What is kinesiology taping?
Kinesiology Tape, Kinesiotape, K-Tape, Physio-Tape, etc. is a type of therapeutic modality that involves the use of a stretchy, sticky tape to aid our regular physiotherapy treatments. You may have noticed it on some athlete’s on the TV from time to time but we can use it on our four legged patients too! So here's a bit more information on what it is and how it works!
The tapes we use are generally 97-100% cotton and have heat activated acrylic as an adhesive. They also have between 140-180% elasticity which is perfect for allowing the dog a full range of motion whilst also mimicking and moving with the dog’s skin. Despite a dog’s fur coats, with the right tape, it does stick very well and can last up to 3 days before coming off which is about how long we want it to last for most conditions, to allow the tissues to have a rest in between applications.
How does kinesiology taping work?
We might not be able to say with 100% certainty how taping works but there are theories about how it can affect different aspects within the body. The most general affect involves lifting of the skin. Most things that are stretched, want to return to their normal position so the tape is often applied with varying degrees of stretch and this means as it sticks to skin or hair, it gently takes these tissues with it as it tries to recoil to a normal position. As the skin and hair is lifted, it helps to stretch the superficial fascia and other tissues, providing more “space”, meaning that this should in theory allow blood vessels to dilate further and improve circulation and lymphatic drainage for increased nutrients to the area being taped as well as increased waste product removal.
Now taping may not be able to achieve everything that it’s claimed to, but it can definitely benefit several areas that can assist our rehabilitation plans. Some of these benefits include increasing body awareness (proprioception), reducing swelling (oedema), helping to decrease muscle spasm/trigger points (knots within muscles), helping to inhibit an over-active or very tight muscle, helping to increase activation of a weak muscle, and possibly helping to reduce areas of pain.
What can kinesiology taping help with?
Fascia is a type of connective tissue that is vital to animals moving optimally, it runs all over the body and pretty much keeps everything in our bodies connected to each other. Taping can reinforce manual releases (e.g. massage, stretching, specific fascial release techniques) of this tissue as well as giving an opportunity to provide a more gentle release in areas that might be too painful to release manually.
Nerve fibres that help us with knowing where our body is in relation to itself and the environment are found in muscles, joints, tendons, skin, fascia, etc. These fibres give the brain constant feedback on tension, stretching, or movement of different tissues. The superficial fascial layer, just under the skin, has many proprioceptive nerve fibres that can be stimulated simply by using taping and improving proprioception or body awareness. By stimulating the nerve fibres in this way, it is also thought to be how we can use tape to assist in either activation or inhibiting a particular muscle.
An example of taping for proprioception. Source: Author's own
We can apply tape along muscles in either direction and with different levels of tension to influence the muscles tone. In muscles that have decreased tone, are weak, or injured, we can assist the muscle in it’s action or “activate it”. This would be similar to how we would tape for a tendon or ligament injury too. Alternatively, we could tape in the opposite direction for muscles that have increased tone or have started to spasm in order to “inhibit” the muscle by providing tension in the direction the muscle would usually stretch.
An example of taping to aid in relieving muscle spasm. Source: Author's own
An example of taping of the Achille's tendon. Source: Author's own
Trigger points or muscular knots are tight bands of muscle fibres that result from compensation due to injury or changes in the way an animal moves. We tend to use other therapies to try and relieve these such as massage, fascial release, or laser therapy as they can become quite painful. But sometimes they can be quite stubborn and require more to fully release and taping can help to alleviate some of the fascial tension and restrictions that tend to surround them and can help give a carryover affect after the manual therapy treatment to release them further.
Taping can also potentially be used to stimulate acupuncture/acupressure points within the body.
Improving circulation and decreasing swelling
Through the lifting effect of the tape, the increased circulation provides opportunity for unwanted fluid/swelling to be moved out of an area. Additionally, when there has been an acute or recent injury, the area of the body that has been injured tends to swell to some degree. This swelling can cause pain because of increased pressure on pain transmitting nerve fibres and by relieving this pressure through moving the fluid and lifting the tissue, taping can also provide an additional tool to help with pain relief.
Taping for swelling after spinal surgery. Source: OnlinePetHealth
When is it not possible to use taping?
Taping should be avoided where a patient has a particularly sensitive skin disease, any open wounds, a fever, or localised infection. It also shouldn't be used directly over areas of malignant tumours or over general areas of increased sensitivity. Although it is unlikely to be harmful to pregnant animals, until we know more, it’s unlikely to be worth any potential risk it could cause. Therefore, we tend to err on the side of caution and avoid using it on pregnant animals in favour of other treatments.
We would also not likely use taping in a patient with a long or double coat as it generally doesn’t have much of an effect in these cases, unless they had a pre-shaved patch that was suitable for taping. If the patient is going into hydrotherapy straight afterwards, it does depend on the area of the body that has been taped and how submerged they are in water e.g. taping over the back when walking on the treadmill will likely stay on. However, if the tape is in on a limb, especially over a very mobile joint and the joint is then submerged underwater, it is quite likely to peel off relatively quickly. We don’t tend to use additional adhesive sprays at Synergy as we prefer allowing the tape to come off naturally because if it’s on for too long, this can cause problems for the dog's skin.
Get in touch if you’d like to book a physiotherapy appointment and see if taping could help your dog!
All the best,