Learn about the taping technique created and tailored specifically for chiropractic use.
By Kenzo Kase, DC
As a U.S.-trained chiropractor, I originally developed elastic therapeutic taping (ETT) in the late 1970s for use in a chiropractic setting.
This method, used to facilitate the body’s natural healing processes, provides support and stability for muscles and joints without restricting the body’s range of motion. The tape creates a lifting effect on the skin’s surface, which helps improve circulation, relieve pain, and has the ability to relax or stimulate muscles.
As a result, the taping treatment has become well-recognized in the world of sports medicine.
Benefits of ETT
Elastic therapeutic taping is well-suited to chiropractic care and manipulation treatments for a variety of reasons.
ETT applied prior to adjustment: When applied pre-adjustment, ETT can balance the soft tissue — especially muscle — and make it easier to adjust. Taping helps decrease pain and make it more comfortable for patients to receive adjustments, which may make it easier for you to perform the needed adjustment. In addition, taping can prevent possible further tissue damage to a site that may already have been injured.
ETT applied after an adjustment: When applied post-adjustment, ETT can prolong the effects of an adjustment by helping to balance the muscle, and can hasten local healing by optimizing blood and lymphatic circulation.
Taping can also help prevent further injury by stimulating awareness of alignment and posture.
Uses of ETT
In addition to these benefits, there are many ways ETT can be used as an adjunct to chiropractic.
ETT for neck sprain or whiplash: A sprain to the neck generally occurs as the result of a quick snapping of the head in forward flexion. It may be associated with a strained neck, since the same motion may overstretch the cervical paraspinal muscles.
This taping technique will help reduce edema and muscle spasms, and — with the application of a ligament correction — limit painful neck movement.
Acute application — first 24 to 72 hours: Initial treatment for inflammation or edema is provided by applying lymphatic correction technique. Begin by placing the base of a fan cut tape at approximately the superior angle of the medial border of the scapula with the patient in a neutral spine position.
Have the patient move into forward flexion with rotation to the opposite side. The tails of the fan cut should be angled upward at 45 degrees over the injured cervical segment with very light to light tension, from 15 percent to 25 percent.
The second fan cut is placed at approximately the superior angle of the medial border of the scapula, opposite to the first fan strip, with patient in neutral spine position. Have the patient move into forward flexion with rotation to the opposite side. The tails of the fan cut strip should be angled upward at 45 degrees over the injured cervical segment.
The two lymphatic fan cuts should form a crisscross pattern over the injured cervical segment.
Post acute — after 24 to 72 hours: Begin with the patient in a neutral neck position. Apply the base of the “Y” tape strip with the cut of the Y at approximately the T1 or T2 spinous process, with no tension.
Next, have the patient move into neck flexion. Apply the tails toward the occiput of the skull on each side. Tension should be very light (up to 15 percent). Less tension is tolerable in the neck region as a result of the increased sensitivity in the area.
Prior to applying each tail, have the patient rotate to the opposite side. Lay the tips of the tails down with no tension.
Next, apply a ligament correction technique. Begin by tearing the middle of an approximately 4- to 6-inch “I” strip tape through the center of the paper backing. Apply moderate to strong tension (50 percent to 75 percent) to the tape. Place the center of the tape strip over the region of the ligament requiring correction.
Inward tension may also be added as if applying a mechanical correction technique.
Have the patient move into neck flexion, and lay down the two base tails of the tape strip with no tension. Initiate glue activation prior to any further movement. (The adhesive is activated by rubbing gently on the surface of the tape.)
Alternative method: For patients in need of extra support, apply an I strip along each upper trapezius from insertion to origin. Apply an I strip along the erector spinae muscles from inferior to superior. Apply a 3-inch ligament correction strip over the area of pain.
Numerous studies are available on the uses of ETT in a chiropractic setting. Many focus on pain relief, an area that may be of particular interest to you because therapeutic taping is a non- pharmaceutical solution for pain.
Masahiro Takakura, DC, CKTI, recently conducted a pilot study of the benefits of ETT applied before and after chiropractic treatments. Although there is plenty of anecdotal evidence, the benefit of applying tape before or after manipulation has not been extensively documented.
Takakura and his team compared reactions to ETT both before and after chiropractic manipulation treatments.
Twenty-nine patients who complained of painful areas on either the spine or sacroiliac joints were divided into three groups based on their clinical presentations. Group A was treated with chiropractic manipulation only; group B was treated with ETT first, then chiropractic; and group C was treated with chiropractic, followed by taping. Each subject received approximately five minutes of soft tissue manipulation such as massage, craniosacral, or visceral manipulation before any treatments.
The patients were given a pain questionnaire to complete before and after treatment, using a visual analogue scale (VAS). After the treatment, patients were asked to record an interview. The interviewer was trained to avoid leading questions, body language, or suggestions, using deliberately open-ended phrasing such as, “How was the treatment?” “What did you think about the treatment?” “What did you think about the chiropractic treatment?” or “What did you think about the taping?”
After the interview, patients filled out a post-treatment questionnaire with VAS. Follow-up interviews were conducted over the phone three days after treatment. In that interview, patients were asked to describe their pain level using a scale of zero to 10.
We are all aware of the general therapeutic benefits of chiropractic manipulation. In fact, in this study, all three groups reported statistically similar pain levels prior to treatment, and significant pain reduction after treatment.
However, patients from groups B and C showed a sharper decline in pain than the non-taping group, group A. In addition, after three days, the average pain level of groups B and C decreased, while the average pain level of group A increased [see figure].
This reinforces the general consensus among chiropractors and manual therapists who use ETT.
While many DCs are now discovering the adjunctive benefits of therapeutic taping, the Kinesio Taping Association International (KTAI) has been conducting a globally recognized certification program for more than 15 years.
The collaboration and development of the education and certification program has taken ETT to new heights. All DCs are encouraged to consider the benefits of bringing this valuable tool into their practices.
Kenzo Kase, DC, is the inventor of the Kinesio Taping Method. A graduate of National University of Health Sciences, he has practiced in the U.S. and Japan. As president of the Kinesio Taping Association International (KTAI), Kase still teaches his methods and continues to be active in further developing techniques and products. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or through kinesiotaping.com/kta.