Tapes can relieve pain, strengthen or relax muscles, and improve movement. Here are some things to keep in mind when applying them yourself.
Tapes have long been considered colorful placebos on the skin. However, there are now some studies, albeit small, that show an effect. The tapes can relieve pain, strengthen muscles or relax. They draw attention to the taped area and improve body awareness of that area. Bruises dissolve much faster under taped areas. Runners who are bothered by “runners leg” should definitely try a taping – in addition to the other treatment methods. They often benefit greatly from it.
The advantage of tapes is that you can’t do much wrong with them if you follow a few basics. In the “worst” case, taping simply does no good. In the best case it helps. This is especially true for localized pain or swelling and bruising, for example after supination trauma to the ankle (a rolled ankle).
And this is how it works:
- It is best to have a specialist apply the tape the first time and explain how it is applied. If you take some photos during the application, you can remember it better at home.
- The taping depends very much on what you want to tap: Muscles, tendons or lymphatics? When taping a muscle, the tape follows the course of the muscle from the muscle origin to the muscle insertion or vice versa, depending on whether you want to tense or relax the muscle. Or you can tap from the fixed point of the muscle to the mobile point. When taping a tendon, it is also recommended to apply a tape across the tendon to relieve it. Nowadays, “functional” often means taping a combination of muscles in motion (for example, internal or external rotation).
- Choose a color. Whether color really matters that much is debatable. Black warms up in the sun and thus warms the muscle underneath, which many find beneficial. “Cool” colors such as blue are often used for relaxation in cases of pain. “Warm” colors are said to tend to increase muscle tone. Red generally signals danger and is popular in team sports because teams wearing red jerseys tend to win more.
- Cut yourself the appropriate length and shape. The tapes are stretched when they are applied. How much depends on what you want to tape: Do you want to improve lymphatic drainage so that a bruise disappears more quickly? Then you stretch the tape to about 1.5 times its length when you apply it. This means that you cut off ten centimeters (cm) from the tape roll if you want to tape a section of 15 cm later. In addition, for lymphtaping you need to cut the tape into thin strips so that a so-called octopus is formed. If this is too tedious for you, you can buy pre-cut lymphtapes.
When taping a muscle, stretch the tape by ten percent (up to a maximum of 20 percent). For example, if you need a piece eleven centimeters (cm) long, you cut ten centimeters from the tape roll.
Round off all four corners with the scissors. This way, the tape will last longer because no corners can get caught on your clothes.
If your skin is very greasy, degrease it first, for example with disinfectant.
- Then apply the tape to the dry skin with even tension. If you want to do functional taping, then when you put the tape on, do the movement you want to do. Both ends should be taped without pulling. This prevents skin irritation from the adhesive. Most of the alleged allergies to the tape are in fact skin irritations due to incorrect application techniques.
- The tape must now stick to the skin. This so-called warm-up phase lasts about 30 minutes. After that you can do everything with the tape: Shower, swim and of course, run. Spreading the tape from the center to the outside improves the adhesion.
- You can leave the tape on for three to seven days, although it will lose elasticity with each day.
- Don’t rely on the tape alone, though. Taping is always just a supplement that can be combined with acute treatment, manual treatment or massage. And taping alone will not make an injury heal. It’s a piece of the puzzle in therapy – but one that often gets short changed.
- Buy good quality tapes, with them the adhesive will last longer. By the way, the manufacturers of good tapes often give good instructions on how to proceed.
- Ask about the best tape for your problem.
- If you sweat a lot, choose a perforated tape. It will last longer.
- Waterproof tapes are sometimes very stiff. Normal tapes are usually adequate and will hold up in water.
- Just pat the tape dry after showering, don’t rub it dry.
- Do not get taped immediately before a competition, but better two to three hours before.
- Do not apply tape in case of acute skin diseases or open injuries.
- People with a real allergy to the tapes should not use them.
- Elderly people with pain often respond well to tapes and can use them to reduce their pain medication.
- People with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s or stroke patients are sometimes very sensitive to taping. For them, taping should be left to a professional.
Who is Medbase?
Medbase is the largest multidisciplinary sports medicine network in Switzerland and offers specialized sports medicine services for athletes, clubs and sports federations of all activity levels in the fields of sports medicine, sports physiotherapy, performance diagnostics and training advice.