polish study looked at a possible short-term positive effect Kinesio taping may have on muscle function and found that the tape “used shortly before the motor activity [use of a muscle] it is supposed to support may fail to fulfil its function”.
Get A Haircut
All this notwithstanding, there are tons of anecdotal evidence for Kinesio tapes working just nicely, but as so often, we will never know if users really benefitted from them or if believing in a positive effect was enough to bring it about.
In my opinion, if Dr. Kase is as keen on clinical trials as he says he is, then he should go ahead and provide peer-reviewed studies that support his claims. It would quiet all critics, wouldn’t it?
For now you may as well believe that Balotelli’s recent prowess at football (soccer for my American visitors) was due to his interesting new haircut and not some stripes he coincidentally applied to his back. Kinesio tape may go down the same road as those nasal strips of more than a decade ago.