Dynamic Taping – Mechanically or Neurophysiologically Driven?
You only have to have had Dynamic Tape correctly applied to you to recognise that we can get a genuine mechanical force into the system. The resistance and recoil is felt immediately. It can be demonstrated and measured in applications like this one for creating a plantar flexion moment. This force is sufficient to overcome gravity in those with nerve injuries and is specific to the joints and movements targeted like in this person with a radial nerve injury from a knife wound (part 1 and part 2).
But are the effects due to the mechanical forces applied rather than neurophysiological effects created via stimulation of the skin and soft tissues when the nervous system is seemingly intact? It is likely that multiple mechanisms are at play but mounting research lends increasing support for a strong mechanical effect.
Robinson et al. 2019 investigated women with Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome (GTPS) and compared sham taping in a more lengthened position (still some external rotation and potential for a mechanical effect) with active taping in a shortened position (more abduction and external rotation so more potential for a mechanical effect). The second technique created significant reductions in hip adduction moment and movement displacement, pelvic obliquity and internal rotation during walking gait. It also provided a statistically significant reduction in pain. The sham taping did produce some lesser effects on movement and pain. It is not possible to discern whether these were due to a reduced mechanical effect or due to somatosensory mechanisms from this study. Nevertheless, the tape was identical in location, skin contact, pattern and appearance in both conditions accounting significantly for somatosensory and placebo effects, yet the active technique produced significantly greater changes in movement and pain.
Alahmari et al. 2020 lend further support with their investigation into chronic low back pain where taping in a shortened position with Dynamic Tape resulted in improved back extensor endurance when compared to kinesiology taping (in the lengthened position). Again, the location, skin contact and appearance of the tape was identical in both conditions, the major difference being the potential for mechanical assistance. Luke Welch conducted a pilot study into the effect of Dynamic Taping on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) of the hamstrings which showed that Dynamic Taping prevented the usual changes associated with DOMS in the taped limb but not the untaped limb. Further studies comparing to a passive tape (lengthened position with no stretch) and increasing layers of tape would provide further insight into the mechanical nature of this effect.
This was answered somewhat by a small pilot study in Colombia by Marin et al. They investigated vertical jump height, flight time and power, comparing one or two layers for knee extension bilaterally, and then two layers for knee extension combined with one or two layers for plantarflexion (similar to the video above). The results generally showed a progressive increase in all outcome measures as additional tape (mechanical resistance and recoil) was applied reaching a maximum of 10.8% in flight time, 22.6% in jump height and 8.9% in power for the squat jump. Further larger studies are required to validate these findings but when combined with the above and several others which show changes in navicular height and drop, plantar pressures, dynamic balance tasks and two more confirming similar changes at the hip when taped in a shortened position, evidence is mounting.
Effects are often immediate which again suggest changes in load either directly by generating the force externally or indirectly as the observed changes in movements can result in changes in the efficiency of force generation (changes in length-tension and lever arms) or changes in compression (e.g. in tendinopathies) as proposed by Robinson et al as one of the mechanisms of GTPS. Further changes may result in time as a result of neuromotor training and other mechanisms may combine to produce the results observed when addressing maladaptive movement patterns and challenging flawed beliefs on movement, pain and tissue damage in some persistent pain cases but arguably we are having a significant effect on load and movement mechanically which can then have an effect on pain and pathology when this is load dependent.