All the meat eaters amongst us will be familiar with fascia – the stringy material around and between the muscles, skin and bone – which holds a joint of meat together. This fascia can be extremely tough or very delicate. It forms a web throughout our bodies, reaching from the skin, down in and between the muscles, to the bones and around the joints and wrapping around nerves and blood vessels. Try lifting the skin on the back of your hand and see how much harder it is to flex your fingers – this change is the result of fascial, not muscular, tension. Fascia, together with muscles and other connective tissue structures, follows very distinct body-wide pathways and the taping techniques use these to induce changes in the tissues. Fascial tension in one part of the body can induce profound changes elsewhere.
Consider the popular ‘Skwish’ baby toy illustrated, which has rigid structures (sticks and balls) held together in a web of pre-tensioned elastic. The toy can be stretched and squashed in all directions, resulting in distortion which occurs throughout the structure but it springs back into shape when the pressure is released. Our bodies are the same – the structural integrity resulting from the elastic interconnectivity of fascia throughout the system.
Research into fascia, especially over the last few years (2008-2012) has shown that fascia plays a much more important role than previously thought. It is now known to have a significant influence on pain generation, stability, movement dynamics, force transmission, proprioception and sporting performance.
How does it work?
Fascia is richly innervated with pain sensors and receptors sensitive to static levels of, and changes in, tension and pressure. As a result, the fascia is often the source of pain in musculoskeletal injuries, more so than muscles alone. These taping techniques aim to restore myofascial balance by changing the tension patterns through the myofascial web and so modifying the response from the receptors. Tension release and muscle activation can improve muscle function, range of motion and bring about a reduction in pain. As long as dysfunctions and pain derive from the fascial tissue (muscle, fascia, tendons, ligaments, capsules, periosteum) and as long as there is no extreme inflammation or scar tissue, one taping session will usually bring instant results.
To summarise, the effects of this taping technique are achieved through regulation of myofascial tension, resulting in:
- Myofascial release
- Myofascial activation
- Regulation of muscle tone
- Correction of directional fascial pull
Myofascial taping is different from traditional sports taping which considers the anatomy only in terms of muscles and joints. Sports taping aims to achieve mechanical stabilisation by restriction and immobilisation of joints, and mechanical support of muscles. It treats the symptoms rather than the cause of problems, severely restricts movement and there are often complications of circulatory congestion. Kinesiology taping – represents something of an intermediate stage, with rudimentary treatment of fascia, but still with the main focus on muscle and joints. The effect on the various mechanoreceptors was little understood at the time this method was developed and techniques don’t take advantage of the effect of these receptors in enhancing tissue function.
Myofascial tape is stretchy – in one direction only – and has a very strong adhesive – all properties required to achieve the effects of the myofascial taping techniques. It is latex-free, made out of 100% cotton, is almost the same texture as healthy human skin, stretches to up to 100% of it’s own length and is water resistant too so you can wear it when swimming or in the shower or bath. Good adhesive bonds are achieved on oil-free relatively hairless skin (very hairy areas will need to be shaved). Full adhesion develops in the 60 minutes following application and the adhesive is activated by body heat. The tape can remain in place for up to 5 days, if treated with care (no rubbing, particularly of the edges, no oil or lotions) and can be removed by gently pulling in the direction of hair growth (don’t rip it off like a waxing strip – ouch!).
And finally – the colours! Tape comes in a range of colours from skin tone, black and white, to pink, purple, orange, green, blue, yellow – almost any colour you like. They’re all the same in all other respects, so what do you fancy?