The concept of modern athletic strapping tape has been around for over 100 years. This style of strapping is rigid, not elastic and concerned with providing support and restricting movement so as not to further injure a particular area of the body. These types of rigid strapping are only ever intended to be temporary and have to be removed after they have served their purpose in an activity in order to ensure that circulation and mobility is not inhibited for an extensive period.
Kinesiotaping, on the other hand, involves using highly elastic tape, which allows for a high range of motion, as well as other health related benefits. Despite having been around for over 30 years, kinesiotaping really took off after its prominent use in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics as well as becoming a regular feature of the burgeoning Crossfit movement.
Kinesiology tape can be stretched up to 180% of its original length before being applied to the skin. This means that it not only allows for a full range of movement whilst being worn, it also creates a constant pull to the skin. The concept of a constant pull to your skin might not initially sound very enticing but this pull generates significant health benefits.
One of the leading brands of kinesiology tape is Rocktape. It utilises a natural hybrid fabric to limit its stretch in one direction and not the other. What’s the benefit of this? The single stretch direction of Rocktape creates a biomechanical lifting mechanism, which lifts the surface skin away from the soft tissue, which lies beneath. This allows for greater circulation of blood flow to the taped area, which in turn increases the amount of oxygen that muscles can draw. This obviously aids with recovery but can also help to limit fatigue during activities.
These features make it useful for a wide array of physical ailments but let's focus in on how it can be specifically useful for treating back pain.
Providing pain relief
When we feel pain, sensory receptors in our skin send an urgent message via nerve fibers, which travel up the spinal cord and brainstem and eventually register their message with the brain. This process is obviously swift as the body often needs to act quickly in order to counter the sensation. Rocktape on the skin can help to interfere with these signals so that your aching back may not actually register in your brain. Some users have reported a sensation of instant pain relief when Rocktape is applied effectively. We will discuss some different application techniques specifically related to lower back pain later.
Can limit swelling and inflammation
The lifting effect on the skin mentioned earlier, allows for greater blood flow and increased circulation not only to the area but also away from it. This flushing effect helps to move the byproducts of inflammation along more efficiently. Free moving blood flow is crucial to helping minimise pain.
Helps to maintain muscle tone
If you have ever had an injury then you will know that the adjustments you and your body make to minimise the pain typically have a flow on effect to other parts of the body. For example, a sprained ankle typically results in messing with your hip as you adjust your walking and posture. Rocktape can help to simultaneously reactivate dormant muscles and to relax those muscles that may become overactive whilst compensating for your injury.
Push back on fatigue
The benefits of less fatigue regarding back pain might not seem immediately clear but back pain is often a symptom of a weak core and characterised by inhibited movement. Less fatigue will take the pressure off surrounding muscle groups and allow you to move more freely and more regularly. You can spend more time restoring and less time resting as Rocktape shares any stress with other nearby areas through the fascia, ligaments and even bones. This helps to limit the pain in specific areas.
Now, if you’re thinking, this sounds great, I’m sold but what do I specifically do to ease my back pain? Here are some hot tips regarding application:
The ‘H Pattern’
Not only is the H Pattern highly effective in reducing lower back pain, it is also easy and quick to apply. The H Pattern involves cutting three strips of Rocktape. A further hot tip is to round off the corners to reduce any snags on clothing. Run two of the strips down the length of the paraspinal muscle. These are the muscles that closely surround either side of the spine. These two strips are commonly known as ‘stabilasation strips’. The third and final strip, though more can be used if needed, goes across the lower back, hence the pattern’s name. This piece is commonly known as the ‘decompression strip’.
Find the little joints at the base of your back where your pelvis connects to your lower spine. These are known as the sacroiliac joints and are the best place to start the tape from. Run the stabilisation strips as high as the thoracolumbar junction, which is roughly around the base of the rib cage. The horizontal decompression strip will get the best result by running it across the area of greatest pain.
Make sure that you have dry and clean skin before applying. It is also highly recommended to remove any significant hair before applying. If these factors are followed then the tape can remain on the skin for up to 5 days.
The ‘Star Pattern’
The Star Pattern can be applied to an area of pain on the back and is not so specific to the lower back as the H Pattern. The Star Pattern has been found to positively affect anticipatory postural control, helping you to make better movement choices. When applying the Rocktape in the Star Pattern begin with three short strips of equal length. Apply the middle of the tape over the area with the most pain and layer the strips until you have created a star pattern. It is similarly recommended to round the edges of the strips to make them less likely to catch on clothing.
Rocktape is a cheap and non-invasive way in which you can treat your back pain whilst increasing activity and movement.