Updated July 2019
It can sometimes feel like you’re running in circles while trying to find a solution to your injury. If you are exploring your options for treatment, athletic taping might be an avenue for you. Here 5 common injuries that may respond well to athletic taping:
1) Patellafemoral Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee) or Chondromalacia Patellae
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) is pain of the patella (kneecap) region caused by a malalignment of the patella as it tracks through a groove in the femur. This can lead to Chondromalacia Patellae where friction due to poor patellar tracking leads to softening and damage of patellar cartilage. PFPS is typically caused by a recent change in physical activity, muscle imbalance, or poor dynamic control of the knee when running or jumping. Taping can be used to help maintain good patellar tracking by using either non-elastic leuko tape with a technique called “McConnell taping” or with elastic Kinesio tape. Both methods have been shown to reduce pain. While taping can help settle symptoms during sport, movement retraining is typically required to prevent PFPS from occurring again.
2) Plantar Fasciitis
The plantar fascia is a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs from the calcaneus (heel) to the metatarsal heads (balls of the foot). It is a key component of the windlass mechanism where the arch rises due to stiffness in the plantar fascia during mid-stance and toe off. The plantar fascia is relatively inflexible, but can shorten and stiffen during sleep and is painful during the first few steps of the day as it is suddenly stretched back to normal length. Causes of plantar fasciitis include poor biomechanics (excessive pronation), recent changes in activity, weight gain, shoes with limited cushion, tight calf musculature, and prolonged time standing or walking. A variety of taping techniques can be used to raise and support the arches of the foot thus decreasing the load placed on the plantar fascia. Techniques using either rigid tape or elastic tape may be appropriate depending on what is most relieving to the individual. In conjunction with taping, shockwave therapy can be effective at treating plantar fasciitis long-term.
3) Ankle Sprain
Ankle sprains are one of the most common sport related injuries, and although often not appropriate immediately after injury, taping may help to facilitate return to activity. Using the term sprain can be a misnomer as an ankle sprain can include a Grade 1 (stretch), Grade 2 (partial tear) or Grade 3 (full tear) of ligaments, which connect bone to bone and are an important component of joint stability. With a supportive ankle tape job, such as a “Closed Basket-Weave” using non-elastic tape, the ankle can be supported and excessive motion can be limited to reduce strain on the healing ligaments and joints, and help prevent re-injury. It is not appropriate to tape when there are other concurrent injuries in the area, such as fractures. Keep in mind that while taping can reduce instability in the short term, strengthening ankle stabilizers (muscles) and improving static and dynamic balance are key components of reducing the risk of recurrent ankle sprains and returning safely to sport or daily activity.
4) Scapular Dyskinesia (i.e., Impaired Shoulder Blade Position/Control)
Scapular dyskinesia refers to altered scapular position (shoulder blade position) at rest or during shoulder movement. Scapular dyskinesia is a common occurrence in shoulder injury, shoulder surgery and neck injury. This is due to shoulder musculature typically originating from the spine or chest and inserting upon the scapula or humerus. Depending on the cause of dyskinesia, taping can be helpful. Elastic or non-elastic tape can be used to facilitate or inhibit muscles, encourage improved static posture, and encourage better scapular mechanics during reaching. Paired with strengthening and biomechanical retraining of shoulder movement, taping may improve pain and outcomes.
5) Mid and Low Back Postural Pain
Postural back pain refers to a pain or ache caused by sustained stress on the joints and tissues of the back by adopting a posture for a prolonged period of time. This is a common cause of low back pain in people with jobs at desks but can also be observed in athletes who are required to hold a position for an extended period of time (e.g. cyclists). Taping, typically non-elastic leuko tape, can be an effective way to encourage the avoidance of excessive slouched postures to reduce postural back pain. Elastic taping with similar techniques have some evidence of reducing disability and pain.
Reasons to Not Tape or to Remove Tape:
Sensitive skin or allergy to tape
Increase in symptoms (pain, numbness/tingling, discolouration, swelling) around or distal to the tape
If the skin begins to feel itchy, hot, or irritated
Brukner, P., & Khan, K. (n.d.). (2012). Brukner & Khan's clinical sports medicine (4th ed.). McGraw Hill
Campolo, M., et al. (2013). A Comparison of two taping techniques (Kinesio and McConnell) and their effect on anterior knee pain during functional activities. Int J Sports Physical Therapy, 8(2), 105-110
Derasari A. et al. (2010). McConnell taping shifts the patella inferiorly in patients with patellofemoral pain: a dynamic magnetic resonance imaging study. Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association, 90(3), 411–419
Stephen Baker graduated from Western University with a Masters of Physical Therapy. He has a passion for helping those with neck, hand or knee injuries return to their daily adventures. Book with Stephen today.