I should know better than to predict my next blog topic. Admittedly, in my last post I stated that I would write a piece titled "I Didn't Sprain My Ankle, So Why Does it Still Hurt?” However, since the announcement of that prophecy my restless mind has come up with idea after idea, goading me towards something more clever and helpful.
For those of you who may be outraged that I deviated from the original plan, hear me out. Learning proper taping technique is exciting and not altogether unrelated to the topic of atypical ankle pain. So pocket those shaking fists, and take note! Effective utilization of tape can help you continue to be active as you rehab from your injury, making that annoying “grey area” of recovery a bit more bearable.
First, what does taping actually do? There are a few ways to answer to this inquiry. The most simple theory is that tape physically holds a structure in place, stops it from moving, or keeps it in a more “neutral” position thus reducing pain. I tend to think that this is 90% B.S. and 10% truth. In the case of a technique called "lo dye taping", which will be discussed below, I do agree that the tape slows the rate of pronation (i.e. decreases the speed at which the arch collapses). I also tend to think that it can effectively support the arch and decrease the total deformation of the foot as it hits the ground, bearing our full weight.
Do I think that other techniques lock the patella in place, keeping it perfectly centered in it’s groove? Or pushes the humerus into a precise position in the gleaned (shoulder joint)? No, not really. However, there is substantial evidence that these types of techniques facilitate neurophysiological improvement in one’s movement patterns.
What in the what-what-what?
Improvement in a “neurophysiological movement pattern” basically means that the feeling of tape, when placed in a specific pattern, can make you more aware of that area thus causing you to use that joint, muscle, or body part better. Does an ankle brace physically stop you from rolling your ankle? No. There is no way that a couple of velcro straps and little plastic struts can stop the full 100lbs, 120lbs, 150lbs, 180lbs+ of you from crashing to the ground if you really truly lose your balance. What it can do though is make you subtly and subconsciously aware of your ankle as it contacts the ground, thus preventing you from rolling it again.
We have established that taping can be helpful for preventing injury and restoring proper movement. So what kind of tape should you use? Obviously the type that you can apply in the most intricate pattern, that comes in multiple color options, or that they use in the Olympics, right?
Actually, I tend to think NO.
Stretchy, elastic tape certainly has a place in rehab, but I believe that that role has been largely overblown by what we see on tv. Let's save that tape for the things it does well with, which is reducing bruising, reducing swelling, and drawing attention to one's self on the sand volleyball court.
No offense, Mrs. Walsh Jennings.
The tape that I recommend is called "leukotape", and comes with a base tape called "coverall" which helps the leukotape properly adhere to your skin. It is cheap, generally comes in one basic size, and can be found in most drugs stores. It can also, of course, be found on Amazon. HERE is the exact style I order. I receive no kickback for suggesting this brand, although I wouldn't mind it if I did- I use a ton of the stuff.
So you have your tape, and you're ready to use it. What next? Take a look at this sweet instructional videos below to learn how to properly use your leukotape. My first attempt at a video blog, yippie!
1. Lo Dye Taping- this technique can be helpful for plantar fascia, arch, heel, and certain types of ankle pain.
2. Medial Patellar Gliding- this technique can be helpful for pain underneath or to the side of the knee cap
3. Patellar and Fat Pad Unloading- this technique can be helpful for pain below the knee cap
Practice makes perfect. If you have not attempted any of these techniques before, plan on using about a quarter of your tape just learning how to get it right. Keep in mind that these are broadly helpful, but not necessarily specific to you. If these taping techniques don't fully address your injury, make an appointment with your trusted physical therapist or health professional.
Thanks for reading :)