It seems to be almost everywhere you look now on TV or live sporting events that at least half the competitors will have flashes of bright colours on their limbs, and appear to be being held together by selotape.
Elastic Therapeutic Tape, to give it a more formal name was actually developed all the way back in the 1970′s, but has really only risen to prevalence in elite athletics at the last Olympics, and has been catching on in the amateur market in the last year or so really. Until recently the tape was solely the remit of qualified professionals who would find the pain point and know the most effective ways to support limbs and muscles, allowing the athlete to continue competing harder, longer and faster. Now though, you can buy it online or even in the poundshop and administer it yourself in the comfort of your own home. Yes, a few weeks ago I saw Kinesio Tape in the local 99p store, I gave it a wide berth, but I should have gotten some to test it out I guess. Have not seen it there since.
Those beady-eyed amongst you may remember a little while back when my knee first felt a little sore, that I purchased an off-the-shelf DIY knee tape kit from Boots which is made by arguably the market-leaders Kinesio UK. In the pack came 3 pre-cut strips, and a guide to applying it. The tape stuck pretty well, and held well for a few days after application. I’m unsure whether it helped or not, but whilst it was on I managed to complete a 10 mile run in relative comfort, and then struggled to 9.5 miles the next day ending in a lot of pain. But who is to say I would have even made it that far without the tape on my knee.
A few days later I was chatting on twitter about my knee issues, and someone recommended Rocktape. I was a little hesitant seeing as I wasn’t sure exactly what the benefit of the Kinesio Tape had been. But pretty quickly the Rocktape guys had gotten in touch and offered to send me some slides for some knee applications. In fact, they went one step better and agreed to send me a sample to try out for the blog here.
Needless to say, it was a free pack so I got the logo version :-) but it comes in a whole heap of colours and patterns.
The box comes with a handy guide for some applications, though these differ from the videos on the rocktape website, and again from the slides that the guys sent me to try out. To me this just highlights a somewhat scatter-gun approach to this limb taping business and makes me question the true benefit of it all. On the first application I decided to go with the video on the rocktape site as it was very similar to the kind of application I had seen elsewhere.
Instantly I had issues with the tape sticking – despite rubbing to heat the adhesive as advised to do, the first strip refused to really stick to my knee at all. So I had to scrap the first attempt and moved onto another strip. This time it went on better, but then attaching the second strip it has very poor adhesion to the first strip. I had read, when initially researching Kinesio Tape, that they tend to not sticking to themselves, though Rocktape make no such admission, and the video clearly shows overlapping tape. I put the bracing strap under the knee cap and headed out for my run – just a short couple of miles.
By the time I got home, the tape had puckered up around my knee and any overlapping bit were loose – I had to pull it off. So much for 5 days wear.
The next time out I decided to give it another go, and whilst I went for the same application idea, I modified the angles and length of the tapes as I tried to avoid too much overlapping.
This method held much better, and I managed the full 5 days of wear, though it was peeling by the end of the third day. Maybe it’s my hairy legs that don’t help, though for the second application I did take a pair of scissors to the area around the knee to shorten the hair, I’m not sure how much difference it made.
On the whole though, I got a couple of runs done (including 7 miles for the Longest Day Run) and in relative comfort. So was it the tape working its magic, or was my knee feeling better? Well on a day-to-day basis it is feeling generally better, so maybe it is all subjective. I am very much of the opinion that most things are generally a case of mind-over-matter. So was the fact that I felt I had made an effort by putting tape on my knee, covertly telling me that my knee would feel better?!?
I went on to do a couple more shorter runs without any tape on, still feeling good, even managing 5 miles this week with no issues. I decided yesterday on a longer run to try out a slightly different application which was on the pamphlet that came with the tape. A longer strip comes down the quad before splitting to wrap around the knee. A Brace strap is then fitted under the knee cap. For the full 7.5miles my knee felt good, even with a slight stumble on a downhill trail. But again, the tape had to come off in the shower afterwards as it was peeling off my quad.
On the whole I think there is probably some actual science needed to quantify how and why this tape works, and perhaps some consensus as to how you actually apply the stuff – I am sure seeing a professional is more advantageous than just buying a strip and applying it yourself. I would suggest though that maybe this tape is not all that great for such a flexible joint as a knee, and especially not a gorilla-hairy one like mine.
I think I’ll use it again – because even if I don’t know if it’s working, I like having the knowledge that I have made an attempt, and I feel more comfortable on the run at the minute with that kind of comfort-blanket approach to treating my knee.