Updated July 2021
When you have an injury, it can feel as though you’re running in circles trying to find a solution. If you’re exploring treatment options, don’t forget about athletic taping! Below, you’ll find 5 common injuries that may improve with athletic taping:
1) Patellofemoral Pain (PFP or Runner’s Knee) or Chondromalacia Patellae
Patellofemoral Pain is characterized by pain around the patella (knee cap). Malalignment of the patella is one of a few causes of PFP. As the patella tracks through the trochlea (groove on the femur), muscle tension and/or knee mechanics can cause increased pressure on certain parts of the underside of the patella resulting in pain with overuse. The increased pressure can also lead to Chondromalacia Patellae which is a fancy way of saying that friction has caused patellar cartilage to soften and become rough.
PFP is frequently caused by a recent change in physical activity (too much, too soon), muscle imbalance, or poor dynamic control of the knee when running or jumping. McConnell taping can improve patellar tracking and change the pressure points under the patella during activity, thus offloading it and allowing it to recover. While taping can help settle symptoms during sport, movement retraining is typically required to prevent PFP from occurring again.
2) Plantar Fasciosis (Plantar Fasciitis)
The plantar fascia is a thick band of fibrous tissue running from the calcaneus (heel) to the metatarsal heads (balls of the foot). It effects the windlass mechanism, where the plantar fascia stiffens and causes the arch to rise during mid-stance and toe off during walking. An inflexible structure, the plantar fascia can shorten and stiffen during sleep. A hallmark of this shortening is the pain inducing stretch that can occur during the first few steps of the day or after prolonged sitting.
Plantar fasciosis can be caused by excessive pronation (flat feet), recent changes in activity, weight gain, shoes with limited cushion, tight calf musculature, or prolonged time standing and walking. Yet another ‘too much, too soon’ type injury, the best treatment is relative rest. As we all have to walk, taping can be an effective way to support the plantar fascia and reduce the load it experiences when walking and doing our daily activities. 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 persistent plantar fasciosis.
As an aside, plantar fasciosis is the new term for plantar fasciitis. ‘–itis’ implies inflammation and studies have shown that chronic degeneration of the plantar fascia is not an inflammatory process, hence fasciosis is a more accurate medical term.
3) Ankle Sprain
An Ankle sprain is likely the most common sport injury and taping can help facilitate return to activity.
Taping with a technique such as the “Closed Basket-Weave” using non-elastic tape can support and prevent excessive ankle motion and thus protect the healing ligaments. This type of taping technique can also reduce the risk of re-injury. While taping can reduce instability in the short term, the tape stretches and cannot be relied upon for longer than a couple hours.
While we use the term ankle ‘sprain’, it’s actually a misnomer. An ankle sprain is a ligament injury and can be any of a Grade 1 sprain (stretch), Grade 2 tear (partial tear) or Grade 3 tear (full tear) of ligaments. Ligaments connect bone to bone and are an important component of joint stability. Luckily, most ligament tears around the ankle can be compensated for with strengthening, balance and proprioceptive training, and taping or bracing. Talk to your physiotherapist today if you’ve had an ankle sprain as it is important to do proper rehab before returning to sport!
4) Scapular Dyskinesia
Scapular dyskinesia is a fancy way of saying that shoulder blade position during movement is altered. It is common following shoulder injury; the body tries to avoid painful movements and less optimal mechanics are adopted that cause their own problems. Think of scapular dyskinesia like a limp: The limp may be caused by a painful knee, but limping can cause a painful hip or back!
Scapular Dyskinesia is also common after shoulder surgery or neck injury. This is because the scapula is largely connected to the torso via muscles that originate from the neck, chest or back. Depending on the cause of dyskinesia, taping may be an option for pain relief. Elastic or non-elastic tape can be used to facilitate or inhibit muscles, encourage improved posture and better scapular mechanics.
As always, tape is not an effective treatment alone. While it can reduce pain and dysfunction, it should be paired with strengthening and biomechanical retraining of shoulder movement for optimal results.
5) Mid and Low Back Postural Pain
Postural back pain refers to a pain or ache caused by sustained stress on the joints, ligaments and muscles of the back.
It is commonly thought that there is a ‘perfect’ upright posture. Better understanding of the body has shown that this is not the case. Any prolonged posture can cause postural pain. Many physiotherapists have adopted the phrase ‘The next posture is the best posture.’ In essence, this phrase suggests that movement improves blood flow, lubricates joints and reduces pain by avoiding prolonged positions. If you catch yourself with postural pain, the best thing you can do is move! Take a few seconds or a minute and get up and get your blood pumping.
Low back pain is commonly observed in people with desk jobs but it can also be seen in athletes who similarly hold prolonged postures (e.g. cyclists). Taping with elastic or non-elastic tape, can be an effective way to encourage movement away a your typical posture thus reducing the sustained stress on joints, ligaments and muscles.
When Taping is Not Appropriate
Don’t tape if you have:
Sensitive skin or allergy to tape
Pain, numbness or tingling around or beyond the tape
Discolouration or swelling around or beyond the tape
If your skin feels 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.