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Tons of athletes are using RockTape and KT tape these days- it looks great but what its all about?

According to RockTape, there are three types of taping- for slightly different applications.

1)      Pain Taping- to reduce pain. A subset of this is drainage taping for swollen areas to facilitate lymph drainage and reduce swelling. Another subset would effectively splint the injured area (minor injury) to get muscle groups surrounding a joint to work together more efficiently, better supporting the joint.

2)      Postural Taping- this is combined with a discrete assessment method like FMS, muscle testing, or SFMA to determine what muscles are not working enough and which ones are overworking. The goal is to create balance across agonist/antoganist muscles and muscular chains to facilitate functional strength and flexibility, balance, etc.

3)      Performance Taping- the focus here is to tape entire chains of muscles (for particular movements) to improve strength and endurance. This is movement specific and sport specific.

For example, crossfitters may tape the vertical muscles of the back and neck to help maintain the posterior chain while doing multiple rounds of overhead Olympic lifts- minimizing the need for or eliminating the need for a belt.


The research: Not much has been done and studies show conflicting results. RockTape specific studies are not robust enough to be considered rigorous enough to withstand scrutiny.


So- does it work?


In my clinical experience- it does work. It works very well.


Consider that the placebo effect has been shown to consist of up to 40% of the success of all interventions- across the board.


How the person, client, patient, etc FEELS about the tape is the placebo effect… 40%. So even if there is no other effect, if the person feels stronger, faster, has more stamina, etc- they will perform as if they possess what they feel they possess. The mind is a powerful driver of physiological performance!


That being the baseline- there are two additional aspects for how the tape actually works.


Quick case study (me)- Recently I went on a 20 mi very steep and rocky hike in very worn minimalist shoes- needless to say- my feet were pretty beat up by the time I was done and I was limping around at the end of the day.


After showering, I taped the soles of my feet and my arches in particular (as they were the sorest part).


The result- I experienced immediate reduction of pain of about 90%. I was not limping and didn’t feel the need to step carefully. Pretty huge for an immediate result.


So- why did that happen?


The tape itself has very particular properties- it stretches lengthwise (stretch and pre loaded stretch vary by manufacturer) but not widthwise. Some tape is stickier, or thicker than other tape- also varies by manufacturer.


Application of the tape takes these properties into account for the most efficient, effective taping results.


Tape is designed to stay on the body for up to 5 days- you can shower in it as long as you treat it gently.


The body responds to tape like it does to touch. Unlike physical touch, though, tape can stay in place for up to 5 days, magnifying its effects.


Tape, because it is stretchy and sticky, actually lifts the superficial layer of skin and fascia (underlying connective tissue) off of the lower layers, creating space for movement- this is the physical effect that improves flexibility and range of motion.


The secondary, and much larger effects are neurological. The tape stimulates local nerve endings in the skin and superficial fascia which signal the brain to downregulate pain, and regulate muscular function (ie. Activate underactivated muscles and deactivate  overactivated muscles). This creates balance, stability across a joint, and improvements in range of motion, and flexibility.


Additionally, once the brain decides that the area is stabilized and has greater balance, it will allow for longer active movement resulting in greater stamina, improved economy of movement and improved overall efficiency.


THAT is pretty cool in my book.

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