If you’ve ever been to a physio in recent years, there’s a fair chance that you’ve come out covered in gaudily coloured tape carefully added to various parts of your body in complex strips designed to stimulate the muscles and aid recovery. This stuff is expensive and is, to a large degree, accepted as a standard treatment from physiotherapists. Trouble is, the science behind it is fanciful and its efficacy is questionable, to say the least. Injured athletes, though, are willing to accept almost anything if they think that it might speed their recovery from injury and their return to training.
And herein lies the problem: the marketing behind the stuff has been extremely effective and their targeting of professional athletes means that we’re used to the site of “taped up” competitors in a wide variety of sports appearing on our TV screens. A systematic review of all the available literature was done in 2014 and concluded that there was very little in the way of quality research done on the subject of therapeutic taping.
This lack of quality research has now been met by a proper randomized and controlled trial in which patients did not know whether they had received kinesio taping, fake tape or no tape at all while blindfolded and subsequently tested. The indistinguishable results suggest that any previously reported improvements as a result of kinesio taping have been no more than placebo effect.
It’s well known that the placebo effect can provide a powerful mental stimulus and in the case of injured athletes, simple the act of taping up by a physio may provide the necessary confidence for that athlete to compete. However, that’s a big difference to applying tape therapeutically. The Korean study shows clearly that it has no measurable impact.
This post was written after reading the estimable Professor Edzard Ernst’s post on this subject.