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Researchers who explored the effects of Kinesio taping in horses found that it made no significant difference to the trajectory and activity of two muscles targeted in their study.
The study team from the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, said Dr Kenzo Kase’s Kinesio taping technique had been used on humans as a preventative measure in competitive sports and in rehabilitation for many years.
“More recently, there has been a lot of hype surrounding the discovery of Equine Kinesio taping’s potential use on horses,” Antonia Zellner, Barbara Bockstahler and Christian Peham reported in the open-access peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE.
They described what is believed to be the first study to measure the effects of Kinesio taping on horses.
For their study, the researchers focused on the trajectory of the forelimb, using the tape on the M. brachiocephalicus and the M. extensor carpi radialis.
M. brachiocephalicus is a neck muscle that connects from the base of a horse’s skull and first cervical vertebrae to the humerus in the front leg. The M. extensor carpi radialis runs down the front of the foreleg.
Nineteen sound horses and ponies of different breeds (a mix of mares, geldings and stallions), were analysed under three scenarios – without Kinesio tape, with the tape (on both muscles, on both sides) and immediately after removal of the tape.
Assessments were made on a treadmill at the walk and trot using kinematic motion analysis (26 passive retroreflective skin markers were used) and surface electromyography (using two affixed electrodes per muscle).
The animals were first assessed on the treadmill without the tape.
Their muscles were then taped with an I-shaped Kinesio tape strip from muscle origin to muscle insertion. The researchers said the Facilitation Application Taping Method was used to optimise the muscle function.
They were then assessed again on the treadmill 30 minutes after being taped, because proponents of the technique say 30 minutes is the time it takes for the definite onset of the reflex loop. During this time the horses were left to wait in their stalls.
Once the tape was removed, the horses were immediately retested.
The results of the surface electromyography, using readings taken at maximum muscle activity at the walk and trot, and the kinematic motion analysis (based on maximum stride length and maximum height of the forelimbs’ flight arc at the walk and trot) showed that there were no significant differences between any of the three taping scenarios, they reported.
“Our results are in line with previous studies in humans that did not find any significant change in muscle activity after Kinesio taping application,” they reported.
“In contrast, some studies have indicated a positive effect of Kinesio taping application on muscle strength and muscle activity,” they noted.
It was possible, they said, that repeated applications of Kinesio taping, or a longer period of application, may be necessary to detect changes in muscle strength.
“To sum up,” they said, “Kinesio Taping on the M. brachiocephalicus and the M. extensor carpi radialis does not affect (in a positive or negative manner) the trajectory of the forelimb or the muscle activity of the M. brachiocephalicus and the M. extensor carpi radialis in horses.
“Additional research on horses is required before any conclusive statement can be made with regard to the recommended use of Kinesio taping and its effects on muscle strength or athletic performance.
“Likewise, further examination of horses is required in order to explore the physiological and therapeutic effectiveness of the Kinesio taping technique for relieving pain, improving blood and lymph flow, increasing proprioception, realigning fascial tissue function and relieving muscle spasms.”
The researchers noted that Dr Kinesio’s taping technique had been used on humans as a preventative measure in competitive sports and in rehabilitation for many years now.
The method was said to relieve pain through neurological suppression, to create more space under the skin in order to improve blood and lymph flow by eliminating extra fluid, edema or bleeding beneath the skin, to increase proprioception by providing constant cutaneous afferent stimulation through the skin, to realign fascial tissue function by normalising muscle tension and relieving muscle spasms.
“The question whether or not certain Kinesio taping application techniques might support these claims has, in recent years, been a subject of controversial debate.
“Several studies on humans agree with the Kinesio tape’s expected benefits, such as improved muscle strength, improved muscle activity, increased range of motion, scar healing, increased lymph flow (in rabbits), and reduced pain.
“However, other studies argue that the effects of the Kinesio Tapes are too minor to be clinically relevant or show no changes in muscle strength, muscle activity, range of motion, reduced pain and proprioception.”
Zellner A, Bockstahler B, Peham C (2017) The effects of Kinesio Taping on the trajectory of the forelimb and the muscle activity of the Musculus brachiocephalicus and the Musculus extensor carpi radialis in horses. PLoS ONE12(11): e0186371. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0186371