The Sticky Business of Kinesiotape

Feb 6, 2020 | General Veterinary Rehabilitation

Ah, precious Kinesiotape! When it comes to the tools we use, this is certainly one of my favourites. I particularly enjoy the variety of ways in which Kinesiotape can aid in the achievement of specific treatment goals, such as causing increased activation of a weak or atrophied muscle, or inhibiting an overly active or painful muscle during therapeutic exercise. I have used it to increase the duration of pain relief after treatment, and to achieve gentler, longer-term fascial releases in heavily agglutinated and painful areas.

Kinesio tape post op

Kinesiotape can be applied post-op to reduce swelling and decrease pain.

The variety

Kinesiotape can be used to achieve so many different outcomes, including reducing oedema, increasing proprioception, activating or inhibiting a muscle, reducing pain, improving posture and reducing muscle spasticity or trigger points, especially in horses. As an added bonus, it’s a brilliant and beautiful talk trigger for your clients!

A good Kinesiotape

With a market flooded with Kinesiotape, how do we choose a tape that is going to work for us and our patients? Most of the brands available over the counter for human use will be pretty useless for our furry patients, while many of the good brands purchased by professionals will serve us well, whether they’re specifically created for animal use or not. And then, of course, there are some tapes that have been created specifically for animal use.

The kind of Kinesiotape that works for you truly depends on your individual needs. Are you using hydrotherapy, are you treating horses or dogs, what is the humidity like in your area? I have found that my best brands are completely ineffective for my colleague a few hundred kilometers away in a different climate and with a different niche.

Swimming with Kinesiotape

A good Kinesiotape can be used during Hydrotherapy, as with this Daschund who is recovering from IVDD

Choose a high quality brand from a reputable distributer. Look for a tape that is 100% cotton with an even, good quality weave pattern and smooth edges. The adhesive should be a heat activated acrylate, and the tape should have a good amount of elasticity – up to 140% is good, allowing the tape to mimic and move with the skin.

How does taping work?

There are a few theories to taping, although we don’t have a deep scientific understanding of how and why this modality really works.

Firstly, Kinesiotape can have a physical effect. The skin will be lifted from the underlying tissue, which will allow improved movement of fluid both in and out of an area. It will also aid in reducing restrictions, thereby improving the mobility of an area.

The second effect is neurophysical. The Kinesiotape aids in the activation of cutaneous receptors during movement, and in so doing influences the local mechanoreceptors and stretch receptors. In this way the Kinesiotape will assist in either inhibiting a muscle or activating it during therapeutic exercise. 

The third theory is a segmental one, according to which you can influence the function of organs and body systems by stimulating specific myotomes and dermatomes. I don’t know too many practitioners who use Kinesiotape for this purpose, but I would love to hear from you if you do. It is worth bearing in mind that when we use Kinesiotape in certain areas, we may have an effect on the internal organs and body systems. We ought to be fairly cautious in its use.

Lastly, Kinesiotape can have an energetic effect on the body when we use it to target the meridians and acupuncture or acupressure points.

Kinesiotape on a horses back

In this application Kinesiotape is used to inhibit hypertrophic muscles in a horses lumbar area

Taping muscle to inhibit

We will often use Kinesiotape to inhibit a hypertonic or hypertrophied muscle, a muscle in spasm, or an injured muscle that needs to be rested or protected as the patient performs static or low impact dynamic exercise. This is achieved by applying the Kinesiotape with little to no tension in the tape from insertion to origin, with the muscle in a maximally stretched position. This is also a very valuable application for pain in a muscle or muscle group.

Taping muscle to activate

When we want to start increasing the load, or use of a muscle or an area,

daschund kinesio tape

Kinesiotape applied to the hind paws and limbs to improve proprioception during therapeutic exercise

Kinesiotape can help us target a specific muscle or movement. This is particularly useful in a muscle that has atrophied or is weak, a muscle that is entering the regenerative phase of healing and needs to be exposed to greater loads, and to influence and improve posture or movement abnormalities. Activation can be achieved by applying the tape with a 25% stretch or tension to a muscle from origin to insertion. It is best to apply the tape while the muscle is being activated, or the limb is in a neutral or corrected position.

This taping can be quite demanding on the patient, and it is best to apply the tape for short periods only, when the patient will be performing active therapeutic exercise, and then remove it so that the affected structures can rest.

Fascial applications

As we know, the fascia is integral to both the stability and mobility of the entire body, and will suffer from adhesion, dehydration, agglutination and restriction when the body is not moving or functioning optimally. This is especially relevant in athletes suffering from an injury; since their fascia is thicker and more developed, they are more likely to suffer from restrictions in their fascia if they sustain an injury. Kinesiotape can provide a gentle and longer-acting fascial release in areas that are too painful to manually manipulate. There are a few ways you can tape to affect the fascia.

Fascia kinesiotape application

A fascial application to the lumbar epaxials of a horse

  • Using a Y-tape, or two separate strips of tape, you apply the arms of the tape from the wide end towards the base of the tape with a strong, deep tension – up to 100% stretch of the tape. This will help alleviate deep agglutinations and restrictions in movement.
  • Using a Y-tape, you can enclose the area of restriction gently, working from the base to the outward arms with minimal tension or stretch on the tape. This will increase the fluid mobility in the region greatly.
  • Lastly, you can use a Y-tape with continuous changes in tension and direction throughout each arm of the tape, to stimulate the movement of the fascia.

Trigger points

Deep trigger points resulting from compensation or movement adaptations, especially through the back, can take a long time to resolve as the body needs to go through several adjustments before the trigger points can be fully targeted and released. During this time, these areas can become increasingly painful. A star tape applied over the area can help alleviate the tension in the area, and over the course of a few days will assist with the alleviation of the trigger point.

I would love to know what your favourite applications are for taping, and where you find it the most valuable in aiding the achievement of your therapeutic goals.



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