I will be the first to tout the success therapists can have by using kinesiology tape in their practice. I have been integrating K-Tape into my practice for over 10 years now and it has proven to be an effective, complimentary modality to my hands-on care. However, as often as I have seen its success with the treatment of shin splints, low back pain, patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), etc. I can state confidently, that I have never had a patient with any accurately diagnosed degenerative condition come through my office, miraculously healed because I used kinesiology tape or even massage therapy for that matter, in a single visit or even 2 or 3 visits. Now, this is not to say that I haven’t treated countless patients who reported immediate relief after a single visit. I have. I have had patients who couldn’t run 100 yards or raise up on their toes without experiencing excruciating pain, and see that pain disappear after a taping and/or massage treatment. So then why am I stating that kinesiology tape doesn’t work? I’m not. The fact of the matter is that the kinesiology tape or [insert modality] DID work. The problem with this false positive is that it is more likely that the patient never had the painful “competently” diagnosed condition they presented with.
Let’s stop for a reality check. If a patient is diagnosed with a condition such as PFPS (a degenerative condition) and is successfully treated in a single visit, THEY NEVER HAD PFPS TO BEGIN WITH. Did they have knee pain? YES. Was the knee pain at the front of the knee? YES. Did they receive a diagnosis from a doctor? YES. Did I miraculously use kinesiology tape to fix this condition in a single visit? NOPE. You CANNOT magically treat any degenerative tissue condition like a tendinopathy in a single visit. The histological process that occurs in that tissue takes a certain amount of time to reverse. If you claim to have done this in a single visit, I would argue that the diagnosis was incorrect. We know, through science, that the cellular repair process takes time (approximately 6-8 weeks) to occur. So, to make a claim that kinesiology tape or your massage AND kinesiology tape fixed them in one visit, is completely #fakenews. This becomes even more problematic when you suddenly don’t get the same response from another patient who actually HAS a degenerative patella tendon and was told by their friend to come see you because you “fixed” their issue.
As a massage therapist, we cannot make a definitive diagnosis for a patient. This doesn’t preclude me from performing a professional evaluation and assessment. It is also well within our scope of practice to communicate to a patient who feels the type of relief they have been seeking for so long, in just a single visit or two from you, that they likely never had the condition they were diagnosed with, but rather symptoms that were similar. I would encourage them to go back for more conclusive diagnostic testing, but it’s unlikely since they are feeling better. However, explaining that the conditioned they had been labeled with was inaccurate, will go a long way in understanding their pain in the future, should it ever reoccur.
One of the best things we can do for our patients is to apply some common sense and simple science to each individual case. We must be capable of explaining to them how pain and healing occurs in our body. If we can help our patients understand this process, we will not only be helping them, but we will also be working to dispel the idea that there is a quick fix to repetitive strain injuries or degenerative conditions.