Kinesiology Taping for the Shoulder: Big Help or Hype?

Kinesiology Taping for the Shoulder

When it comes to athletics, the shoulder is easily one of the most vulnerable areas and becomes frequently injured, no matter the sport or event. Although the more serious injuries generally require intensive physical therapy or, in some cases, outright surgery, in most cases, any strains within the shoulder can be handled through the use of kinesiology tape.

A more flexible alternative to athletic tape that doesn’t limit motion, kinesiology tape has become a trusted tool of athletes everywhere to treat muscle strain and reduce pain, especially in the shoulder area. While it has its detractors like any sports accessory, kinesiology tape is incredibly useful.

How It Works

Whether you’re applying kinesiology tape to the shoulders or any other area of your body, the tape works in a variety of ways to provide its benefits. At the surface level, kinesiology tape acts to pull the skin’s upper layers, which creates spacing between these layers and the muscles below; this space helps relieve pressure on the lymph channels, which are located between the two layers. This allows for greater lymph flow and subsequently better drainage.

This space also contains plentiful nerve receptors, which send signals to the brain in response to compression of the former; for a relevant example, this includes muscle swelling. Kinesiology tape works to alter the information sent out by these receptors, helping to cause a less reactive response from the body. This lets your body, including your shoulders, work in their normal manner while also removing some of the more obstructive roadblocks, which typically slow your body’s healing processes.

The tape also affects the deeper tissues of whatever area it’s applied too; in theory, this provides the muscles with a greater ability to contract, which itself helps push more fluid through the muscles and results in better muscular performance. Externally, this contributes to less muscular fatigue, increased range of motion (incredibly vital if you’re involved in a sport requiring excessive use of the shoulder muscles, like baseball or gymnastics), and better muscular contraction.

Overall, kinesiology taping works on six concepts known as corrections: mechanical, fascia (fascial), space, ligament/tendon, functional, and circulatory/lymphatic; all of these are incredibly important to how muscles function, no matter the area of the body.

  • Mechanical corrections are used for improved stability.
  • Fascia corrections create or direct the movement of fascia, a material that divides and separates muscles and internal organs while providing support against gravity in some parts of the body.
  • Space corrections decrease pressure over the target area.
  • Tendon/ligament corrections decrease stress on ligaments and tendons.
  • Functional corrections provide sensory stimulation for managing motion.
  • Circulatory/lymph corrections help the movement of lymphatic fluid across areas, focusing on moving from congested to less congested areas.

Applying Kinesiology Tape to the Shoulder

Applying Kinesiology Tape to the Shoulder

If you are experiencing muscular issues within your shoulder and rotator cuff region, kinesiology tape can certainly help. Before applying any tape to your shoulder, you should discuss its usage with your physical therapist; they’ll be able to assess and determine whether or not you’ll benefit from kinesiology taping, any potential issues, and even help you cut and apply the tape. Understanding how kinesiology tape works is critical and important to assessing if it’s the best option for your shoulder and rotator cuff injuries.

Before applying the tape, make sure your shoulder is clean and dry; all hair should also be removed with the use of clippers. In order to get the full effect, the tape must be applied in a V-formation along your shoulder. To apply the kinesiology tape effectively, do the following:

First Strip

  • Cut an “I” strip to the intended length. Ideally, it should measure from the top front of your shoulder to the side of your arm.
  • Place your shoulder into extension.
  • Remove 2” of tape backing on one end of the strip. Place it on the upper part of your shoulder’s front.
  • Remove the backing.
  • Pull the tape so it’s stretched around 25%. Anchor the tape to one side of your arm about 1/3rd of the way down.

Second Strip

  • Cut an “I” strip to the intended length. Ideally, it should measure from the back of your shoulder to your arm’s side.
  • Extend your shoulder across the front of your body.
  • Remove 2” of tape backing on one end of the strip. Place it on the upper part of your shoulder’s back.
  • Remove backing.
  • Pull the tape so it’s stretched around 25%. Anchor the tape to one side of your arm about 1/3rd of the way down. It should overlap slightly with the first strip.
  • Rub both strips gently to activate the adhesive. The kinesiology tape can be worn for two to five days and can be worn during athletic activity.

Kinesiology Taping: Hype or Not?

Kinesiology Taping

Amongst medical professionals, kinesiology taping can be a contentious issue, depending on who you ask. Canadian physiotherapist Aaron Norris, for example, supports kinesiology tape use as he sees it as an asset to athletes, making them mindful of their form and preventing injuries.

Meanwhile, Marni Wesner, the lead physician for Basketball Canada Women’s Team and Glen Sather Sports Medicine Clinic’s Sport & Exercise Medicine Consultant, feels that the benefits of kinesiology tape are comparatively minor, although she also acknowledges a potential placebo effect present. However, she does acknowledge that kinesiology tape can help with muscle awareness.

But what about focused kinesiology taping, like at the shoulder? Kinesiology taping has a largely universal effect across the board, with the latter changing only really based on application location and the area under effect. There’s plenty of studies out there both proving and disproving the benefits of kinesiology tape, with some better than others. It really comes down to how you approach it and what you feel works best for you.

Rhett Desormeaux

Rhett Desormeaux is a content writer currently working with BreezeMaxWeb. He’s a passionate writer and loves studying ancient history, especially Bronze Age civilizations.

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