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
Reviewed by:  Stephen Thomas

Related Posts

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