Injured and wondering if applying kinesiotape is right for you? This post is the first in a series of How-To articles about Kinesiotape and its application vs. Climbers tape. Kinesiotape can be difficult to apply (and to keep on!!) which will be our second posting of teh kinesiotape series. Check back in next week to learn more about this body-training, useful product that acts like a physiotherapist while you train for climbing.
Read Dr. Lisa's guidance below on the common mistakes with kinesiotape. First, let's hit the uses for Kinesiotape that you should NOT be envisioning:
Mistake #1: Expecting Stability Control
Kinesiotape is for brain training and swelling control. It is not to be used instead of climbers tape in those who want ligament support or joint stability. Say you damage your ankle or are waiting for that fracture to heal, this is NOT the tape for you. Above: An image of kinesiotape (to help with swelling and joint compression) underneath the beginnings of a stability tape job for a ligament injury on the side of the PIP joint. If we were to use the blue kinesiotape alone, this joint could still shift and twist under the loads of training for climbing.
Injuries that should NOT be Kinesiotaped;
1. Fractures (These usually need real stability, think a boot, a splint, or a rigid support). If you have a fracture, you might use kinesiotape under your splint for swelling control, or along the forearm to teach the muscle loading the fracture to relax and not spasm. These would be great practical applications for your fracture besides using it for a stability. Fractures do best with lack of motion and as much stability control as possible. For fingers, we use a finger splint, in the hand, we also usually use a splint (cock up or cock down splint depending on the injury, etc). The WORST thing we can do for a fracture is to keep moving it, which continuously breaks the delicate tissues created by osteoblasts int eh healing region.
To understand the remodeling of the bony matrix during healing, one might think of a delicate glass being laid down while you are healing. This fragile material turns to bone but is easily destroyed with even the gentlest of pressures. When in question, it's best to rest it out and YES, only one day of walking or climbing on it and you are back at square one.
2. Injuries that are over flexible and need stability. Think a separated ankle, an ankle that dislocates easily, a pulley that has been injured that needs unloaded (this tape helps control swelling and gives light support but is more motor-control training (nerves and proprioception which means teaching the body where it is in space and how the motion occurs in the region. This teaches the body to spasm less, stabilize more, and is a great training tool for teaching stability (vs. forcing it like climbers tape).
3. Injuries that are susceptible to skin irritation. Kinesiotape has glue in it
that helps it to adhere to your skin. With this said, if you have missing skin, inflamed skin, or are susceptible to irritation from glues, you should NOT be using kinesiotapes. I personally have used it to help hold wound edges together while out int he field, and it worked nicely while allowing the wound to seep and be cleaned, however this is not the Gold Standard of medical application (but it might be useful for in the field!)
Now that we know what injuries kinesiotape is best NOT used as the number one support, we can now visit the wonderful uses that kinesiotape was designed for!
Kinesiotape is Great for the following uses:
1. Teaching the area self-stability.
Once an area has been injured, the brain
usually tries to protect it by not allowing it to perform the tasks it was able to do prior to the injury. We call this a self-protection mechanism. Its as-if the body doesn't know that the injury has long been healed. Kinesiotape comes in great in this situation to help the recovery of regions associated with now-healed fractures, dislocations, strains, tendonitis, etc. The kinesiotape applied on the skin correctly (the next blog post!!) will give sensory feedback to the region via hairs, vibration sensors and motion sensors (mechanoreceptors).
The tape provides feedback on the 'here and now' instead of the past injury feedback loop of what hurt. Putting the tape on the region gives real feedback as you move and trains the area to move correctly as it was designed. Have a knee 'wobble' or does your wrist 'buckle' with load? This tape, correctly applied, will give feedback as if a physiotherapist is right there with you. The golden nugget of this lesson is that this information hits the spine and comes right back to train this area subconsciously. You don't even have to think about it! This decreases spasms, increases the firing of more fibers in the muscle being asked to contract or relax, and it retrains the muscle without you even having to think about it.
2. Retraining Motion Patterns.
Often, we have abnormal patterns in our gait (or climbing habits) secondary to old injuries, weakness patterns, or just lack-of-use. My favorite use of this tape is for that climber who tenses their shoulder too much. We can loop it over the shoulder to teach them not to contract the muscle so much...You feel the tape stretching? You are slouching or raising your shoulders up to your ears.
3. Teaching core recruitment. Have an abdominal muscular zone you can't get to turn on (such as the right lower quadrant) you can run tape over it and across up to the left upper quadrant at a 45 degree angle to teach these two regions to begin speaking together and to recruit as a pair. The region will begin recruiting quicker, stronger and its all from the tape reminding it of its job!
Don't worry, we'll hit the how to of these taping patterns in my next Part 3 Blog Post!! Thanks for reading Part 1 of Kinesiotaping, make sure to check in later this week for Part 2 (Avoid common mistakes with tape application).
Learn more tricks and self-care ideas in my book Climbing Injuries Solved. Available through Amazon, please ask for it at your local retailer or consider purchasing it off my website! If you wouldn't mind leaving me a review after doing so, that'd be GREAT!!
About Dr. Lisa
I am a practicing injury coach and sports medicine doctor in Boulder Colorado who is very fond of teaching. A past paid medical provider for USAC, the San Jose Ballet and for the AVP Tour, I now work full time at my medical practice providing diagnostic ultrasound and training for climbing education for difficult injuries (mainly climbers fingers, pulley injuries and elbow tendonosis cases). I currently am quite intrigued with off-width climbing and have spent 25 days of camping this year alone to climb (however I didn't get to do very much OW!!!. My favorite climbing area is 10Sleep and the climbing route that I've had the MOST fun is the moderate classic on Castleton's Kor-Ingalls route (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!). I can be seen when not climbing outside at Evo Climbing and Fitness in Louisville, Colorado or at the Boulder Rock Club in Boulder Colorado.