barbara_grandstaff_2We have something extra special here, folks! Barbara Grandstaff is with us today to explain the benefits of Therapeutic Taping for your clients and massage therapy business. She is an expert on the subject and uses the technique in her practice. You can register for one of her continuing education workshops on Therapeutic Taping in August 2013. The class focuses on the unique properties of therapeutic tape and concepts of application for a variety of soft tissue issues or goals of treatment. Participants have hands-on practice producing and applying different types of tape cuts to achieve the desired effects. This functional approach allows the practitioner the opportunity to design a course of treatment for each client based upon the client’s needs and not a predetermined formula.

[A note on registered trademark: Please notice that Barbara’s classes are called“Therapeutic Taping.” The KTAI (Kinesio®Taping Association Internation) has trademarked the names Kinesio®Tape, Kinesio®Taping Method and Certified Kinesio®Taping Practitioner. Her classes do not offer this certification. Anyone wishing to be certified in Kinesio®Taping Method must take KTAI classes.]

A brief overview of Therapeutic Taping

The tape and application techniques have an interesting history. They were developed in 1973 in Japan by Dr. Kenzo Kase, DC. (Pronounced Ka-SAY). At that time he was the team physician for the Japanese Olympic volleyball team. He was looking for a method of helping the athletes to hold their treatment effects during training and competition. He was not satisfied with the then-current types of tape and began experimenting with creating his own tape. Dr. Kase wanted something that would hold a correction yet not restrict muscle function or range of motion, be water (and sweat) resistant, non-irritating to the skin, and easily removed.

The material he came up with has wildly exceeded those expectations. It is only a hair short of magic.

(Story: I had a client who asked me what medication was in the tape to make her feel so much better. When I assured her there was nothing in or on the tape, she said, “Well if it isn’t medication, its juju. It flat-out works!”)

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What is special about the tape itself?

What is completely unique to this material is that the tape itself doesn’t actually “do” anything in the way we usually think of taping something, i.e. binding or holding something together. It actually works proprioceptively with the autonomic nervous system to “cue” the body to make appropriate changes. Okay, that needs explaining.

The tape (which is patented and can’t be copied exactly), has the same thickness and elasticity as the skin which gives it a sense of weightlessness a few seconds after it is applied.

It actually works with the sensory nerve endings in the skin and the brain perceives the sensations as just another layer of fascia. This gives an unprecedented level of versatility to its uses. It can help the body to achieve any change that is mediated by the nervous system.

The tape can be used to:

  • strengthen a poorly firing or weak muscle
  • reduce muscle spasms in overused muscles or around injuries
  • reposition fascia
  • correct posture
  • reduce swelling
  • reduce pain
  • assist in flow of lymph
  • normalize temperature between tissue layers.

In recent years, there have been many research studies done in the US on this tape and the database of uses continues to grow. 

Why did I get excited about working in this field?

I guess it was a blend of my M.O. and serendipity. I’ve been a massage therapist for 27 years and still consider myself a student. But after that long, finding something new under the sun becomes a challenge. I’ve found that, for me, there’s no one modality that has all the answers; I need lots of tools in the toolbox to help my clients maximize their benefits from bodywork.

So, in 2009 I was ‘shopping’. In my search for something new I came across an ad for the Kinesio®Taping Method in the AMTA Journal, was intrigued and signed up for the seminar series. Loved it and became a Certified Kinesio®Taping Practitioner (CKTP). Six months later I took the series again (I learn best with repetition). Loved it some more. As luck would have it during the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, there was a media frenzy over Misty May (USA volleyball gold medalist) sparked an explosion of interest in the tape in this country. Everyone wanted to know “What’s that stuff on her shoulder? Is it a tattoo?” The tape had actually received international exposure at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea and had been in use in this country since around 1995, but was not widely known.

After the Beijing Olympics, according to the KTAI, sales of tape in the USA jumped from around 27,000 rolls a year to over 40,000 rolls a MONTH. I recall that after the games the beige tape was on back order for six months. It couldn’t be manufactured fast enough. Of course, demand is much higher now.

google image search - kinesio-resized-600Google image search – “Kinesio Taping Olympics”

Applying this technique specifically to massage therapy

I realized fairly quickly that the application techniques I was taught in class, as well as those in the books, was geared toward physical therapists whose goals of therapy are often different from those of massage therapists. Also, it was organized around diagnosis and treatment of clinical conditions that massage therapists don’t do. I found I needed to reverse most of the directions given in the textbooks and manuals to get the results I wanted. I realized that this was probably the reason that a lot of MTs who had run out and bought a book and a roll of tape were not getting such great results from their taping efforts. Being the compulsive teacher that I am, I wanted to share this information with others.

As massage therapists, we don’t diagnose or treat medically diagnosed conditions. Massage goals are usually stated more generically in terms of “the soft-tissue components of XYZ.”

Most of the time, MTs are interested in reducing hypertonicity (tension) in tissues, and in reducing pain and swelling of injury and/or inflammation. Structurally oriented therapists would be seeking assistance in repositioning fascia, and holding alignment corrections. Lymphatic Therapists want to reduce the fluid load in affected tissues, etc.

My goals in teaching the classes are to teach therapists how they can take advantage of the unique properties of the tape to design their own applications rather than trying to memorize hundreds of set taping patterns. In doing this there must be a clear understanding of (1) what the problem is (assessment), and (2) application technique. The application is fairly technical in that the direction that the tape is laid down on the skin, the amount of stretch applied to the tape and/or skin, and the amount of pressure used to apply the tape WILL CHANGE ITS FUNCTION. You can’t tell by looking at tape on the body what it is doing.

For example, if tape is applied from origin-to-insertion on a muscle, it will strengthen or tonify the muscle. If it is applied from insertion-to-origin, it will inhibit the muscle; Not enough to compromise its function, just enough to reduce the excess tension that is interfering with function or the healing process. Looking at the tape doesn’t give a clue as to which direction it’s going. For this reason, I’ve also developed a chart form that can be used to keep track of a client’s taping pattern and progress from week to week.

What other taping techniques are out there?

Let’s compare what is out there in the world of taping. There are three major taping modalities recognized in therapeutic communities: Athletic taping, McConnell taping, and elastic taping.

Athletic taping

Most people are familiar with athletic taping. It’s that rigid, white tape that athletes and trainers have been using for decades to support injured muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, etc.

Issues with it:

  • rigid–restricts function
  • adhesive is irritating to the skin
  • can only be worn for 6-8 hours then must be removed (usually cut off)
  • doesn’t survive getting wet 
  • primary purpose is not rehabilitative

McConnell taping

McConnell taping is a bracing or strapping technique used by PT’s, most commonly using LeukoTape® or EnduraTape®.

Issues with it:

  • xtremely rigid cotton tape
  • has limited wear time
  • doesn’t adhere well when wet.
  • elastic taping is often used in conjunction with McConnell taping for rehabilitation of injuries.

Elastic taping

Elastic tape is 100% cotton and is latex-free, making it hypoallergenic for most people.

  • designed to be worn for 3-5 days
  • its comfortable
  • the elasticity lifts pressure off the pain receptors
  • non-compressive
  • doesn’t restrict range of motion
  • water resistant – wearer can bathe and swim daily with tape on

There are several brands on the market now; my personal favorite is Kinesio®Tex Gold. (Note: Barbara does not get paid to endorse their brand.)

Why should Massage Therapists concern themselves with learning this modality?

In four words: Because Clients Love It.

Therapeutic taping enhances your value as a therapist to be able to use treatments proven to support the healing process. I can’t tell you how many times clients have commented at the end of a session, “I wish I could take you (or at least your hands!) home with me.”

Well, now they can! Instead of experiencing your treatment for an hour in your office, they have the effect 24/7 for 3-5 days which greatly accelerates their healing process.

If you’re interested in taking one of my classes, see the AZ-AMTA continuing education class I offer. More here.


barbara_grandstaff_2Barbara Grandstaff, LMT, CNMT, CKTP
Barbara Grandstaff has been a massage therapist and teacher since 1986, and was recently honored by the Arizona Chapter of AMTA for 25 years of active membership. She is certified in Clinical Sportsmassage, Neuromuscular Therapy – St.John Method, Yamuna Bodyrolling, and the Kinesio®Taping Method. She taught anatomy and physiology at the Desert Institute of the Healing Arts from 1986-1990 and has taught Neuromuscular Therapy seminars since 1998.

She has participated in two Olympic Games and the 1990 Goodwill Games as a member of the National Sportsmassage Team, and in 2010 was part of the team providing sportsmassage at the National Jr. Diving Championships and the FINA World Jr. Diving Championships.

Barbara is a Certified Kinesio®Taping Practitioner (CKTP) and uses the techniques frequently with her sports and NMT clients.

Photo Credit: via Compfight cc