Editor’s note: Thanks to Taylor Furry for taping my shoulder with Kinesio Tape and taking the pictures. Thanks also to Robert Kendall for photographing the wrist wrap and helping me with that and thanks to Holly Hutchinson for the RockTape.
Sport taping has been around for a long time but lately people have taken it to new levels enhancing healing and performance. My personal taping experience comes from a martial arts background – in order to pass the first degree black belt exam in DanZanRyu jujitsu I had to demonstrate the ability to tape. My sensei Professor Musselman taught us students to tear off multiple small pieces of athletic tape to set up for the project. This saves time and just makes it easier. You can anchor the pieces to something nearby like a table for easy access while you tape. The tape goes on the joint in the direction best suited to stabilize it, each strip overlapping about halfway. Then a second tape layer is wrapped in the opposite direction, those strips overlapping as well. It’s a good technique – I wrapped an ankle for the test and when we cut the wrap off it stood alone like a boot. Solid.
Sport taping has generally been used for supporting joints so athletes can continue to train and compete. Taping can also support a joint during the healing process after an injury. But new technologies are being applied to the tape itself so that it can be used in more therapeutic ways, and new taping techniques are being developed to help active people stay active. For example, I tried Kinesio Tape for the first time on my shoulder. Here’s what the Kinesio Taping website has to say about its method:
“The Kinesio Taping® Method is a definitive rehabilitative taping technique that is designed to facilitate the body’s natural healing process while providing support and stability to muscles and joints without restricting the body’s range of motion as well as providing extended soft tissue manipulation to prolong the benefits of manual therapy administered within the clinical setting.” https://kinesiotaping.com/about/what-is-the-kinesio-taping-method/
The tape is designed so that it massages the tissue gently while the body moves. This promotes circulation which in turn speeds the healing process by bringing blood and nutrients to the injured muscles. It’s also soothing.
When my shoulder acted up (good ol’ rotator cuff) one of the guys at the dojo taped it for me with Kinesio Tape, and it definitely helped. My shoulder felt secure and it didn’t hurt when I trained. You can leave the tape on for a few days and it will keep supporting and protecting the joint.
I’ve also used RockTape. According to their website, RockTape reduces pain, decompresses areas of swelling and inflammation, and delays fatigue, among other benefits. Below I’ve included a technique for supporting the wrist joint using Rock Tape taught me by my massage therapist, Holly Hutchinson. Because wrists are one of the weak links in a kayaker’s chain, I thought this method would be useful to our readers. It really reduced the discomfort in my wrist and allowed me to move without pain.
Pull the muscles down away from the hand to stretch the tissue and then, holding the muscles in the elongated position, apply the tape perpendicular to the tissue fibers. Release the muscle and leave the tape on for up to three days. It helps to have someone to assist you if you’re taping a shoulder, elbow, or wrist.
Keep the tension on the muscles gentle but firm, not horrendously tight. You should feel a mild easing in the joint as the muscles stretch.
I highly recommend tape for even minor joint pain. We don’t always think of ourselves as athletes, but everyone who values an active lifestyle can benefit from treating themselves like an athlete. A little support goes a long way to heal and preserve our active bodies. We hope you find this information useful.
I’m sure there are other types of tape out there but Kinesio Tape and RockTape are the only two I have personal experience with. Got any other suggestions for taping or methods of joint support? Let us know by adding your comment below!