There is a lot of buzz around something called kinesiology, or Kinesio, taping. You might have even noticed it adorning the bodies of top athletes at recent big sporting events such as the Olympics. Invented by a Japanese chiropractor in the 1970s, kinesiology taping is supposed to alleviate pain, relax muscles, reduce inflammation, enhance performance, and support muscles during sporting events. However, evidence for its effectiveness is so far inconclusive, with a review of 10 research papers concluding that there is little evidence to support the use of kinesiology taping over other types of elastic taping to prevent or manage sport injuries.1
Kinesiology taping for pregnancy-related discomfort
Potential pregnancy discomforts that kinesiology taping can be used for include:
- Back pain
- Swollen feet
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Round ligament pain
So far not many studies have been done on kinesiology taping for pregnancy aches and pains.
In one study of 65 women with pregnancy-related lower back pain, half of the participants received acetaminophen + kinesiology taping and the other half received acetaminophen alone. The study outcomes assessed were pain severity at rest, pain severity while moving, and functional disability. Both treatment groups experienced improvements from baseline in all study outcomes, with greater improvements being observed in the group receiving both acetaminophen and kinesiology taping.3 However, there are a few points to note. Firstly, it was a small study and these results need to be shown in a larger patient population and also, the patients were not blinded to their treatment and this may have led to a placebo effect – i.e. patients who were in the group that received kinesiology taping may have convinced themselves that the tape did indeed improve pregnancy-related pain and functional disability outcomes, resulting in improved outcomes that were more to do with the patient’s mindset rather than the effectiveness of the tape. This is especially common when dealing with subjective measurements such as pain.
How about support belts or belly bands – don’t they work in the same way?
Yes, these also work to support your body while pregnant, just as the kinesiology taping does. However, these belts and bands can cost a lot whereas kinesiology taping is relatively economical. In addition, kinesiology tape allows a fuller range of movement, compared with pregnancy belts.3
Applying the tape
Applying kinesiology tape can be tricky at first so get some initial help from your doctor, chiropractor, or physiotherapist. Make sure your skin is dry and clean before applying the tape so it stays on for longer and to remove the tape use baby oil to loosen the adhesions.
Some popular techniques include:
- The belly belt – for this technique the tape is placed in the middle of your lower belly and then both sides are pulled upwards to lift your belly to form a U shape. This is particularly good if you are experiencing round ligament pain or uncomfortable pelvic pressure.
- Lower back and belly support – this technique is similar to the one above but in addition to the tape lifting up your belly, there is a second strip of tape across your back. For the tape on your back, you need someone to attach one end to one side of your lower back and firmly stretch it across, anchoring it on the other side.
- Baby belt – This technique is good for women whose bellies are protruding out a lot. It is basically an X pattern with the center at your belly button, starting at the bottom above your hip bones. For extra reinforcement, place a strip of tape on either side of the center of the X, leaving a gap of around 8 cm.3
So in conclusion, although there is not much evidence out there to support many of the various health claims made for kinesiology taping, both in sports as well as in pregnancy, at the very least it does appear to provide support for the body during pregnancy and functions in much the same way as a pregnancy belt or belly band does, while being a more affordable option.