In the previous “how does it work” blog, we focussed on the way that RockTape can help to reduce pain. In this edition, we are going to focus on the use of Rocktape for reducing swelling and for recovery.
To recap, RockTape is a kinesiology tape, sometimes referred to as an elastic therapeutic tape. It is very stretchy and as such is designed to move with the person, not restrict movement like traditional rigid tape does. Being very stretchy, RockTape recoils along its length and in doing so, creates a lifting effect on the skin. The lifting effect is thought to promote better recovery, with potential for improved superficial fluid movement – opening up the vessels close to the skin surface to allow better flow. For this reason, RockTape is often used to assist recovery from injury or heavy exercise sessions. Typically, with this purpose in mind, the preferred application technique for recovery is the fan cut or “jellyfish” technique, where narrow strips are cut along the length of the tape.
The dramatic effect on bruising can be seen with a quick “Google Images” search using the search words “rocktape bruising”. Go on, do it now, the rest of this can wait….. Pretty remarkable isn’t it! Clearing bruising this way doesn’t necessarily “heal” the tissue any more quickly, but it can definitely help reduce the pain by reducing the fluid pressure in the area. Whilst the exact mechanism of how the “jellyfish” application works is the source of much debate, there can’t be any denying that it certainly has an effect! Some believe that the tape creates areas of higher and lower pressure in the tissue, due to the lifting effect along the tape. Fluid will usually move from areas of high pressure to areas of lower pressure, so perhaps this pressure gradient is what promotes the clearance of bruising? The fan cut, whilst primarily used for swelling/bruising, will also have the pain relieving effects that we discussed in the previous blog.
People often ask where the jellyfish application fits clinically, as it is somewhat at odds with the traditional first aid principles of Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (RICE) in that RockTape has a “decompressive” effect. There is much debate in the literature at present as to whether RICE is the best first line management of an injury, as it has never been rigorously validated in scientific trials. We will watch that ongoing debate with interest. In the meantime, it comes down to clinical reasoning with regard to when to apply the jellyfish in relation to the RICE protocol or any other frontline “first aid” management that you may use.
There is also some recent research showing that applying kinesiology tape can reduce “DOMS”- delayed onset muscle soreness. Remember this next time you fill in for your friend’s netball team if you haven’t played for 3 years! The “jellyfish” application again seems to be the most effective way of applying tape for this purpose. The exact physiology of how it works is the subject of debate, but the effect has now been shown over a number of studies, including studies looking at blood markers as a sign of recovery. It is likely that the opening up of the superficial fluid vessels is the mechanism by which recovery is enhanced. Give it a try and let us know what you think!
Remember that RockTape is hypoallergenic, containing no latex or zinc oxide which are the two main substances that irritate people using some wound dressings or rigid tape. This makes it suitable for most skin types and people of all ages. RockTape can also be worn for 3-5 days as the lightweight fabric can “breathe” and therefore moisture is not trapped under the tape.