Functional Movement Taping

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Functional movement taping is the process of placing tape on the skin to lift it. This provides pain relief and allows blood flow to increase. The tape interrupts the pain signals sent to the brain to allow muscles and joints greater range of motion and functionality.

Can you please start by describing what functional movement taping is, and how it works?

Dr. Nick Angione: Alright. So, functional movement taping is that stuff you see on all those Olympic athletes or just athletes in general, that tape that’s usually around people’s shoulders, ankles, knees, and commonly it seems to be used on their joints, or extremity joints. The taping itself is used for multiple different things, and it can be used for painful ranges of motion. Say someone has a lot of pain when they’re just lifting their arm out to the side or in front of them. You can use the tape to kind of just relieve that pain by doing a certain tissue pull.

The way that that happens is that, without getting too complicated, there’s a few different sensations that your body has, right? Deep touch, light touch, pain, temperature. Pain is sensed through nociception which is something that we don’t really have to get into, but just know that pain equals nociception, and then mechanoreception is the rest of it. Okay?

So, if you ever bumped your elbow anywhere, or bumped anything, stubbed your toe, a lot of times if you shake it or rub it, it makes it go away. Right, and that’s because when you first initially bump it, your nociception or nociceptors send a signal to your brain saying you feel pain. When you go to rub it, you’re now turning on your mechanoreceptors and overriding that nociception or that pain sensation.

So, the tape itself can, by pulling on the skin, it activates those mechanoreceptors, and it disrupts that signal of pain to the brain. So, that’s the way that it works, and it can be used for other things like adding stability or essentially tricking your brain into thinking you have stability. So, now you can go further through a range of motion, and that’s like the taping is great, but it doesn’t fix the problem, it just kind of helps your body not notice the pain as much, and allows you to move further through certain ranges of motion lots of times. It can also help with some other things that we’ll get into, I’m sure.

Are Kinesio Tape and Rock Tape brand name versions of functional movement taping, or do they have different purposes?

Dr. Nick Angione: So, yeah, these are essentially just two different brands. The Kinesio Tape is the one usually with the more basic designs. We don’t have to get into details, but Rock Tape is just another brand. The both offer different certifications, but they’re all very similar. I don’t know which one came out first, but to be honest, my preference is Rock Tape. I think it sticks a little bit better.

What are the most common injuries or conditions that benefit from functional movement taping?

Dr. Nick Angione: I kind of hinted at this a little bit earlier, but functional movement taping can be used for setting an acute sprain or strain of a muscle, and so by diminishing that pain receptor, it kind of lets your body move a little bit further. Say, if you strained a muscle in your lower back, if you put tape over that in a specific way, it’s kind of going to alleviate that pain and allow you to kind of bend more, or twist more than you were beforehand.

Another fantastic thing that it does is, it can help with edema or swelling. So, say you just sprained your ankle, or you hurt your knee and it has swollen up and it’s getting bruised, so now you can put this tape down a certain way where you kind of cut it and overlay it over each other. You kind of make a basket weave. So, this is amazing, honestly. If you ever get the chance to look it up, you can see pictures of a really good bruise that someone has put this Rock Tape or Kinesio Tape, functional movement tape over, but they splayed it out in kind of a basket weave pattern, and so when you remove that tape after a day or two, you will actually see the bruising disappeared underneath where the tape was.

That’s because it lifts the skin a little bit, and it allows for more blood flow and irrigation of the bruise, of the blood that’s in that area. So, it’s good for edema and it’s good for strains, sprains, and stuff like that along with aiding in pain free or less pain during certain ranges of motion.

Now can applying functional movement tape actually help prevent injuries?

Dr. Nick Angione: So, this is a tough question, I’d have to say no, if you want a black or white answer. I wouldn’t say that it will prevent, but it could help your body notice certain things.

So, another thing it can help with is posture. Posture can be for you sitting at a chair, or you playing a game. You can tension this tape in certain areas to help prevent say, a knee coming in a little bit. If you put a tape in a certain way, it’s going to help pull that skin, so when they go to, say squat down or something like that, and their knee starts to come in, they will feel that tape pull them back. So, it kind of will give you a reminder to not let your knee in.

Or say if we relate it to someone sitting at a desk, we put the tape behind someone’s shoulders. Every time that they start to round their shoulders, they’re going to feel that tape pull and be reminded to have that correct posture. So, it’s kind of like having a chiropractor in the back of your head saying, “Hey, sit up straight,” or “Keep your back straight,” and stuff like that. So, I wouldn’t say it prevents injury, but it can help you notice maybe when you’re at risk of causing an injury.

Do you need a professional to apply the tape to your body, or is it something people can learn to do on their own? And is there a right and a wrong way to use it?

Dr. Nick Angione: So, with this question, I would say yes, you want a professional putting it on you, but anyone can go anywhere and buy this tape at a store, right? So, there are plenty of videos online that you can Google and look up on YouTube, and find ways of putting this tape on. My suggestion would be going to see a professional, and have them put it on you a few times, make sure that they explain to you how and why they’re doing the certain things they’re doing, because you can apply this tape wherever and however you’d like, but it may not help you. Then you’re going to think that it doesn’t do anything for you, but really it can.

I would say, yes, you would probably benefit from seeing a professional put this tape on, but only because they know how they’re applying it and why they’re applying it. If you’re someone who has had a professional or someone with some good knowledge explain to you why and how to put this tape on, and you feel good, comfortably doing it I’d say that’s okay. At first, I’d say go to a professional, have them put it on properly and have them tell you why and how they’re putting it on.

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