The effect of kinesiology tape on muscle output in healthy subjects has been the topic of many research studies, with some variable results. A recent study by Lumbruso et al from Israel may have shed some light on why there have been some differences in results. This study looked at the effect of kinesiology tape applications to the gastrocnemius and hamstrings in 36 healthy 18-35 year olds. They divided the subjects into 2 groups and either taped one group’s gastrocnemius, and the other their hamstrings. They then looked at a number of different measures of range of movement (ROM) and muscle peak forces. These measures were taken before tape application, 15 minutes after application, and then 48 hours later with the tape still in place.
Interestingly, the group that had their calf muscle taped had a significant improvement in straight leg raise (SLR) and ankle dorsiflexion ROM 15 minutes after application, but didn’t improve any further by 48 hours. However at this time, their knee extension angle had improved to a significant level, which is another measure of lower limb flexibility. With regard to peak muscle forces, the gastrocnemius displayed an increase in force at 15 minutes but by 48 hours both hamstring and gastrocnemius had increased force. This highlights the fascial continuities of the gastrocnemius and hamstrings, in that taping the gastrocnemius could also influence a more proximal muscle.
In the hamstring group, there were also some differences in findings from those at 15 minutes post taping to those at 48 hours post taping. At 15 minutes, the SLR ROM had increased significantly, but then by 48 hours had not improved any further. The hamstring peak force had not altered by 15 minutes, but showed significant increases by 48 hours.
These findings were quite interesting in that some measures differed significantly from 15 minutes after application to those taken at 48 hours, suggesting that many studies that only look at immediate effects may have missed possible changes that could occur at a later time period. It also appears that in this population the hamstrings had a more delayed response in peak force than gastrocnemius, suggesting that different muscles in the healthy body may have different responses to kinesiology tape.
This study didn’t include a control group, or a “sham” taping group, although previous studies have shown the difficulties of “sham” taping, as there will still be altered input to the brain with any tape application on the skin. The assessors were also not blinded to group allocation, but as the authors point out, the measures taken were very objective in nature so this should not have drastically altered the outcomes. The study also had a narrow age group of healthy subjects, so generalizability to other age brackets and pathologies cannot be assumed.
This study used a 30% tape stretch in their applications. This is the amount that Rocktape advocate for many of our taping techniques, and we are pleased to see once again that research is supporting our teaching methods.
Lumbruso, D., Ziv, E., Vered, E., & Kalichman, L., (2014). The effect of kinesio tape application on hamstring and gastrocnemius muscles in healthy young adults. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 18, 130-138.