Kinesiotaping: What it is and how it works
What is kinesiotape?
Kinesiotape is a cotton-based elastic tape with an undulated adhesive backing applied to the skin for therapeutic purposes. It comes in different sizes, widths, and materials. Many brands manufacture it now, and it is available in varying lengths—for example, pre-cut strips or full uncut rolls.
What does kinesiotaping do?
When applied correctly, kinesiotaping is said to work by lifting the skin slightly to increase the space between the skin and fascia (the layer of connective tissue covering the muscles).
How is kinesiotape thought to help with acute injuries?
Kinesiotape is typically used in acute injuries to limit further damage of the injured tissues, promote healing, and enhance recovery.
Let’s look at this in more detail to give you a better understanding of how taping really works.
Promoting injury healing and limiting further tissue damage
With the skin lifted, there’s more space for fluid to flow in and out of the area freely. This can improve lymphatic drainage and blood circulation, resulting in reduced swelling, bruising, and pressure on the nerves and tissues, which may promote healing of your calf strain.
The physical sensation and gentle pressure that the tape adds to the skin may support your muscles, joints, and fascia without limiting the range of movement. It may also stimulate the superficial nerves in your skin, giving you a better sense of the position of your leg (proprioception) and reminding you to take it easy while recovering.
Enhancing recovery from injury
The British Journal of Sports Medicine says that early activity encourages early recovery. Suppose kinesiotape helps improve circulation, increases sensory input, and reduces pain. In that case, it may help you get moving sooner after your injury. And this could enhance your calf strain recovery.
Are the effects of kinesiotape supported by science?
Why is it still used so frequently if the benefits are not proven?
Many people (professionals and laypeople alike) still use kinesiotaping, regardless of its research.
As evident in a 2021 study survey, over one thousand healthcare and sports injury rehab professionals reported what they believe kinesiotaping does and why they use it.
The most common reasons for using kinesiotape were for:
- Treating injury symptoms like swelling and bruising (74%)
- Controlling pain (67%)
- Creating sensory feedback (60%)
The most common beliefs about how it works were:
- It stimulates the skin mechanoreceptors (77%)
- It improves the local circulation (69%)
- It modulates pain signals (60%)
The 4th most common perceived benefit of using kinesiotape?
These results show that clinicians and sports professionals see kinesiotaping as beneficial for their clients. And they’re using it even without sound evidence to support it. Further, some are using it even though they believe it does not directly impact the tissues.
The question is, should they be using a modality that research doesn’t entirely support?
What do we do when science lacks, but it appears that something works?
At Exakt Health, we believe treatments should be evidence-based as far as possible.
However, in some cases, research lags. Therefore, we need to find reliable ways to validate techniques while the research studies catch up.
One way to do this is by looking at anecdotal evidence (what other clinicians have experienced) and using our own clinical experience, sound clinical knowledge, and reasoning.
When it comes to using kinesiotaping for injuries like calf strain, our advice is to use it in conjunction with other well-evidenced treatments (like a structured rehab program). Not on its own.
How to apply kinesiotape on a strained calf
This video by Rocktape (one kinesiotape brand) demonstrates a kinesiotaping technique for acute calf strains.
Please note – They instruct you in the video to pull your toes up towards your shin, to gently stretch the skin, when you apply the tape. Only pull it up until you feel a slight sensation of stretch in your calf. If you do it too aggressively, you may make your injury worse.
Important notes about using kinesiotaping:
Getting back to running after a calf strain
If you aim to recover fully from a calf strain, your calf muscle needs to heal and strengthen. Taping alone cannot help you achieve this.
A reliable and proven way to help you heal and recover is by following a well-structured and progressive calf strengthening and rehabilitation program that aligns with your phase of healing.
It’s crucial to understand that tape will not protect you from re-injury if you start running again before you’ve built adequate strength in your calf muscles.
We suggest using kinesiotape for your calf strain only when appropriate, necessary, and supporting your broader rehab program.
Conclusion – Will Kinesiotape really help your calf strain?
That depends on many factors. But we believe it comes down to two main elements. One is if you’re using it in conjunction with a comprehensive rehab program specially designed for calf strain recovery. And the other is if you think it will work.
Kinesiotape is not a magic fix. Taping cannot heal your calf strain on its own. It will also not make your calf muscle strong enough for running or help it remain injury-free.
At Exakt Health, we are all about getting people back on their feet after an injury as quickly as possible using the most up-to-date research-backed information. We don’t want you to face setbacks in your recovery because we know how this can affect your life.