The stabilizing system of joints is composed of active (muscle), passive (joint), and neurological (brain and nerves) components.
Stability can be thought of as: “The ability of an object to maintain equilibrium or resume its original, upright position after displacement from an outside force.”
Kinesiology tape was developed to assist the neurological component of stability while allowing full range of motion. In other words, when placing tape on the skin, the nerves (mechano-receptors) in the fascia and superficial muscle are stimulated and alert the brain of activity in the region.
The neurological component of stability can also be termed “motor control.” Motor control is “the systematic transmission of nerve impulses from the motor cortex to the motor units, resulting in coordinated contractions of muscles.” The sidebar “Joints needing stability” shows areas that strongly need to be stabilized via motor control.
Some joints in the body require more stability than others. For example, the knee has limited mobility and requires contribution from the active, passive, and neurological components to maintain the required stability for an active lifestyle.
Sometimes injury to the joint causes more instability than can be overcome by motor control. An example of this would be an anterior cruciate ligament tear in the knee. The tear in the ligament doesn’t allow for passive stability and the active and neurological components have to make up the difference.
Kinesiology taping applications can assist the active and passive components of stabilization, while still assisting the neurological component. The goal in this example would be to provide enough assistance with kinesiology tape until the active component of stability (muscle) can be improved through strength training.
For kinesiology tape to provide stability assistance to the joint, you need to make a change in the method of applying the tape. In addition to applying the tape in a way to stimulate mechanoreceptors, the tape must be applied circumferentially around the joint to aid the passive structures.
To accomplish this task, place the patient in a seated or standing position with the knee in slight flexion (10 to 20 degrees). Measure the tape length from behind the knee, below the popliteal fossa, and around the front of the knee with a slight angle from caudad to cephalad.
Wrap around to the front of the knee over the tibial tuberosity and cover a third of the medial or lateral patella by adding slight stretch to the tape. Continue with this angle up onto the quadriceps and end on the distal third of the thigh.
Kinesiology tape can be used to assist all three components of stability for the joint. Circumferentially surrounding the joint will cause a mechanical block and provide further stability than standard kinesiology taping techniques. This technique for joint stability can be applied to other joints that require mechanical stabilization.
Progressive resistance exercise with the goal of increasing strength is important to overcome the lack of passive stability due to an injury. As the active (muscular) component improves, taping can be diminished.
Ed Le Cara, DC, PhD, MBA, ATC, CSCS, recently sold his practice of 14 years in Northern California and relocated to Dallas. He is the director of athletic training at KinetikChain and the director of research at RockTape, Inc. you can contact him through firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter or Instagram at @drlecara.