CLEVELAND – Many of us may have seen athletes on the court, on the field, or even on the ice sporting large strips of tape over their muscles.
Known as elastic therapeutic tape, this brightly-colored tape is used by physical therapists for a variety of reasons.
“It’s different than your standard athletic tape, which is used to immobilize a joint, said Dominic King, D.O., of Cleveland Clinic. “Elastic therapeutic taping has the benefit of actually being stretchy. When you apply it to a joint, it helps to act almost like a rubber band, supporting muscles and tendons, and taking a little stress off of the joints. It also can help swelling in certain areas.”
Dr. King said many people think that putting on the tape will give them a mechanical advantage, but often times it can be more of a perceived effect.
Previous research shows that some folks can experience a short term benefit from wearing it.
Dr. King said some people report feeling a little more comfortable, and it seems to give them some added support.
However, he warned there is the risk in possibly pushing the body a little too hard by being over-confident in how well the tape is going to work.
Research has yet to show any long-term benefit from using elastic therapeutic tape, but for the short term, with the right guidance, Dr. King said it can be useful.
“For the short term it actually can help with some joints that might be painful, for a couple hours or maybe for a day; but it doesn’t really have that type of long-term relief, where this is going to be the only thing you’re going to need in order to take away all of your joint pains,” he said.
Dr. King said it’s not recommended to use the tape as a first line of defense to treat muscle soreness, but rather as part of a program that combines physical therapy.
He also said it’s best to have it applied by a trained professional, because without proper guidance, a person could further aggravate an injury.
“Whenever you have muscle soreness; either pain during activity, or pain after activity – something that doesn’t go away and you’re going to take your first step towards getting some type of treatment – it’s important to see a health care professional to understand the underlying problem that’s causing that symptom,” he said.
Dr. King also said it’s important to note that elastic therapeutic tape will not help a person recover faster.
“If you have an injury and you use this, it’s not that you’re going to recover from the injury quicker, it’s going to be support,” he said. “There’s not really a replacement for the neuromuscular education you get through physical therapy.”