Sports Medicine Research: In the Lab & In the Field: Kinesio Taping Does Not Improve Gastrocnemius Muscle Function in Healthy, Active Individuals (Sports Med Res)
Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Kinesio Taping Does Not Improve Gastrocnemius Muscle Function in Healthy, Active Individuals

Kinesio taping and the circulation and endurance ratio of the gastrocnemius muscle

Stedge HL, Kroskie RM, and Dockerty CL. J of Athl Training. 2012 December; 47(6): 635-642.

Kinesio-tape (KT) has become increasingly popular in athletics. Theoretically, KT is used to lift the skin which will increase blood and lymphatic flow; therefore, improving muscle function. However, minimal research has been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of KT for improving muscle function. Therefore, Stedge and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled clinical trial with 61 volunteers (23 men, 38 women, 19.9 ± 8 years old) to determine the effect of KT on the muscular endurance ratio, blood flow, and circumference and volume of the grastrocmenius muscle. Participants were included if they had no history of leg trauma within the past year and were excluded if they were diabetic or smoked. Participants were assigned to 1 of 3 groups: KT, sham KT, and control. Participants who were allocated to the KT group received two strips of tape applied to the proximal origins of the gastrocnemius, framing the gastrocnemius medially and laterally. The sham KT group received a single piece of KT placed around the circumference of the gastrocnemius. Testing occurred over a 4-day period, with the first day consisting of baseline measurements and application of tape (when applicable). The authors performed subsequent measurements 1 and 3 days after the intervention. The participants in the KT and sham KT groups were instructed not remove the tape. The authors measured muscular endurance ratio (plantar flexion / dorsiflexion) with an isokinetic CYBEX NORMdynamometer with the knee flexed to 90 degrees. Blood flow was measured for 5 minutes using a noninvasive laser Doppler. Lower leg circumference and volume measurements were taken using both a tape measure and volumetric water displacement, respectively. Overall, the authors observed no differences between groups across time (muscular endurance ratio, blood flow, circumference, and volume of the grastrocmenius muscle).

Overall this study presents data to suggest that KT does not improve gastrocnemius function in healthy, active subjects. This should be cautiously interpreted though as this study was completed on active, healthy, uninjured individuals. Generally, KT is performed on injured athletes in an attempt to return them to their pre-injury level of function. Because the participants in this study would have no abnormal levels of inflammation or edema, it is not surprising there was a negative result. It would be interesting to see this study performed again but in injured individuals to truly assess KT on those whom KT is intended to benefit. Another point of caution was the sham treatment. While the sham KT was applied to the lower leg it did not closely mimic the way it was applied in the experimental group, and therefore may have influenced the results of the study.  Perhaps in future research the tape can be applied in a different way that does not mimic the experimental group. Further, the methods of measuring edema open the door to readings of inflammation from other muscles other than the gastrocnemius; therefore, a more accurate method of measuring edema should be explored. Also, the methodology and purpose of this study can only be applied to the gastrocnemius. It would be prudent for future KT research to expand and look for other muscles to see if any interaction between the variable of muscular endurance, blood flow, circumference, and muscle volume exist. It would also be logical that future research attempt to measure these effects in patients in more functional activities if possible to make the outcomes even more applicable to clinicians. Clearly, although this study demonstrated that KT was not effective in improving gastrocnemius functioning in healthy, active subjects, more research is needed to better understand the true efficacy of KT treatment. Do you use KT on your athletes and how have they responded? Have you seen any anecdotal evidence to support its use?

Written by: Kyle Harris
Reviewed by:  Stephen Thomas

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Stedge HL, Kroskie RM, & Docherty CL (2012). Kinesio taping and the circulation and endurance ratio of the gastrocnemius muscle. Journal of athletic training, 47 (6), 635-42 PMID: 23182011

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