Elastic Veterinary Kinesiology Taping

Learn about this therapy designed to provide support and stability to muscles and joints without restricting their range of motion.

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Elastic Veterinary Kinesiology Tape
Kinesiology taping might help resolve edema (fluid swelling) associated with lymphangitis. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Bonny Henderson
Elastic therapeutic taping methods were originally designed to facilitate the human body’s natural healing process by providing prolonged soft tissue manipulation. This mimics the effects of massage while aiming to provide support and stability to muscles and joints without restricting range of motion.

Kenzo Kase, DC, developed the Kinesio tape method in 1973 to provide a nonpharmaceutical way to alleviate his patients’ pain between appointments. He created elastic therapeutic tape with a thickness, stretch, and weight similar to the superficial skin layer. The adhesive pattern is in a repeated wave form, similar to a fingerprint, and designed to help lift the skin while allowing it to “breathe,” permitting moisture to escape and the skin to cool. The tape’s elastic quality stretches the tissue, producing either a massage or a lifting effect on the subdermal (beneath the skin) and fascial (connective tissue) layers. This forms coils or twists in the skin believed to separate the muscle and dermal layers as well as increase interstitial space (areas between cells) and stimulate mechanoreceptors (cells that respond to stimuli). In theory, the increased space has a lower pressure gradient than surrounding areas and pulls fluid and exudate (liquid produced in response to tissue damage) into it. This fluid movement is believed to decrease inflammation in the treated area and aid normal blood flow and lymphatic drainage. The space might also take pressure off swollen or injured muscles, reducing pain and allowing tissue remodeling and healing.

Currently, studies investigating the use and efficacy of elastic therapeutic taping methods in horses are limited. In 2018 researchers performed an international survey of equine veterinarians focused on sports medicine/rehabilitation on modalities they use. Results showed 33% of respondents used elastic therapeutic taping methods. Another recent study found the modality had no effect on the muscles of horses’ upper forelegs or ventral neck.

Researchers studying elastic therapeutic taping in humans (e.g., Chao YW et al. 2016) have shown it can exert positive physiological effects on the dermal, lymphatic, circulatory, and neuromuscular systems

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Written by:

Bonny Henderson, DVM, has been practicing for 26 years in the Finger Lakes region of New York. She has a strong interest in equine lameness and rehabilitation, including alternative treatments such as chiropractic, acupuncture, and kinesiology.

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